Posts Tagged ‘In The News’

Popular news satire site The Onion recently posted an article proclaiming Kim Jong Un to be the sexiest man alive.

While this is all good for a light chuckle, the People’s Daily, China’s online communist newspaper, mistook the spoof for reality and ran a 55-photo spread on the North Korean dictator.  The People’s Daily had been taken in by satirical news sources before, and quoted The Onion article in their coverage of Kim Jong Un.

The Guardian posted the following article outlining the whole, hilarious thing (see below).  I would recommend taking a look at the collection of photos before everything is taken down.

  • Associated Press in Beijing
  •, Tuesday 27 November 2012 07.53 EST

The online version of China‘s Communist party newspaper has hailed a report by The Onion naming North Korean dictator as the Sexiest Man Alive – not realising it is satire.

The People’s Daily on Tuesday ran a 55-page photo spread on its website in a tribute to the round-faced leader, under the headline North Korea‘s top leader named The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive for 2012.

Quoting the Onion’s spoof report, the Chinese newspaper wrote: “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true.”

The People’s Daily cited the Onion as saying: “Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile.”

The photos that the People’s Daily selected include Kim on horseback squinting into the light and Kim waving towards a military parade. In other photos, Kim is wearing sunglasses and smiling, or touring a facility with his wife.

It is not the first time a state-run Chinese newspaper has fallen for a fictional report by The Onion.

In 2002, the Beijing Evening News, one of the capital city’s biggest tabloids at the time, published as news the fictional account that the US Congress wanted a new building and that it might leave Washington. The Onion article was a deadpan spoof of the way sports teams threaten to leave cities in order to get new stadiums.


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In North Korea, the amount of anti-American propaganda that is steadily fed to the populace is overwhelming.  In the following Huffington Post article, correspondent Jean H. Lee outlines how this indoctrination starts as early as kindergarten.  A very fascinating read about how children are taught to hate.

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Another fantastic article about You For Me For You in Washington DC from

Korean-American playwright Mia Chung writes about the unknown. Her stories and characters do not begin from a place of expertise, nor are they created in an attempt to educate her audience. Instead, Chung writes because of a craving for knowledge. “I think often people assume that a black writer or a Mexican writer might write about their cultures because they know them and are experts,” Chung asserts. “For me, writing comes out of a place of ignorance and curiosity.” And You For Me For You, which will receive its World Premiere at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company beginning November 5, is no different. It is a play born out of years of research that began because of hunger for more information, a play that is both exciting and formidable, a play that tackles an ambitious subject very few people in the world know much about: North Korea.

You for Me for You tells the story of two sisters who attempt to flee from North Korea to the United States. But when one of the sisters is reluctant to defy her government and cross the border, the other must journey across space and time in an attempt to save her. Chung, who was born and raised in the States, has always been fascinated by North Korea and its political situation. Her perspective was largely shaped by her parents, who grew up in South Korea and have a deep-seeded distrust of the North, but at a certain point Chung wondered how a country that treats its citizens so terribly could continue to exist. “The real question for me was, why hasn’t [the country] fallen apart yet?” she says. “Is the clock ticking? Is it just about to fall apart?” She began researching North Korea, watching documentaries, reading books, and even visited the Korean Demilitarization Zone where she peered over the border into the northern world where precious few are allowed. Research in-hand she was all set to write a play exploring why the country hasn’t fallen apart until two seemingly unrelated events captivated her attention and shifted her perspective.

First, on March 17, 2009, border guards detained American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee after they crossed into North Korea from China without a visa. Both were found guilty of illegal entry and sentenced to twelve years hard labor, and although the journalists were eventually released after President Clinton visited leader Kim Jong-il, the fate of these American women seemed devastating and unavoidable for four long months. Chung followed the situation closely, mesmerized by the actions of the North Korean government. “To me it felt like a piece of theatre,” she says. “But the stakes [were] real.” Chung took this realness and intensity and imbedded it in her play, the result of which is a powerful urgency that is fairly uncommon on stage. “There are many plays which are very interesting and very dramatic, but the topics don’t seem that important,” notes You For Me For You director Yury Urnov. “We’re talking about two sisters in the situation of pure survival; the stakes are immediately as high as they can be. Everything is life and death.”

At exactly the same time as the fate of two journalists was being decided, Jaycee Dugard was discovered half way around the world after being gone for almost two decades. Dugard, who had been kidnapped when she was 11, held hostage for more than 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, and gave birth to two daughters while in captivity, fascinated Chung. She was particularly struck by Dugard’s psychological state; Dugard lied about her identity to the police, defended her captors, and stayed with the family despite numerous opportunities to escape, exhibiting signature signs of Stockholm Syndrome. “Jaycee could have run away,” Chung declares. “She could have hopped the fence somehow. I’m not saying she was dumb or stupid — I think there was some sort of mental form of control and a desire to survive. That gave me a way in to North Korea. It’s like the government has kidnapped its citizenry.”

