Television, Broadway, Off-Broadway and regionally around the country, Obie and Lucille Lortel award winning actor Francis Jue is always looking for that next acting challenge. Having performed in everything from David Henry Hwang’s “Yellow Face”, “Pacific Overtures”, and in the Tony winning musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” as Bun Foo, to recurring roles on TV’s “Law& Order: SVU” & “One Life To Live”, Mr. Jue is a familiar face to many. Now he can be found at the La Jolla Playhouse in the world premiere play “Wild Goose Dreams” playing at the La Jolla Playhouse through October 1st.
Written by award-winning South Korean playwright Hansol Jung (“Cardboard Piano”, “Among the Dead”), directed by Tony Award nominee Leigh Silverman (“Violet”, “Chinglish”) this new work explores the life of a South Korean “goose father,” who works long hours and lives in a sparse room to support his wife and daughter overseas. He goes online and meets Nanhee, a North Korean defector desperately trying to find the father she left behind. As play accompanied by original music and an a cappella chorus, this play explores how we discover and navigate relationships in the modern world.
I had a chance to chat with Francis about his role in this new work, how race and culture can impact the work, and what he looks for when looking for his next role.
Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about your character? What drew to you to playing this role?
I play the memory of the father of a woman who escaped North Korea. Having lost my own parents recently, I was drawn to how the woman in this play remembers — and imagines — stories about her father while trying to move on.
The idea of a “goose family” where some of the family migrates for English language schooling while one of the parents stays behind to continue working, might not be familiar to everyone coming to see the show – how familiar were you with this prior to the play?
I knew it happens, but I didn’t know they are called “goose families.” No matter what you know about WILD GOOSE DREAMS before you come see it, you will still be surprised! Hansol Jung and Leigh Silverman are creating new theatre rules!
With “Miss Saigon” being back on Broadway there has been a lot of renewed discussion about how Asian cultures and history are portrayed, and how shows approach casting. As an Asian American actor do you feel like you are tasked with an extra responsibility as a representative of a certain culture when you step on stage? If so, can that feel like a niche you have to fight against as a born and raised American actor?
I have always felt that acting is a sacred compact with playwrights and audiences.
No matter what the story, character, or style, I strive to deliver an honest performance. This can be difficult when people like me are not seen first as people, but as symbols, representatives of a foreign culture.
When I watch “The Crucible”, I don’t assume all white people are rabid witch hunters — I sympathize with the characters’ moral struggles. And yet, folks seem to want shows like “Miss Saigon” to represent the entirety of Asian experience, rather than see specific people trapped in their own given circumstances. And so I often feel the obligation to prove my humanity before I’m able to begin telling the story. I just want to connect to people, so that we can see ourselves in each other.
Your career spans everything from plays to musicals, from Shakespeare to Disney musicals – what do you look for when looking at potential projects and characters?
Yes, I’ve been very lucky! A director/producer friend once told me he was able to get fabulous people to work with him by figuring out the one thing they really needed and giving it to them so that they could do their best work. When I asked him what my one thing was, he thought for a second, and then said that I needed to be convinced I could do it! I am an old student. I think I look for new projects that require me to be braver than I am.
What is your favorite thing to do to decompress after rehearsals or performances?
Coming home to Randy Adams is the best way I know to decompress.
See Francis and the rest of his amazing cast in “Wild Goose Dreams” playing at the La Jolla Playhouse through October 1st. For ticket and show time information please go to www.lajollaplayhouse.org