Meet Joe Yau in "American Hwangap"
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.
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.