Koo Park • Courtesy

Local actor Koo Park has been seen around town in A Woman of No Importance at Taproot Theatre, Macbeth at Seattle Shakespeare, and ¡O Cascadia! at Vashon Repertory Theatre, among others. Recently, he has delved into another side of the theatre world, by writing his own solo show entitled Let Me Hamlet, which he performed at Taproot Theatre’s Isaac Studio earlier back in March 2023.

Let Me Hamlet was a 25-minute exploration of the challenges inherent in the career of an actor who ultimately finds himself to be middle-aged, without having yet attained his career goal of playing the lead role of Hamlet. Park investigates the insecurities that arise from rejection, as well as the tenacity required to pursue an elusive goal.

Park launched this project in response to a question about why he wants to make art in the first place.

“The piece also started from my own fear of being a middle-of-the-pack actor, but at the same time, from my personal yearning for the role of Hamlet,” he said. “We often fail to get what we want. Life doesn’t always give us the very thing we desire. What if it never does?”

These ponderings led Park to questions that he didn’t expect to answer quickly. Can we live only with the pursuit of our dreams? What about our doubts? Which is more human: Giving up or losing sight of the fact that we will fail again only to try again?

Park’s leap into theatre began in Korea during his final year in high school.

“After the big test, CSAT (College Scholastic Ability Test, or 熱棟), all the classes became a bit loosey-goosey, and most teachers would just let us play soccer or watch movies,” Park said. “One day, a teacher decided to take us to a theater.”

The performance itself, in Park’s memory, was not especially skilled. “We were the only audience in a small black box theater,” he remembered. “But the sense of that two hours of live theater, about fifty people gathered in a small space and sharing the breath, the feeling of belongingness, and the weird intimacy. That lasted in my mind for a while.”

While that show wasn’t inspiring for Park as an incredible artistic experience, it remained formative. The memory became a signpost for him. “Whenever I get stuck, I ask myself, am I creating the same space that I experienced in that small theater?”

After college, Park earned his Master of Fine Arts in Acting at the University of Washington. His biggest takeaway from his three years of training, he said, is the realization that “not being special” can be liberating as an artist. This is not a pessimistic outlook, though, and in fact, has enabled him to approach his artistry with a sense of freedom and authenticity. Park is unburdened by the need to impress and outdo others.

Following his MFA, Park was first cast in Macbeth at the Seattle Shakespeare Company, directed by John Langs, where he learned the ropes of being a professional actor. This job afforded him experience in preparing for table reads, coming to work with ideas and questions to improve his performance.

“I do not often see that level of professionalism and willingness to improve in any field,” Park said. “The actors who have been in the industry for over 20 years, approaching the work with vigor and a relentless sense of exploration, will remain in my mind as role models throughout my career.”

Thinking ahead, Park has considered a variety of dream roles as future goals.

“I can name the playwrights I really like, like Julia Cho, Hansol Jung, Duncan Macmillan, Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins, and Annie Baker,” he listed. “The aesthetics I’d be drawn to are the stories of trying to find meaning and beauty in mundane, mediocre, and painfully ordinary life.”

Now that Park has developed and performed a new work from beginning to end, he is taking time away from Let Me Hamlet. He’ll decide whether to edit the piece or leave it as-is once he revisits it, though he does hope it meets an audience again.

Park is currently devising a new show with a team of artists. Its working title is Stupidest, Scariest Time.

“We are in the very early stages of the process, in which much of the work is about throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks,” Park said.

“It’s challenging, but exciting. Meanwhile, I would hope to see myself performing more in Seattle theaters.”

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