① Laura Hedli: What do you think about 10 seconds before going onstage?
Kenny Yun: I’m never doing this again. What a stupid idea thinking I could perform. Fuck it, I’ll give everything I have.
② LH: I’ve seen your full-length show Mom Spilled Guts on My Tater Tots, and I know how affecting it is. In fact, I’ve had several friends tell me that you had them in tears – and that was after just the 20-minute excerpt! You have a real gift for emotional honesty. That being said, you’re also funny, like LOL-funny. And I mean that literally, because I’m judicious with my use of the acronym. How do you marry the drama and the comedy to tell this really beautiful coming-of-age story?
KY: I try to have as much fun as possible with the characters and the audience. To me, it’s playing, or, well, like fucking around to have a good time and sharing that energy with the audience. I push how far I can go with it. Then with the drama, I throw myself into the scene, moment-to-moment, connecting with the inner life of the characters in order to show how they relate to one another.
③ LH: Having performed with you, I know you go through a full warm-up before taking the stage. What do you do, and why?
KY: Contracting and expanding movements mixed with body slaps so the skin and insides are activated. Vocal warm-ups.
We really can’t will ourselves to be “present.” Similar to using the breath in meditative practices, we need our entire physicality to help us become present for the stage because solo performance requires utilizing our full humanness to share as much of our being as possible. This makes us vulnerable, but that’s the point. Sharing our humanity is our job once the lights go up.
④ LH: You’re an assistant teacher for Charlie Varon’s solo performance class at the Marsh SF, and you also offer private coaching sessions. In fact, you’ve coached me on several occasions. “Moment-to-moment discovery” is the expression that comes to mind when I think about how you’ve guided me to connect more with my material. What do you hope that performers learn from working with you?
KY: To inhabit and theatricalize their work and then give it to the audience. I learned from Charlie about the moment-to-moment approach for both generating material and performing. I combined this with his and David Ford’s overall method and then blended in a variety of craft I picked up over the years such as dramatic structure, standup comedy, clowning, movement, and character development. I love, love taking all this and helping solo performers make what’s special about them bigger than life on stage – more mythic – while also expressing their truthful inner life.
For more information on Kenny’s performances, please visit his personal website. Kenny is also a portrait photographer and especially enjoys capturing the essence of solo performers. He recently launched his portrait photography website: Mythic Gift. Take a look. Beautiful stuff.