La MaMa Blogs: 6 Questions: Seonjae Kim

Friday, December 23, 2016

6 Questions: Seonjae Kim

Seonjae Kim's Riot Antigone comes to The Club at La MaMa from February 10 - 19, 2017. The show is a new take on Sophocles' tragedy, told from the perspective of a Chorus Leader and her all-female punk band, reminiscent of the 90s' Riot Grrrl movement iconized by bands like Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney and Bratmobile.   Seonjae took a break from preparing for the show to answer our 6 Questions.

1. What was the original inspiration behind creating Riot Antigone?
I was one of many international students from South Korea at my boarding high school in Concord, MA. At first, I didn't really fit in with the Korean kids or the American kids. So I found solace in losing myself for hours in front of my computer, developing obsessions with magnificent things outside my little world. I felt a strong, strange connection with the American Riot Grrrl movement of the 90s, even though I didn't grow up in that time, or that place. I would listen to Bikini Kill, Hole, Sleater-Kinney for hours alone in my dorm room, dreaming of screaming out loud
A couple of years later, in college, I encountered Sophocles' Antigone in my theater classes. I explored it as an actor, then a director, and even as a playwright. In playwriting class, I was writing things that bore resemblance to the classic play's structure. I started imagining the play with the rebellious songs that my younger self loved as the soundtrack. I am primarily a director. So initially, I thought I would direct Antigone with some Riot Grrrl inspired sound design, or maybe make it a jukebox musical. I knew there wasn't really a pre-existing adaptation I liked, so I started typing on a blank page. Soon I realized that what I felt inside my heart needed its own melodies, its own words
I've been working on the piece for a while, and it's gone through numerous drafts and changes in collaborators and collaborative dynamics. One thing that's been true is that it's felt more and more me - Jae - as I've been working on it. It was hard to embrace that at first, because it sometimes felt self-indulgent. But Riot Grrrl is about empowering each and every girl to find her own voice. I'm so proud of this iteration of Antigone, and so so grateful to everyone for devoting their time and talent to make it finally come true. 

2. How is music important to the piece?

Riot Antigone is told from the perspective of a charismatic Riot Grrrl rock singer who conjures the event with the help of her band of Riot Grrrls. In a traditional Greek tragedy, a Chorus of male elders comment on the action as it happens. In this piece, they are replaced by Riot Grrrls who sing songs about Antigone's turbulent internal life. They are the music Antigone hears in her head but doesn't have the words for yet. The music is a soundtrack of girlhood, of coming of age, of articulating questions and confusions, of letting your feelings explode into something beautiful and real, so that someone out there somewhere might say, "I feel that, too." 

3. In what ways is the Sophocles play important today?

Oh man. Our political climate is so appropriate - unfortunately so - for Greek tragedies right now. I think sometimes the secular, individualistic culture we live in can feel like it's all about what you want, what you can get - and not quite about what is right. We are driven by instant gratification instead of our internal moral compass. Greek tragedies are about people trying to do the right thing, and disagreeing, and failing, and learning. What would our world look like if we all lived a bit more like them - constantly examining the chilling moral impacts of our actions?
4. Who inspires you?
I am inspired by my parents, who built everything out of nothing so they could give me the world. By Patti Smith and David Bowie, who blazed trails for weirdos everywhere. By Hillary Clinton, whose tenacity, grace and commitment has fueled me, even after the heartbreak of November 8th, to make this play the best it can be. What she said in her extraordinary concession speech - "never forget that doing what is right is always worth it" - has sharpened my understanding of this piece. And of course, I am inspired by all the Riot Grrrls. 

5. What was the last good book you read

I loved Citizen by Claudia Rankine and The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. I'm also currently reading Perpetually Cool, a biography of Anna May Wong, the first Asian American movie star totally excluded from our cultural memory of old Hollywood. 

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?

I've wanted to work at La MaMa since I was eighteen years old and first learned about it. A legendary theatre in New York hosting artists from my home, South Korea, and all over the world, with "experimental" in its name? Sign me up. I believe La MaMa is one of the rare places left in New York City that takes true risks on new artists. I get frustrated at how the term "emerging artist" has become so muddled. You need a body of work to be recognized as an "emerging artist", but you can't build a robust body of work if no one is willing to take a chance on you. For artists who are hustling and making their own opportunities, but who still need an artistic home where they can be weird, messy and raw, La MaMa rises to the occasion. All it takes is one magical "Yes!" Mia Yoo and La MaMa have the courage to be the ones to say, "Yes!" I am honored to make my glorious mess here.
La MaMa presents 

A Hannah Greene and J. Mehr Kaur Production 
Created & Directed by Seonjae Kim 
Book, Lyrics & Direction by Seonjae Kim 
Music by Seonjae Kim, Erato A. Kremmyda, Mori Einsidler, Jane Cardona, Jess Marlor  February 10 - February 19, 2017 The Club @ La MaMa 74A East 4th Street New York, NY 10003 $20 Adults/$15 Students/Seniors - ten tickets are available for every performance for only $10 each (advance sales only) while they last

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

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