We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists from all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. This past year has reinforced what we have been doing at LAFPI – putting women of all kinds first! It is vital that we make space and open doors wider for women from all cultural backgrounds if we are to have a bold, forward thinking American Theatre that reflects America.
Pamela Paek’s two person show 1.5 Korean (co-written with Arthur Stanley Chong) was not only a winner of a Hollywood Fringe Diversity Scholarship it is now the 2021 Hollywood Fringe Two-Person Show winner. A series of comedic sketches that center around being Korean and Korean/Black-American and the ways one code switches, tamps down or amps up their Koreanness and who they are. What does it mean to not be Korean enough or not Black/Korean enough? Pamela and Arthur tackled it all while still honoring their identity’s heritage.
Although the show has come to a close the show now lives forever in space and time and we look forward to seeing how the piece will continue and eagerly await for all the work Pamela will continue to manifest with humor, honesty and ferocity.
Constance: Why Fringe? Why this year?
Pamela: I’ve been thinking about doing Fringe since September 2018 after I did a month-long training in Pochinko Clown. I wanted to explore the non-writer part of me and see what I might produce if I relied on my 16 years of dance training as well as my few years doing physical comedy. I wanted to see what would open up if I was more somatically focused. Then in late 2019, I wanted to talk more openly about being Korean in my creative work. Even though I do stand up comedy, I don’t talk about race or about intersectionality, or the many ways I struggle through each day with the many different aspects of my identity. So, I came up with this title, “1.5 Korean” and thought it would be great to ask a friend who’s half-Korean to explore what it really means to be Korean enough. And in this work, I was able to merge the physical aspects of myself with this newfound voice to share.
I’ve been purposefully choosing not to be a comic who talks only about singular identities, which I believe tokenize the complexities of who we are – it’s been a lifetime of being quiet and reflecting on when, how, where, why, and what to share. Like it or not, I live and breathe this work every day, interrogating how I show up as well as how I’m seen and heard. And now, here’s my foray into writing and performing with this lens as the focus.
Constance: What did you enjoy most as you created your show?
Pamela: What I enjoyed most were the epiphanies that continued to arise in my exploration of the impacts of intersectionality. Those gems go beyond anything I can create – I’m transformed at a core level that informs and metabolizes the world around me. And, anytime I can make myself laugh really really hard – those are rare moments that need to be documented with dates and time stamps. Like a passport book!!
Constance: What was the most surprising discovery?
Pamela: How often I can shine a light into, onto, and through some of the most painful and hurtful points in my life – and find a way to reshape that into something (hopefully magical) to share with others.
Constance: What was your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?
Pamela: The biggest challenge was knowing what to keep and what to let go of – it’s true of any and all writing for me. I know I need to create a clear through line for an audience to follow, and sometimes, that isn’t how I want to tell the story. I want it to be nonlinear and spastic and nonsensical, because often, that’s what life is for me. So, to create structures that are guideposts for folks to follow, I try to be mindful of how to create and develop those, while honoring my want to have none of those road maps.
Constance: And what do you hope audience members took away after experiencing your show?
Pamela: I hope that anyone who’s ever been gaslit, sidelined, marginalized, oppressed, beaten down – in short, made to feel lesser than the magic and beauty they are – all find a way to own and love who they are and all they bring to every space they enter. I hope they realize the power of speaking truth into space. I hope we can be part of a revolution in fully showing up and being seen. I’ll meet y’all there and relish in that kind of depth and connection.
Constance: The work has been given away – how does that feel?
Pamela: I have a sense of relief that the work has been shared with the world. It’s there to be witnessed by anyone who wants to watch. I hate admitting there’s some trepidation, like a little kid peeking out between their fingers while covering their eyes – I want to know if this show lands on people in good ways. And, when it doesn’t, standing strong and hearing the feedback while not shrinking. Because I am tired of playing small. I’m tired of so many of us who’ve played small. I am entitled to take up and own the space I belong in. So many of us deserve more and better!!
Constance: Extra! Extra! Anything Extra Please Share!
Pamela: I always struggle when an ask or question is wide open. So, if I were to share anything, I’ll say this: I fear that anything I share will not be considered interesting. As a result, I often say nothing. It’s easier. Yet, I’ll spill the all-of-me into anything I create – that’s where you’ll find me fully expressed. Thank you to LAPFI for all you do! You do what’s in my heart: shining the light on those who have historically not been centered or seen as they should. And making it so. YES!