Supporting creative work by women
Actor and writer Tessa Kim brings her first solo show, The Bad German (directed by Sarah Wansley), to the New York International Fringe Festival this summer. The piece explores her desire to reconcile her identity as a German-born New Yorker. According to the press release, “Tessa asks tough questions like why are some people proud of their heritage, while she was trying ‘to blend in’ and give her nationality away?”
Works by Women spoke with Tessa and found out how she juggles wearing the writer and actor hats in this show, why she is excited to be part of FringeNYC and what it was like recording a meditation CD for pet lovers.
WORKS BY WOMEN: When was the moment you knew you needed to create your solo show The Bad German?
TESSA KIM: When I realized that the idea of putting this out there in this form absolutely scared me to death. That’s usually my cue for doing things because I absolutely hate being afraid.
But it was also a topic that has been broiling around in me for years and just wouldn’t go away so I knew I had to address it in some shape or form.
WBW: Tell me about juggling the hats of writer and performer.
TK: It’s hard to turn the writer off completely. But I realized that after a certain point I have to because it drove me crazy and got in the way of learning the piece. It’s so odd that memorizing something I wrote myself is by no means easier to get under my belt as somebody else’s writing. Because my ‘inner voice’, which is my writer’s voice, can be unpronounceable. And so sometimes I wind up in rehearsal thinking: “What kind of idiot would write such an endless run on sentence?!” Oh, right. Me.
WBW: What excites you about being a part of the New York International Fringe Festival?
TK: I love the FringeNYC. Because it’s like a shaggy mutt. I always preferred mutts over purebreds. This festival is filled with so much creativity and unpolished beauty from all over the world that it’s truly an honor to be part of it this year. Not that there aren’t shows that are already polished or highly produced. But most shows are new and in process. Everybody has to improvise and stay on their toes because you don’t know what performance space you’ll get. For example, I didn’t originally plan to have a pianist in my piece. But we got a space that has a humongous, unmovable concert piano on stage. I didn’t want to ignore that so now there’ll be live music and then some, and I think it’s going to make the show so much richer.
WBW: In your bio, it mentions that you’ve done a meditation CD for pet lovers. Tell me more about that experience.
TK: Ha! Yeah, that was fun. They actually flew me out to Florida for that job. There was a pet psychic there who had already recorded the American version of this meditation CD and they wanted me to do the German version. Because apparently this pet psychic was very popular in Germany. Who knew?! The CD was supposed to help pet owners to get more in touch with their pets and understand them better. So I sat there in the recording studio and had to say sentences in a very soothing voice, like: “…and now you follow down into your dog’s tail. How does it feel? Does his tail feel happy? Does it feel droopy and sad?” I mean, I love my pets, but it was hard to keep a straight face for that recording session.
WBW: What’s next for you?
TK: I can’t wait to delve back in with this wonderful group of women called “Shooting Jane”. It’s a collective of writers, actors and directors and we’re dedicated to creating short films, web series or performances with stories that matter to women. After doing a Solo show I definitely feel the urge to play with others. I might want to take The Bad German on the road to some other festivals or colleges. And then there’s all the material that didn’t make it into The Bad German which might turn into something else. Maybe a solo show about a lot of unsexy German sex.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
TK: For actresses I think it’s the material in terms of quality and also quantity. There need to be more characters that really speak to us. And female directors are still far behind in numbers but I think it’s changing.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
TK: Just the fact that in the process of trying to find a director for this show I met all these amazing female directors. And I’m really thrilled with the one I got: Sarah Wansley. Our ACR/producer Danielle Gautier couldn’t be better at what she does if she tried. And I love the stories all my talented female friends are writing.
The Bad German will be at the New York International Fringe Festival in August. For information and tickets, visit www.fringenyc.org.