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Highlighting Playwright Jiehae Park

Photo of Park from her website

Jiehae Park is a Korean-American playwright and actress. Throughout her life, Park has moved around a lot; she was born in Seoul, South Korea before moving to various parts of Maryland and New York. 

She often takes her favorite concepts from work she admires in order to inspire her own stories and characters. For example, Park uses the theme of destructive ambition, similar to that of Macbeth, in her play peerless, which STC did a staged reading of in 2018.  

This play is a comedy about Asian-American twin sisters, M and L, who feel they were wrongfully overlooked for an affirmative action spot at ”The College,” which was ultimately given to a white, male student who is 1/16th Native American. The sisters will stop at nothing to get the spot they so strongly feel they deserve.  

Her love of the theatre stems from the immediate and personal aspects of the environment. It  limits the amount of distractions and allows for complete immersion in the stories as opposed to streaming services often utilized today. Having studied music her whole life, Park uses the concept of rhythm in her writing, allowing her writing process and the plots she crafts to ebb and flow naturally.  

More of Park’s plays include Hannah and the Dread Gazebo, The Aves, and Here We Are Here.  

Each of these plays are comedic, but they also touch on very serious subject matter such as aging and suicide. Park spoke about this tactic in an interview with the Marin Theatre Company: “I actually don’t know how to write about big topics without comedy. I couldn’t even if I wanted to—it feels important as a tool to open people up (both myself and audiences) to what might feel heavy or ponderous.” 

There is a cathartic aspect to her writing. Her plays address the relationships and personal tribulations of Korean characters and how they come to terms with the fact that their problems may not always be resolved with finality. Park emphasizes the importance of learning from those around you and taking something away from each project, whether it’s an experience or knowledge you didn’t have before.  

Park earned her BA at Amherst College and her MFA at UC San Diego. She recently worked as a staff writer for Marvel’s The Runaways, which is currently streaming on Hulu Plus and Disney+.  

Her accolades include the Leah Ryan Prize, the Princess Grace Award, the Ashland New Plays Festival’s Women’s Invitational, and two years of the Kilroy’s List, which takes new plays written by women, trans, and non-binary playwrights in hopes of eliminating systemic underrepresentation in American theatre of the aforementioned groups. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Park, check out her website

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