SMTD to paint a portrait of North Korean life in ‘You For Me For You’

Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 9:29am

From Thursday, Feb. 15th to Sunday, Feb. 18th, the School of Music, Theatre & Dance will be presenting “You For Me For You” at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater. Written by playwright Mia Chung, “You For Me For You” explores a country that still remains a mystery to most of the world: North Korea.

“You For Me For You,” directed by Priscilla Lindsay, is a story of the attempted escape of two sisters from North Korea. The cautious older sister Minhee, played by SMTD sophomore Amanda Kuo, is deeply devoted to her country, despite the havoc the regime has wreaked on her life. Junhee, the ambitious and adventurous younger sister, is played by SMTD freshman Levana Wang. Juxtaposed with her sister, Junhee will do anything to escape her home and reach the outside world. When Junhee attempts to cross the North Korean border, bringing Minhee with her, only one sister successfully leaves. This sister reaches New York City, while the other is left behind. Thus begins the parallel stories of Minhee and Junhee, each discovering themselves and each other through their metaphysically intertwined journeys.

The ties between these sisters, and the sisterly love that they possess for each other, are rich and beautiful, as is the contrast between their opinions and world views.

“Junhee is becoming more aware of the North Korean life that she’s living,” said Wang. As Junhee learns about the twisted nature of the North Korean regime and its strict rules against contact with the outside world, she yearns to get out.

Minhee, on the other hand, has been hurt in a multitude of ways by North Korea. Despite this, there’s an indescribable force that compels her not to leave.

“There’s a lot of history, not only familial history but the history of her nation, that she’s really proud of and unable to leave until she has to.” said Kuo. Minhee is tied up in the dark depths of the system and is in denial that her country could wrong her, even though it has so many times already.

“To leave your country is a disgrace to your family,” Kuo said when describing Minhee’s point of view. It’s as if Minhee can’t stand to betray her nation because she doesn’t know anything else.

“You For Me For You” is set in modern times, and its parallels to the relationship between North Korea and America are incredibly important.

“It’s so terrifying when you read it on a screen,” said Kuo of President Trump’s current online exchanges with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. “But it’s so important to see two people up there who are just as terrified. In fact, even more so,” Kuo said of the sisters.

And, that’s exactly what this play aims to do.

“Rather than talking about North Korea as something that is nebulous… you see a real human experience that is very relatable. You feel for the two sisters,” said Kuo. By humanizing Minhee and Junhee, Americans will be able to see that there’s so much more to North Korea than a relentless and authoritarian regime. There are real people and real emotions.

“It’s scary to see that these two worlds aren’t as far apart as we think,” said SMTD sophomore Mallory Avnet, when speaking of America and North Korea. Avnet plays multiple versions of a woman named Liz — a character that was born and raised in America and contrasts the struggle of Minhee and Junhee’s lives under a dictatorship.  

Above all, “You For Me For You” is a story about “Love in a multitude of ways; between men and women, between sisters, family and people and their country,” said Wang.

There is a free reception at 9:30 p.m. in the Michigan League Hussey Room following the opening show on Thursday night, sponsored by the Department of Theatre & Drama and the LSA Nam Center for Korean Studies. After Friday’s show, an open discussion will be directed by Mia Chung and Priscilla Lindsay that is free and open to the public.

NodeBox: 

‘You For Me For You’

Feb. 15 @ 7:30 PM, Feb. 16 & 17 @ 8:00 PM, Feb. 18 @ 2:00 PM

Lydia Mendelssohn Theater

$12 student, $30 general