This new perspective on the psychological state of the North Korean government shifted something for Chung. “The question of, how soon is [the country] going to fall apart was replaced by, will it ever? Even if the borders came down, will it every truly fall apart?” she explains. And so she wrote about the complications of fleeing, about the struggles of being an immigrant, about a situation that is far from black-and-white. “Our perception, I think, is that as soon as a North Korean sees that the entire world is not starving as they’ve been told, they’ll just renounce their government and be excited to be welcomed by the West,” says Chung. “And I think maybe some of them will. But I think there are plenty of people who would not. I wanted to show the contrast and [reveal a different] North Korean perspective.”

The piece that emerged from years of painstaking research, numerous developmental workshops, and a refusal to accept a simplistic view of North Korea is stunning, devastating, and delightful and deeply satisfying in its examination of one journey of survival. And although You For Me For You is a perspective on North Korea, it is ultimately an exploration of the immigration experience more broadly defined. “[The play] is about so much more than North Korea,” says Woolly Literary Manager and Dramaturg John Baker. “It’s about the idea of defecting. The idea of what does it mean to plop down and start over. It’s about so many ideas, but also has so much heart.” This openheartedness is ultimately what makes her piece so powerful. You For Me For You began as a search for understanding, and rather than becoming entrenched in a limited perspective, the play crosses borders in an unexpected ways. Chung disregards stereotypes, embraces otherness, and provides outsiders a glimpse into the unknown world of North Korea.

Jo Mei and Ruibo Qian in You for Me for You at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

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The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company dramaturg and literary manager John Baker recently sat down with to discuss his experience as the dramaturg on You For Me For You.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company Literary Manager John Baker discusses the upcoming World Premiere of You For Me For You by Mia Chung, and his role as dramaturg on the production.

tW: What initially drew you to Mia’s play You For Me For You?

JB: We first became aware of this play because it was being developed at the Icicle Creek Theater Festival [a year ago], and were extremely excited about it immediately. I’ve never seen somebody tackle this really tough subject matter from this very unexpected and whimsical point of view. The fact that the play has magic realism in it and is also about North Korea is so unexpected. And in that respect it is so Woolly. From the moment we first read it we were really into it.

tW: Woolly’s $4 Million Free the Beast Campaign supports the production of 25 new plays over 10 years, and You For Me For You is the inaugural project. What did that campaign allow you to do for this production?

JB: This is a super ambitious play, and to think about getting the script to the finish line in addition to all of these other pieces, like music and choreography, is a lot to take on in a traditional four-week rehearsal process. Free the Beast allowed us to have a three-day workshop here at Woolly that was specifically aimed at looking at the script with most of the folks who are now involved in the production. Then a little over a month later we all spent the entire month up in New York for the Ma-Yi [Theater Company] workshop. That workshop was two weeks in the room and two weeks in front of an audience. It was a very quick process, a quick and dirty barebones workshop that allowed us to take pre-production work to the next level and be like, “let’s get this up on its feet and figure out some of these impossible stage directions that we adore so much.” We spent a lot of time looking at the choreography, figuring out a lot of the movement sequences. We learned a lot about what was possible to do with not much.

It’s quite painful when you have only two weeks of rehearsal before showing it to an audience. In the moment it was definitely hard and scary for Mia to have it in front of an audience so early on. But it was important for her to be able to see what worked and what did not work, what we could improve on. It was quite painful, but it’s quite useful and essential too.

Free the Beast allows us to commit to a play before it is done. It allows us to say, we are excited by this writer, we believe in this writer, and we know that they can get this project to the finish line with the help of the other folks who are involved in the process: the designers, the director, etc. It’s about that trust between us as an institution and the artist and the artists in the room. This is a play that excited us the moment we saw it, and we knew when we started attaching all of these artists to it that it was going to be pretty kickass.

tW: It can be challenging to describe the role of a dramaturg. Will you describe what your role was for this production specifically?

