CARDBOARD PIANO: Politics, Religion and Consequence

[ 0 ] January 8, 2018 |

by lisa lipsey – 

The relationship between a theatre and its audience can be therapeutic and cathartic. The theatre amplifies voices by telling stories and being vulnerable.We the audience, sit in the dark and witness by laughing, sharing, hurting, supporting and encouraging.

To shake up that relationship, Diversionary Theatre’s Artistic Director Matt Morrow tosses a few of his own words, such as “contemporary” and “provocative” into the mix. Forging a path less travelled since his arrival, by finding global voices yet to be heard. Cardboard Piano, their first show of 2018, is one of those tales: both fragile and strong, powerful and vulnerable and awaiting our witness.

Hansol Jung’s play tells the tale of Chris, the spirited daughter of an American missionary, who falls head-over-heels-in-love with a local teenage girl in Northern Uganda. Late at night on the eve of the millennium, they secretly meet in a church to exchange vows and plot their escape. When the civil war outside invades their fragile union, the course of Chris’ life is changed forever. Confronting the religious and cultural roots of intolerance, this modern-day parable explores America’s relationship with Africa and the human capacity for forgiveness.

Playwright and director Jung hails from South Korea. Her plays have received the Paul Stephen Lim Playwriting Award (Among the Dead), Honorable Mention from the 2014 Arch and Bruce Brown Playwriting Competition (Cardboard Piano) and was named 2014 finalist for the Ruby Prize (No More Sad Things).

She has translated over thirty English musicals into Korean, including Evita, Dracula, Spamalot, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, while working on several award-winning musical theatre productions as director, lyricist and translator in Seoul, South Korea. You may have also caught Jung’s world premiere work, Wild Goose Dreams, recently staged at La Jolla Playhouse.

Diversionary Theatre Artistic Director Matt Morrow

While discussing Cardboard Piano’s themes and motifs, Morrow shared, “I’m not sure how Hansol came to write this show…I’m just glad she did. I’ve always been interested in that region of the world and how we (America) have an effect there. Sadly, it’s a story that gets little attention, but it is so important to understand how our actions affect other countries and their people.”

Morrow continues, “I could feel the story burn with a certain urgency as I was reading it, and I was taken by Hansol’s adept use of language to draw the viewer into the personal lives of the characters. Although the story has global politics and religion on its mind, it’s very much a human scale story, about two young girls and the aftermath of their relationship.”

For this production, Director Jacole Kitchen is at the table, who is also the casting director and artistic associate for San Diego Repertory Theatre. Kitchen is also an instructor with UCSD Extension and does private coaching and professional consultation.

Morrow says of her, “This is my first time working with Jacole Kitchen, but she is an exciting emerging local director. She is a dynamo…lots of energy and passion, and has a singular perspective on this story and characters. I can’t wait to work with her on bringing this to life at Diversionary.”

Though not a musical, this play seems in the vein of The Boy Who Danced On Air, which looks at global diversity and our LGBT family’s place in various cultures. “That’s so funny, I never put the two together, but yes, this play is very much in the same vein,”

Morrow agreed. “This season is all about the American identity and this play takes a look at American imperialism abroad and its consequences on the local population, and specifically the LGBT community. It takes a pretty bold, honest look and religious intolerance through missionaries in Africa and is a harrowing, poetic and deeply humane story.”

Morrow’s play selections often reflect our common humanity, “The play is a beautiful contemplation on cause and effect, and how our firmly held personal belief system can be weaponized. Although the play is politically topical, at its heart it is a very simple, spiritual and uplifting story about overcoming grief and finding forgiveness, which are universal themes everyone can connect with.”

Cardboard Piano runs Thursday, January 25 through Sunday, February 25 at Diversionary. For tickets and more information, call 619. 220.0097, or go to



Category: General, San Diego, Theatre

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