JI WON JEON
Ji Won Jeon (she/her) is a Chicago-based theatre director from South Korea working internationally. She believes in the power of theatre and art to jumpstart meaningful conversations necessary to make our world better. She believes that theatre is the best venue that can challenge the way we perceive the reality and social structure we belong to. She is interested in telling stories that uncover the essence of human emotions and uplifts the vulnerability of human condition from diverse cultural point of view.
She holds B.A in Theatre and B.A in Visual and Performing Arts Studies from the University of Southern California. She is currently in her final year of MFA in Directing program at Northwestern University. She served as an artistic director for Narrative Series: Page to Stage while at USC and is a proud recipient of James and Nony Doolittle Award in Directing for the recognition of her outstanding contributions and cumulative work during her period of study in school. Working as a freelance director in South Korea, she served as an associate artistic director at Theatre 201, directing and producing plays and musicals, and participating in multiple international theatre festivals held in South Korea. Previously at Northwestern, she directed Peerless by Jiehae Park, and her other favorite directing credit includes Buried Child, Polaroid Stories, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Armstrong’s Moon, Ubu Roi Project, The History Boys, No Exit, and Pillowman.
Upcoming projects: Dogs on the 77th Floor, a new play by Gahee Lee | Water by the Spoonful written by Quiara Alegria Hudes
"For those who have forgotten their history, there is no future"
This is a famous Korean adage that nearly everyone born and raised in South Korea has grown up with. While I was not fully aware of its impact on my artistic journey, this idea has been effortlessly assimilated into the core of my work as an artist. Indeed, my work in theatre and visual art has always been centered around this idea of individual and collective cultural history that makes us who we are today and allows us to move forward from the past.
Ranging from spontaneous Korean traditional street theatre to immersive physical theatre, all of my work in theatre can be seen as a kind of ritual that demands call and response from the audience, asking them to be both physically and psychologically engaged as a community. In this communal space, each of the audience members brings their own history, and we find sometimes surprising, pleasant, fascinating, terrifying, or saddening threads that connect us all. Because of this unique aspect in theatre, I believe while it may have less societal impact than mass media, theatre has the greatest potential to leave the biggest impact on the audience on an individual level that would question our old assumptions and facilitate actions for change.
Therefore, I as a theatre artist am committed to provide a full body sensation and instinctive experience of any given story where the audience possesses an agency to create new narrative and interpretation. Thanks to my background as a visual artist and illustrator, I am a strong visual storyteller who engages the actors’ physical body as a main tool to create instinctual interpretation of a story. I strive to create work that can stimulate all five human senses—visual, auditory, gustatory, textile, and olfactory senses—in order to create immersive experiences and immediate and long-lasting visceral responses from the audience.
Although we cannot currently engage our physical presence in a traditional theatre space, I take this obstacle as a further invitation for innovating new forms of theatre. I continue to offer the audience an agency in creating their own narrative and a theatrical experience by embracing multimedia and aspects of live virtual reality video games. In doing so, the audience will be given an opportunity to decide which character to follow or which camera to follow spontaneously no matter the character of their choice is in a scene or not at the moment. I continue to commit myself to actively listening to what my people have to say and telling stories from their voices that need to be uplifted.
Storytelling has always been one of the most natural and intuitive human impulses, and I truly believe the stories we tell about ourselves are formative of who we become as an individual, as a community and as a society. The stories we tell about our culture will then reveal to us to a better direction for our country and the world at large.