Supporting creative work by women
Jane Jung is a theater producer and manager based in New York City. As General Manager of Ping Chong + Company, she oversees financial management, operations, and marketing, supporting the work of Artistic Director Ping Chong and the company’s Undesirable Elements documentary theater series. She was recently appointed the Managing Director of Second Generation Productions, where she leads the development of new Asian American plays and musicals. Producing credits include Pocahontas and/or America (The Bushwick Starr), Hollow Roots (The Public Theater’s 2013 Under the Radar Festival) and Babes in Toyland (The Brick). She previously worked as Producer with Little Lord, a Brooklyn-based theater company and was the Marketing Associate on the U.S. premiere of London’s Gate Theatre production of The Kreutzer Sonata (La Mama). She is a 2012-2014 Time Warner Foundation Fellow of the Women’s Project Theater and received her MFA in Theater Management from the Yale School of Drama.
Works by Women spoke with Jane about The Architecture of Becoming, Women’s Project Theater’s collaboratively created show that begins performances at City Center February 28th as well as her work with Ping Chong + Company and Second Generation Productions.
WORKS BY WOMEN: Tell me about The Architecture of Becoming, how it’s been created and what the WP Lab has meant to you.
JANE JUNG: The Architecture of Becoming has been quite a ride. What started as an incredible opportunity created by Julie Crosby and the Women’s Project Theater has turned into a one-of-a-kind experience of working with the 2012-2014 WP Lab artists to create a piece that is singular and original. It’s a piece that unearths a specific locale in NYC, the one we happen to be performing in, City Center, which like many NYC buildings, has gone through many iterations. We’ve created a palimpsest of a play, making references to this history while letting our imaginations run wild. It’s also about the siren call of the city. And the experience of an outsider looking in. And so many other things. I’m really proud of how we have created something that allows for a multiplicity of viewpoints, one that showcases each writer’s unique voice. It does this while existing as a cohesive whole with through-lines elegantly brought to life by the directors. The cast is captivating to watch as they travel through several decades and a vast array of characters. The design is very smart, tasteful, spare and has been a unifying thread. We’re in the throes of the last few days of developing this piece before it is shared with the world- and it’s thrilling! The WP Lab is inspiration, plain and simple.
WBW: What’s next for Ping Chong + Company? What have you learned as the General Manager of the company?
JJ: Ping Chong + Co. has been busy developing many new projects in our renowned documentary theater series, Undesirable Elements. My colleague Sara Zatz was just in New Orleans working with a group called BreakOUT! to develop a new UE piece featuring transgender youth fighting the criminalization of LGBT youth. We’re excited to be bringing this piece to NYC for a performance at New York Live Arts on March 25th. We’re also remounting Brooklyn ’63, written by Ping Chong and Talvin Wilks, which features the accounts of longtime Brooklyn residents and activists who inherited a legacy of civic action. This piece will be brought back by popular demand for the third time to the Brooklyn Museum for their free First Saturday on April 5th. We’re also developing new projects premiering in 2015, including a piece featuring Parapan Olympians in Toronto and another one exploring the Muslim identity in New York City.
WBW: You are the Managing Director of Second Generation Productions. What is in the company’s pipeline?
JJ: Artistic Director, Victor Maog and I are looking to build the company’s capacity to support Asian American theater artists over a full spectrum of play development. We’re doing a reading series of our three commissioned works in June 2014. We just had a workshop presentation of one of these commissions- a new musical entitled Galois by Sung Rno and Aaron Jones. I am so enamored with and excited to be supporting the development of this piece. It’s a rock-and-roll math musical set in revolution era France about the life and contributions of Evariste Galois, a mathematician whose breakthrough advancements went firmly against the popularly accepted knowledge of his day. My math professor cousin would be very proud.
WBW: What’s the best advice you’ve received about juggling it all?
JJ: You can have it all, just not at the same time. I cannot remember where I heard this, but it has stuck with me.
WBW: How did you get involved with theater? What is your main inspiration and/or goals as a producer?
JJ: I grew up playing the cello and freshman year of high school I was in the pit orchestra of the high school musical, which was The Sound of Music. The cello part was fairly simple and during rehearsals and performances I would get bored by the music, but was very invested in what was happening onstage. After that experience I switched over from orchestra to the thespian club. When I took my first theater class in high school, my mom gave me a book of monologues that included an excerpt from FOB by David Henry Hwang. I found and read the play at the library and through that play I discovered this notion of Asian America, which was a saving grace.
My main inspiration comes from my daily perch overlooking the East Village on the sixth floor of 47 Great Jones Street, a La Mama building which is another NYC building full of history, the spirit of Ellen Stewart and countless other artists and visionaries. My goals as a producer are to continually challenge the status quo, help make ideas a tangible reality, and do my part to create a supportive and fertile environment for artists.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
JJ: I’ve always approached challenges in the American theater through the lens of a person of color rather than solely as a woman. I can’t separate these two experiences. Theater being such a complex art form engages artists and practitioners in all creative disciplines- writers, performers, designers, musicians, technicians, producers, managers. I think demographic change, reflective of broader society, is happening at different paces in different areas of the theater. As a manager and producer, I see a great lack of diversity in management and leadership positions for theater institutions and that bothers me. There has been some degree of progress made as to what is being presented on stage, but behind the scenes, there is still a staunch lack of diversity. Theater has such a distinct culture- and this is intensified within subsets of the theater industry and so I think the challenges lie in how to create more openness to diverse perspectives. I think we move forward by forging our own paths, creating new cultures while learning from and being open to what has worked well with existing methods and practices.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
JJ: My colleagues, friends, WP Theater Lab artists.
Photo of Jane Jung by Lia Chang.
Women’s Project Theater’s production of The Architecture of Becoming will run February 28 through March 23, 2014 at New York City Center. For more information and tickets, visit Women’s Project Theater’s website.