JB: Most of my work has been script-centric. The script has changed a lot since we first committed to it. Mia is not afraid of rewriting, which is wonderful to see. If she feels like something isn’t working, she’s not afraid of going in and gutting a scene, gutting an entire character and figuring it out. A lot of dramaturgs describe themselves as sounding boards, and this particular process has been that. It’s not as though I’m necessarily providing solutions to stuff, it’s really just asking questions and then she is going off and thinking about them and deciding whether or not she wants to rewrite based on what we’ve been talking about. The script has changed a ton because of not only the conversations that I’ve had with her, but that I’ve also had with her and Yury. The three of us work as a team.

tW: One of the things that is so remarkable about this play is that the lyricism and magical realism sneaks up on you. One such stage directions is,The Crossing is the fight of your life in which Time and Space are ground into pebbles so tiny they can slip through the cracks of an enormous fist. How is magical realism (the incorporation of fantastic or mythical elements into an otherwise realistic work) employed in the piece?

JB: Throughout the process we’ve had a lot of conversations about, how would this work in the real world? If they cross the river, as in that stage direction, where are they crossing to? How do they get from China to the US? And as the piece has developed, sometimes we get caught up in the logic of the world because we do feel the responsibility of portraying real subject matter. But that’s what’s so lovely about the play, and one of the things we were first drawn to, was how it walks that line: covering this quite serious subject matter in this whimsical way. And the magic in the play is obviously where some of the whimsy comes from. We discovered early on that we can use magic to tell a lot of this story without getting caught up in too many details. We trust that the audience is going to be there and go with us on this journey of two sisters. This play is not operating in realism or naturalism. That’s not what it is.

At its core, this is a story of two sisters trying to flee North Korea. And you say that and you expect one thing, but it’s completely different. And that’s what’s so Woolly about it — the play subverts those expectations. A Woolly play is something that exists on the edges of theatrical style and human experience. Often times when I’m reading scripts I encounter plays that fit into one of those two categories. They are either really theatrically ambitious or they are really tackling subject matter that is on the edges of human experience, it’s on the periphery of what we normally see on the American stage. I feel like Mia’s play hits both of them. It’s truly expressing the idea of Defy Convention, and this process is proof that you don’t need to be afraid of committing to a new play, you don’t need to be afraid about committing to an unknown.

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Our playwright is in the news!

From the Washington Post.

This is a story about three women trying to escape to New York. Of the two who make it, only one is real.

Mia Chung is the playwright of “You for Me for You,” a world premiere at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company on Nov. 5. The play focuses on two sisters from North Korea who attempt to sneak out of their homeland and move to America. One sister gets left behind.

Before Chung could write this play — before she was even a playwright — she was living in Los Angeles. By day, she worked a handful of assistant jobs. By night, she wrote screenplays. And really the only problem with this existence was that she hated L.A., and also her screenplays were terrible.

She’d always wanted to be a writer, but this L.A. thing just wasn’t panning out. Even though Chung had enjoyed a stint working for HBO at the Comedy Arts Festival, she wasn’t so sure sketch comedy was really for her. It was a lifestyle she wasn’t entirely psyched to adopt, and the sketches themselves were unsatisfying. “You write it, it goes up,” she recalled. “It’s almost like you sneezed and it was gone.”

For a couple of years, what she refers to now as “probably the least happy part of my life,” she tried to make it work, the operative word being “tried.”

“I feel like the time [I was] in L.A., I was slowly losing the will to live,” she said.

And then a friend offered Chung a spot in this “illegal-illegal sublet” in New York, and Chung, like a protagonist she hadn’t written yet, bolted to the city.

Once Chung arrived in New York, she nurtured a longtime appreciation of theater with ushering gigs at off-Broadway playhouses. When she was an undergrad at Yale, she “sort of fell in love with theater.” Having decided not to pursue sketch comedy or screenwriting, she wrote a one-act play, just for kicks, and “It felt like I’d found my medium,” said Chung. Her first crack at playwriting gave pretty telling glimpses of her work to come: the play, “We Spend Our Lives,” was about two middle-aged Korean sisters.

On a cold day in October, Chung sat in the lobby downstairs at Woolly, taking a break from rewrites and sitting in on rehearsal to discuss her work. With elbows on her thighs, shoulders forward, she seemed to talk as much with her hands as her mouth.

Between her first playwriting effort and her professional theatrical debut, Chung met and married her husband. They moved together to Berkeley, where he was a professor. While there, she explored the theater scene, getting a few readings and landing a short play into the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. From 2006 to 2007, she and her husband lived in D.C., where Chung interned at Arena Stage.

While her screenwriting career was one dead-on-arrival draft after another, her playwriting track record tells a significantly brighter story: she’s had work developed all over the country, from the Doorway Arts Ensemble in Silver Spring to the Icicle Creek Theatre Festivalin Leavenworth, Wash. to the Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival. “You for Me” will move to Boston’s Company One after its Woolly run.

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