Subscribe to the APA Newsletter
Extras from the cast and crew of "The Golden Hour."
Interview with Eddie Shin, Rachel Morihiro, Jeff Liu, Linda Shing, and Philip W. Chung
March 29, 2006
Interviewed by Ada Tseng
Video Edit by Charlotte Wu (Coming Soon)
Philip W. Chung: I really wanted to write about the Korean-American community, because that was something I knew about. That's the luxury of writing a play. It's hard to make a story like this into a film, because it's not really inherently commercial -- it's not like massive amounts of people will go see a movie about Korean people. But, this is a chance for me to write about things that I wouldn't usually get to write about. And that's the great thing about theater, and having your own theater, you can pretty much do whatever you want. I had never seen a story about the Korean American community the way that I knew it growing up. I really wanted to capture that.
Eddie Shin: That's what drew me to the play. I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood, my high school was very white, but the one community that was very consistent for me was the Korean-American Christian community. It's funny. People might not think it, but I grew up in a fairly religious household. I was an altar boy since I was six years old. I was raised in a Catholic parish, went to a Catholic grade school, went to a Jesuit-run all-male high school. Was president of my Korean Catholic youth club. So I was pretty involved, and it's something I'm familiar with.
On Re-Creating Koreatown for the Stage...
Jeff Liu: Well, one thing... not being Korean [laughs], I'm very careful because I don't want to offend anybody, but I have my Korean consultants. I'll ask Philip. It's funny because I was talking to my designers, and my set designer, lighting designer and costume designer -- none of us are Korean. But we have a Korean assistant set designer, and we have Philip telling us things. And what I really want is for the community to come see the play, and be able to see each little detail and say "Oh my God, I know that!" Part of it is research and consulting to make things familiar. Part of this is our props. Phil will say, "Oh we got to use this, because it just screams K-town." And just being from LA, we've all become very familiar with K-town, eating there, having our events there. It's a vibrant mini-community of its own.
(L-R) Ryun Yu, Eddie Shin, Linda Shing, Saachiko, Rachel Morihiro.
On Writing the Play...
But two years ago, I ran into a guy from my elementary school who I hadn't seen for years, and he had a sister who was in my 6th grade class with me. His sister had cerebral palsy, and he told me his sister had recently passed away. And I remember we were so mean to her. And this guy said, "She would always talk about you," and I thought she was going to say these bad things, but he said she remembered all these times that I was really kind to her. And the one thing that I remember is us square dancing, and I remember she was the only one who didn't have a partner -- she was by herself and crying, and we pretended not to notice. So when he said, she remembered you with kindness, I felt like the biggest a*hole in the world because he talked about instances I didn't even remember. And that's when I picked up the play again, and I have a scene that was kind of inspired by her. So that was what brought me back. It made me realize the inherent kindness that people have. So I would say that even though the play deals with a lot of tragedy, it's really a play that's about people on a very personal level. A story about individuals and how they cope with things that are going on in their lives..
On Writing with a Female Protagonist...
Philip W. Chung: Back in 2000, I did a play called Laughter Joy & Sex & Sex & Sex & Sex, and it was about... sex, so I really wanted to write something different, the complete opposite of that. And up until that point, I hadn't written anything with a female protagonist. But the other thing was that -- because on Laughter... there was a male protagonist who was also a young Korean-Amercan guy, people would always come up to me and go, "You know, in your life, when that happened..." And I'd say, "No, that didn't happen to me. It's not autobiographical!" I figured if i wrote a female character, the chances of that happening would be less, because honestly I got sick of that: People going, "Oh, when you were with that 17 year old girl when you were 30," and I'd go, "Um, no....." So, in a way, it was an effort to stretch and keep some distance.
But on some level it's not that different. What really helped was because the lead character is a Korean-American woman and because she is around my age, I know a lot of women like this. It was easier to characterize these people because I can base it on aspects of people that I knew: for example, women in law school or who became attorneys and went through that experience where they weren 't sure if they were happy. I don't know if it's just me, but there are certain qualities that I find in the Korean American women that I know that seem to be consistent (or maybe i'm just attracting Korean-American women that are f*cked up in the same way [laughs]), but I was just pulling from things women that I know.
Ryun Yu and Eddie Shin
On the Infamous Basketball Scene...
Eddie Shin: That's is his thing -- Reverend Lee -- basketball, and apparently Jonathan Park when he grew up with Phil, they used to play hoops a lot. It helps him think. Playing basketball helps him relax. In the play, I have to make two shots. I have to make the lay-up. But we keep the script open, so just in case we miss, it can be loosely interpreted.
Jeff Liu: For the record, Eddie is actually pretty good at basketball. When we were casting, Phil was saying, "Well , I've written this in the script. You can't cast anyone who sucks. And that was actually an issue, we had to think, do we actually need basketball auditions for this? But luckily we cast a couple people who are pretty good. And we have contingency in the script. So if they miss a shot, they have to kind of improv their way out of it. I think that is one of the fun things about the play: live basketball... which is inherently kind of unpredictable.
On Casting and Rehearsals...
Jeff Liu: Eddie Shin... bribed me. Eddie, I've admired through the years. He's from the Chicago theater world, and he moved up here and we're really lucky to have him. One thing is that he's been in a lot of sitcoms, and he's playing a reverend, so you'd think, "Shouldn't he be serious?" But this play is already so serious, and the journey of Laura could be a little bit down, and that's not what we wanted. It's really about life, which goes both up and down. So, casting a very comedically gifted actor in that role balances it, keeps it kind of light. We wanted someone who could mine the humor in the script as well as having the talent to deal with the drama.
Ryan Yu plays the a*hole Korean boyfriend [laughs]. No.. we keep referring to him that way, which isn't fair, because his character is actually quite sympathetic. But when you say a*hole korean boyfriend, there can really only be one actor [laughs], because he's just so good at doing that! He's hilarious, and again, he's not unsympathetic, but you can just see how he could just get on your nerves. Because he can talk with the whole slightly uptight, slightly macho type of thing. And you all know what I'm talking about. I'm offending all the Koreans that are watching this, but they know it's partly true.
Rachel Morihiro: As soon as I read the script, I thought it was great and wanted to be a part of it. The roles are all wonderful, and it was something I could relate to. When I read it, thoughts started popping into my head about who this character could be, and starting from that, coming to rehearsal and bouncing off the other actors, the relationships we would have with one another. I'm having a lot of fun with it
Linda Shing: Jeff's process helped a lot because we started just sitting at a table and really breaking down the play, scene by scene, and understanding what it's about. And that helped us understand how to get deeper into the characters. So that was huge. This is just one of those plays, where I kept rereading it. It's a great juicy role, and there's so much to do, and sometimes I don't even know what to do. But I just trust Jeff.
Jeff Liu: Linda, I've worked with and admired. It's a huge female role, she goes on a huge emotional journey. Emotional ups and downs. I've talked to her after working some days, and she says "I feel like I just ran a marathon." It really takes a lot out of you. And Rachel -- [joking] who else would you get to play the slut? Rachel's always been a delightful bubbly personality. It's a joy. That's the great thing about having a theatre company. With casting, these aren't strangers. We're all friends... coming together to tell a story.
The Golden Hour
April 15th - May 21st.
Fri - Sat at 8 PM, Sun at 3PM.
Date Posted: 4/14/2006