(WEST ORANGE, NJ) -- Luna Stage kicks off their new American Voices Series (and the 2019-2020 season) with Soo Jin Pretty Nail (and more!), written and performed by Susan Hyon and directed by David Skeist. This darkly comic, interactive experience is inspired by Hyon’s childhood as the youngest of four unhappy Korean-American children in suburban Pennsylvania. The production runs from September 21 - October 7.
Meet Soo Jin and Susan. Susan is the little engine that could pull herself out of a crappy small-town trainwreck only to speed headlong into another of her own making. And another. And another. And yet somehow she keeps chugging along, accumulating scars and the stories that go with them. Soo-Jin is like that Korean exchange student who introduced everyone to Hello Kitty, Keropi, and cute pencils. Upon hearing of Susan's life as a new mom (finally!), Soo Jin appears, ready for a baby shower. Fresh off the boat (and out of the plastic surgeon’s chair), Soo Jin regales the audience with the virtue of beauty. She prays that Susan will maintain her youthful looks in the face of parenthood.
Soo Jin Pretty Nail (and more!) is a play, a stand-up routine, a confession, and a therapy session that will probably make you feel better about your life, the world, and a good old-fashioned eye-lift. Soo Jin will talk about light things that will make you feel heavy, and Susan will talk about heavy things that make you feel light. Luna spoke with Susan about her experiences creating the piece.
Is Soo Jin Pretty Nail (and more!) really auto-biographical? Is there a real Soo Jin? If so, has she seen the show?
Soo Jin will see the show…my Korean name is Soo Jin.
Has your Korean American experience influenced you as a writer, performer, artist?
It has influenced me completely. It’s not necessarily that I am or feel 50% Korean and 50% American. And, it’s not unlike other children of immigrants born in the U.S., I imagine. You are fully American in the sense [that] English is your first/main language, and the toys you wanted were the toys that all of the more American-looking kids wanted. But then society sees you as “other” (especially if you live in a provincial town full of mostly white people), and weird things happen at home and you don’t have anyone to be a sounding board. At least this was part of my growing up experience. And what I write and perform has a lot to do with my looking back at how I developed and undeveloped and was and am under-developed and over-developed as a human being, given the circumstances of my family and childhood and just who I am, essentially, the karma that has been embodied by me in this lifetime.
What is it like to play two characters at the same time? Is it therapeutic or mind-blowing or...?
What would you like audience members to take away from their time with Susan and Soo Jin?
I’m an uptight yogi and as I go inward and try to share my interior life, I hope to inspire people to pause and go inside a bit, too. In these times, the only salve for our battered souls is to spend time alone, reflect, be bored (as opposed to constantly entertained), and work a bit more rigorously on our humanity. The paradox is that by doing so, I believe we each will not feel so alone and disconsolate, but instead, we will feel connected with other humans just a little bit more.
What inspired you to create Soo Jin Pretty Nail (and more!)?
Director David Skeist and I have had a long-running joke that started when we met in grad school (Columbia MFA Acting) that I should write a one-woman show and that he should direct it—despite the fact that I wasn’t a writer and he wasn’t a director…. The first experiment of me performing my own stuff was at Dixon Place. I had spent several weeks trying to find a coffee shop to just vomit out everything I was going through during that (difficult) time in my life. Everywhere I went (in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn), I couldn’t be comfortable or find a quiet corner because everywhere I went seemed to also occupy pregnant women with their babies and SUV-style strollers. It was all I could write about. And then I showed up at Dixon Place with no script, but with a lot of theories and upset about racism in this country, and the deaths of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile.... And then I had the chance to present the show at Baltimore Theatre Project, and David said he'd direct me and create a more sculpted, repeatable piece.
Soo Jin Pretty Nail (and more!) runs from September 21-October 7. Performances are Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 3:00pm, Mondays at 7:00pm. General Admission tickets are $20 and are available at LunaStage.org or by calling OvationTix, at 866-811-4111. Luna Stage Season Passes are also available, and allow patrons to purchase a package now and select performance dates later. The Full Season Pass offers all 6 shows at 15% off for $155.
Luna Stage is located at 555 Valley Road in West Orange, New Jersey.
About the Artists
Susan Hyon performed as a pregnant person in Bump by Chiara Atik (dir. Claudia Weill) at Ensemble Studio Theater. Before that, she appeared in Molly Beach Murphy’s Cowboy Bob at Ars Nova (dir. Annie Tippe). Susan went solo with Soo Jin Pretty Nail at Dixon Place, The Fishtank (Kansas City) and Baltimore Theatre Project. Other: You for Me for You by Mia Chung (Portland Playhouse), The (*) Inn and Uncle Vanya (Target Margin/HERE), I Came to Look for You on Tuesday (La MaMa), Happy Hour by Ethan Coen (Atlantic Theater Company), Crane Story by Jen Silverman (Playwrights Realm), Romeo & Juliet (NYSF/The Public), Henry VI (Shakespeare & Co.), Opus (Florida Studio Theatre), Smoke and Mirrors (The Flea), Scapin and Tartuffe (CSC Young Co) Toshtuk and Janyl (Yara Arts). Co-founder, Cloud of Fools Theater Company. BA Economics, Smith College. Fulbright Fellowship ETA in South Korea. MFA Acting Columbia University (Prizes: Presidential Scholarship, Recipient of The Bob Hope Fellowship). Susan is dedicated to helping others while also staying on "the path." She is a licensed foster parent and loves all children. This show is partially dedicated to NWT.
David Skeist is a multi-disciplinary theatre artist based in Brooklyn. As an actor, he has appeared notably in Richard Foreman’s Old-Fashioned Prostitutes (Public Theater), David Gordon’s Beginning of the End of the… (Joyce Soho) and Shlemiel the First (Skirball Center/TFANA), Elizabeth Swados’s Political Subversities (Joe’s Pub), and multiple collaborations with Niky Wolcz, Dangerous Ground Productions, and Stolen Chair. He is the Producing Director of Caborca, a bilingual experimental theatre company under the direction of Javier Antonio González, and has appeared in many of the company’s productions including Distant Star (Abrons Arts Center), Octopus’s Garden (Target Margin), Hamlet (Jersey City Theater Center), Zoetrope, and Open up, Hadrian. He has appeared in the feature films The Entitlement and Memorial Day and on TV in Law and Order: SVU among others. David’s musical compositions have been heard in productions by Wolcz, Swados, Kristin Linklater, James Rutherford, Jon Froehlich, and most recently in Laurent Pichaud’s site specific dance work en jumelle in Uzès, France. His choral setting of Timothy Donnelly’s poem Hymn to Life has been in development since 2015. He spent several years working as an assistant to André Gregory on his production and film of Ibsen’s The Master Builder. David holds an MFA in Acting from Columbia University School of the Arts.
Luna Stage develops and produces vibrant plays about local and global experiences. We bring communities together for artistic events that spark conversations and create understanding and change. Firmly rooted in New Jersey's Valley Arts District—a crossroads of cultures—we celebrate the diverse voices that surround us.
Luna is committed to eliminating barriers to participation and nurturing the next generation of audiences and artists. In addition to its artistic season, the company offers classes for children and adults, and developmental programs for early-career artists.
Luna Stage has contributed to the development of over 100 new works for the stage, earning a reputation for artistic excellence. Luna’s unique approach to producing, as well as the work itself, fosters an environment of inclusivity, understanding, and infinite possibility.