From Seoul and Buffalo: Video Theatre With Yoonie Yun

Published March 17, 2021

Poster for Miss Julie by August Stridberg, April 1-5, 2021 on Youtube White background with bird cage and red bird.

Second year Theatre and Performance MA student Yoonie Yun is a director, lighting designer, and theatre-maker. She has studied and practiced theatre arts both in South Korea, her home country, and the United States. As resident director of the Seoul-based laboratory troupe Down-In Theatre, her recent work includes an original one-act musical Gretel und Hansel (2019), which she also directed. Down-In Theatre began as an amateur theatrical organization in 2018, but was registered as an official theatre troupe in 2020. Yun holds a BA in both philosophy and English literature from Dongguk University, Seoul. Her current interests focus on Green theatrical practices with technologies and science fiction theatre.

Yun’s latest project is the video theatre piece The Back of The Moon, which debuted this January, and was co-written by the Down-In collective. (It can be viewed with English subtitles.) 

The play begins after what is believed to be an accidental boiler leak in an old lodging facility, which results in the deaths of several high school students. Joo-an is the sole survivor of the explosion and the only one who knows the truth, that it was a suicide pact among his friends.  

“Our lead playwright plays the university student (who survives the blast). We wanted to deal with the (high school) student problem, their stress and struggle.” Yun said that social pressure on South Korean high school and college students is great, and that many parents expect high academic achievement and eventual dedication to long work hours, though she feels the issues of parental pressure and student depression isn’t confined to Korea.

Yun directed and did lighting design for The Back of The Moon entirely from Buffalo while the cast and technical production crew of ten were in Seoul. The rehearsal period for the twenty-minute piece was four weeks. “It was super challenging,” Yun says, but notes that “directing through Zoom was easier than doing the lighting design.”

Yoonie Yun in a pink shirt, portrait photo.

Yoonie Yun

Yun acknowledged that the show would not have been possible without the creative team being able to work and rehearse together virtually, but she also felt some limitations. “I realized that (Zoom) makes people tired (more quickly), and distracted. It’s hard to keep that focus.” With in-person rehearsal, “You can read the room. That’s one of the most important jobs of the director,” Yun said. One positive effect of shorter rehearsals was that Yun found herself checking in more often with the crew. As director, she asked more questions of her colleagues than usual.

The show also sparked ideas about future cross-continent collaborations: “It was a really great experience. Everyone in this show was Korean, but we saw the possibility and the potential for collaborating with artists from other countries (given the technology),” she said. “After the production all of our crew and cast were saying that maybe we can continue video theatre work after the pandemic is over and try to work with more diverse artists around the world,” without the limits of physical borders.

Yoonie’s thesis project in the Department of Theatre and Dance is a multimedia online performance of Miss Julie, by August Strindberg. It will stream free on-demand from April 1 – 5, 2021 via the Theatre and Dance YouTube channel.

The development of the production will incorporate much of what she learned while putting together The Back of the Moon. The show cast and crew will be in Buffalo, though it will still necessarily be a virtual program.

“My current interest is science-fiction theatre. That was my plan before the pandemic, but after COVID I decided to broaden it more.” As Strindberg’s piece is twice as long as The Back of the Moon, and the action takes place in a single kitchen, Yun is contemplating how to make it more visually interesting. “I was thinking of using projection with perhaps some shadow puppetry edited in, and the actors’ voices,” she said. Rehearsals for Miss Julie began in mid-February 2021, with performances to be recorded at the end of March and debuted via on-demand streaming in early April 2021.

“I’m trying to see how the multimedia stuff will work in this Zoom / online virtual world. I’m expecting that we’ll (discover) new and different possibilities for technology in theatre. As a researcher I want to think about what theatre is and what makes this piece become theatre (when it moves online).”

Back of the Moon, Ending Scene.

Back of the Moon, Ending Scene

Post-graduation Yun is set upon a theatre career. “I started from Korea, but I experienced American theatre as well, and I really like it, so I want to continue this collaboration and broaden it. I want to be part of an international creative journey. That’s one of my biggest dreams…to keep creating something, and to keep finding new (artistic adventures). I don’t want to settle down.”

Yun feels fondness for Buffalo’s arts scene as a result of her time at UB. “I really love New York State because I think this is the best place for me to collaborate with diverse people. But if I can find another city where I get a chance to communicate and work with other diverse artists, I’m open to it.” This could be back home in Seoul, or anywhere in the theatre world that feels like a fit.

And like everyone else, Yoonie also hopes that live, in-person theatre will resume very soon. “I want to feel everyone’s energy in the room again,” she said.

For more information on Yoonie Yun’s work as a director, lighting designer, and theatre-maker please visit: https://www.yoonieyuntheatremaker.com/about.

To view the playbill for Miss Julie visit: https://www.playbillder.com/show/vip/University_at_Buffalo/2021/Miss_Julie_89849

Official Miss Julie social media:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/missjulie_2021/

Facebook (event page): https://fe.me/e/VvFvOvf