Sue Jin Song is currently playing the role of Setsuko Hearn, Asian art PhD and enthusiast in 36 Views. We had a great conversation about her experience working on this play and with Constellation. Sue Jin has dedicated her performance to her friend Gaurav Gopalan, who introduced her to Constellation Theatre. Gopalan served as dramaturge for our production of The Ramayana. He passed away in 2011.
Sue Jin, this is your first role with Constellation – how has your experience been?
Marvelous. Fabulous all around. I loved working with Allison. “She is everything a director should be and rarely is.” She sets the tone for CTC and in rehearsals. She is very generous and open to sharing feedback from actors, and allows everyone to be part of the creative process. But she is so obviously in control – she’s got the reins in her hand. She chose a great cast who are all tremendously talented and generous. We look out for each other. Everyone came to table with a hundred ideas. Its been a fun, fun process, including rehearsal. I love rehearsing and can do table reads forever. I love Constellation!
I auditioned for this play years ago – there were many regional productions when it first came out. When I got the script this time I found it very smart and was concerned it might be too intellectual. I talked with Allison and Jim [Jorgensen] about bringing out the heart of the story. There is a great love story there and we wanted to pull the audience in emotionally. No one wanted anyone to be a bunch of talking heads. We were able to show the heart of the story. I liked the play and my character more as the process evolved.
I didn’t know much about Japanese art. We took a field trip to the Freer-Sackler. We had wonderful resource materials that Allison and A.J. brought us. I also wanted to see what plum wine (Umeshu) tastes like. The play is very sensual, and I wanted to explore those senses – what were tasting, seeing – it was important to understand those feelings.
You’ve made your acting life work in DC, New York and LA – what brought you here and how has the community been for you?
I was a professional in NY and LA – but I quit and came back here about seven years ago. I got in touch with an actor I’d done a show with and he encouraged me to finish a one woman show, Children of Madea, for Capital Fringe, – which I did and won Best of Fringe Award. My DC acting career grew from there. DC is a great place for theatre. I have had very different experiences here – working with artists who care about art [instead of money]. Still, its been a couple years since I’ve done a play and I didn’t realize how much she missed it. It has been such a positive experience and reignited a hunger. I will continue…if I can work with Allison and Natsu! (Natsu Onoda Power, who will direct her at Theatre J)
Guarev had raved about CTC; everything he said about it drew me to Constellation. He loved it, and now I understand. I love the company’s vision, and Allison is a very special person: it is such a treat thinking about art with a consummate artist who has such a reverence to art and artists. Allison has a strong vision about how artists serve the community and the community is lucky to have them here.
Yellow Face at Theatre J – starts rehearsals in December!