Wild Goose Dreams, a new play by South Korea native Hansol Jung, is set to make its world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse, running from September 5-October 1 under the direction of Tony nominee Leigh Silverman.

In the story, an unlikely online romance develops between a North Korean defector who has left her family behind and a lonely South Korean father — both of whom are fighting their own battles with fear and alienation.

La Jolla artistic director Christopher Ashley (Tony-winning director of Broadway's Come From Away) describes Wild Goose Dreams as "a hauntingly beautiful piece that shifts between the tangible and the ethereal, the literal and the metaphorical." Before audiences can see how these elements translate from the page to the stage, read what Jung and Silverman had to say about how they've been shaping this adventurous new work, and the kinds of conversations they hope it inspires for its West Coast audiences.

Hansol Jung (left) presents her world-premiere play Wild Goose Dreams at La Jolla Playhouse, directed by Leigh Silverman (right).
(photos provided by La Jolla Playhouse)

Christopher Ashley has described Wild Goose Dreams as fluctuating between "the tangible and the ethereal." How are you using the abstract to highlight realities at play in the story?
Hansol Jung: My teacher and idol Paula Vogel says that the job of the playwright is to make a stone feel stoney. It is to point to something people ignore because of its commonness and reintroduce the strangeness and beauty of it. My way of doing that in this play was to turn tangible visual things (like the computer screen and Facebook wall) into sound bites of feelings, and to turn ethereal things (like feelings of loss and guilt) into a penguin that stalks you all the time.

Leigh Silverman: Hansol's writing is muscular, theatrical, and ambitious. She juxtaposes an intimate, almost-love story between a North Korean defector and a South Korean man with a 10-person a cappella musical. Although the world of the play is expressionistic, it has very deep, surprising emotional complexity.

North and South Korea have been at the top of our minds recently. What does Wild Goose Dreams express about that region that people can't get from the news?
Jung: I am not sure if the play expresses things about a certain region, but I can say that it follows two people from those non-US regions who are having struggles and joys that are not foreign to most humans. I feel like news stories tend to succeed when they are about intense conflict. Theater stories tend to succeed when, in spite of all the intense (and entertaining) conflict, someone learns something about being human. Wild Goose Dreams is, hopefully, one of those theater stories, and people will get to watch a South Korean and North Korean try to fall in love. And in the process, the Korean characters and American humans will learn something about being human together.

What are the conversations you're hoping people will have after seeing this play?
Silverman: I want people to walk out saying this was a surprisingly universal story, that Nanhee and Minsung's journey is familiar and moving, and that real connection with someone you care about is a worthy challenge we must pursue.

Jung: I dream of people saying things like: Oh, I want to visit my mom this weekend! I shall call my friend, who I've been ignoring even though I know he is struggling with sadness because sadness is such a bummer to be around, but I should really get over it and just give him some love. Oh, cool North Koreans fall in love, too! Those penguin masks were INSANE, they should have them at concessions. If I were given the choice, would I choose family or flying? Am I choosing that because that is what I want, or because that's what I have been programmed to do? (Oh, and also, that was a really excellent play that I shall never ever forget in all my life!)

James Kyson, Yunjin Kim, and Francis Jue star in the La Jolla Playhouse world premiere of Hansol Jung's Wild Goose Dreams, running from September 5-October 1.
(© Jim Carmody)