Meet Joe Yau in "American Hwangap"

March 16, 2017
Stories

Joe is a veteran Chicago performer who gives a touching and hilarious performance in A-Squared Theatre's production of American Hwangap, which runs until April 1, 2017. This play tells a deftly observant, funny, and moving story about the difficulty of reunification and reconciliation during a weekend in the lives of the Chuns. After abandoning his family to return to his native South Korea, Min Suk Chun abruptly reappears in the lives of his ex-wife and children on the occasion of his hwangap, the traditional way of celebrating one’s 60th birthday in Korean culture. However, his ex-wife and kids, now adults, have moved on and do not readily welcome the patriarch back into the family with open arms. As his birthday approaches, Min Suk struggles to reunite his family and obtain forgiveness from the ones he loves most. This play is Jeff Recommended. Tickets and more info can be found here.

What's your story?

I'm a Chinese American actor.  Born and raised in Chicago and Skokie. I didn't decide to try acting until after college.  I wasn't sure what I wanted to do in my early twenties, who does at that age?  I'm married with 3 great kids and a fantastic wife that allows me to pursue this career.  I've been a company member of A-Squared for something like 6 years now and before that was a founding member of Stir-Friday Night, Chicago's Asian-American sketch comedy troupe.  I've been lucky to be around some really talented people who have influenced me in so many ways.

What is your character's story in American Hwangap?

He's a man who is going to turn sixty in the play, it's his Hwangap (Korean 60th birthday).  He abandoned his family though, fifteen years ago, and has gone through his own personal demons while in Korea.  He comes back hoping for a reconnection to the past he left behind.  Chun tries his best to become the man he wasn't when he left.

American Hwangap by Lloyd Suh Directed by Helen Young

What challenges does your character face telling this story?

The main challenge is that he is dealing with the damage he's done by his absence.  He doesn't know if he will ever get his family back, but he's there to try.  He sees he is giving a second chance but the outcome is still in doubt.

How does the character overcome those challenges?

He owns up to his mistakes.  And though it may not be enough for everyone in his family, he tries to give them his perspective on why he did what he did in leaving.  It may seem like a cop out but he had his own issues and couldn't face them in front of his family.  He is given a second chance and he takes it.

Any other comments?

It's a very universal story.  That is what allows for good theatre, we all can connect to it. Though it is told through the lens of a Korean/Korean American perspective, the challenges and issues that this family grapple with are the very same challenges and issues that a lot families may face on various levels.  We can identify with these characters though they are not necessarily the same ethnic background because we can relate to them on human terms.

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Mia Park
Mia Park shares her passion of discovery through teaching yoga and acting. Currently studying acupuncture and Chinese medicine, Mia is also a producer, writer, motivator, and celebrator of life. Mia has lived in Chicago for over twenty years and calls this city that works her home.

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Free tickets can be reserved on October 27, 2017 at noon at the box office, by calling 773-325-7900, or emailing theatreboxoffice@depaul.edu. Press Opening is Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 7:30 PM. **Preview is Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 7:30 PM. The House of Bernarda Alba will be performed in Room 403 of The Theatre School at DePaul University at 2350 N Racine Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 What's your personal story? I grew up in Tucson, Arizona as one of very few Chinese Americans in my neighborhood. I remember that my sister and I were the only Chinese kids in my whole elementary school. However, my family attended a Chinese church in downtown Tucson, and I also attended Tucson Chinese School where I learned to read and write Mandarin Chinese. I’m very thankful for the persistence that my parents had to have my sister and me grow up learning Chinese and holding on to our ethnic culture. However, growing up, I felt like I was never fully Chinese nor fully American. I didn’t feel the need to blend in with the other kids, but I also desired to connect better with others. An opportunity came up in kindergarten when the entire grade put on a show for the whole school. This was the first time that I felt like I was part of a team, part of a larger group effort to create something fun and beautiful. I remember that year, our production was called ‘To the Future and Beyond,’ and I sang the final solo of the show. In middle school and high school, I continued to take drama classes whenever possible. I loved learning about the lives of people so different from me, memorizing my lines, and sharing those stories with audiences. In college at Duke University, I decided to major in Psychology and Theater Studies, and also performed in three of the Theater Department’s Mainstage shows. Currently, I’m in my second year of my MFA in Acting program at The Theatre School at DePaul University. What's your character's story in "The House of Bernarda Alba”? My character’s name is Angustias, which means anguish or distress. She is the eldest unmarried daughter of Bernarda Alba and is already 39. Angustias is the sole daughter of Bernarda Alba’s former husband, while the rest of her sisters are the daughters of Antonio Maria Benavides, the man they are all mourning at the top of the show. Angustias’ father was rich, so when Antonio Maria Benavides dies and the property must be divided, Angustias’ share of the estate is much larger than that of her sisters. This wealth that Angustias has is then attractive to Pepe, who is trying to marry her, and while Angustias truly believes that he loves her for her, she really just wants to be loved and free from the oppression and alienation she feels within the walls of Bernarda’s house. What challenges does your character face telling this story? Angustias is constantly struggling with the antagonistic energy she receives from her sisters. 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Angustias overcomes her challenges of alienation towards the end of the play when she risks being judged by her mother and sisters by being more vulnerable, and seeking to find the truth, even if she gets hurt in the end. Any other comments? I hope that this play helps audience members to be thankful for the people in life who love them, to hold them close, and to try to understand each other instead of being blinded by individual desires. Why not work together? Why not be a team and create something beautiful? Life is too short not to make the most of it every day. Thank you so much for your time!
Mia Park
11/13/2017