Stephanie Jae Park Shines in Goodman Theatre's "War Paint"

August 8, 2016

Stephanie Jae Park is a talented singer, actress, and dancer who shines in the World Premiere musical, "War Paint" from the acclaimed Broadway team of librettist Doug Wright,  composer Scott Frankel, lyricist Michael Korie, and director Michael Greif. "War Paint" runs at Goodman Theatre ( until August 21, 2016 and is the powerful tale of two masters of self-invention who sacrificed everything to become the country’s first major female entrepreneurs. Their 50 year rivalry drove them to the top of a world dominated by men. Let's meet Ms. Park, who effortlessly transitions between several characters and is the only woman of color in this historically important show.

What's your personal story?
I was born and raised on Guam, the youngest of three girls in a very musical family. I'm very lucky to have a mother who believed so strongly in me, and kept me in voice, piano, and dancing lessons throughout my life. I grew up singing opera, and spent a year at Northwestern as an opera major. Once I decided to pursue musical theatre, I transferred to CCM (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music), and got my BFA in musical theatre. I graduated in 2014, and then went on tour with Cinderella for a couple months. After that, I worked at the Lincoln Center doing The King and I. That experience was so special and important to me- I was introduced to the Asian American theatre community, and found a lot of pride within that community. And now, I'm here doing War Paint! I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love. 

What's your character's story in "War Paint"?
Which one? Haha but really, I play many characters throughout the show- Arden girl, Rubinstein technician, WAC, Fire and Ice girl, etc. I'll concentrate on the Arden girl since it's what I spend most time in. Her name is Madge, and she represents the perfect young woman. Madge grew up in Chinatown, NY, where her parents had fled because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. In her free time, Madge would walk up the streets of Manhattan to observe the rich, white, elegant women, where she discovered the Red Door Salon. She was fascinated by all things beauty and glamour, and dreamed of working at the Red Door Salon one day. One of Miss Arden's workers noticed her one day, and took an interest in her. She was then introduced to Miss Arden, who saw potential in her, and allowed her to work at the Red Door Salon on a trial basis when she was 19 years old. Miss Arden was impressed by Madge's efficiency and elegance, and was given a permanent position. She's now worked at the Red Door Salon for two years. 

What challenges does your character face telling this story?
Madge's main challenge is figuring out her identity both as a woman and as an Asian American in a time when both were oppressed in America. In Chinatown, there were very few women compared to men, so she sought role models away from home, and found one in Elizabeth Arden. Like Miss Arden, she places work over personal life, and puts all her efforts and attention into being a working woman. Madge feels caught between her two worlds, and doesn't feel like she truly belongs in either. 

How does your character overcome those challenges?
I don't think she has it all figured out yet. She's smart, but young. For now, she fakes it til she makes it. She's found a home and a family at the Red Door Salon, and any time she feels attacked, she pushes her shoulders back, stands a little taller, and smiles a big, poisonous smile.  

Any last comments?
Come see us! We run until August 21 :)

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Mia Park
Mia Park shares her passion of discovery through teaching yoga and acting. Currently studying acupuncture and Chinese medicine, Mia is also a producer, writer, motivator, and celebrator of life. Mia has lived in Chicago for over twenty years and calls this city that works her home.

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Free tickets can be reserved on October 27, 2017 at noon at the box office, by calling 773-325-7900, or emailing Press Opening is Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 7:30 PM. **Preview is Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 7:30 PM. The House of Bernarda Alba will be performed in Room 403 of The Theatre School at DePaul University at 2350 N Racine Ave, Chicago, IL 60614 What's your personal story? I grew up in Tucson, Arizona as one of very few Chinese Americans in my neighborhood. I remember that my sister and I were the only Chinese kids in my whole elementary school. However, my family attended a Chinese church in downtown Tucson, and I also attended Tucson Chinese School where I learned to read and write Mandarin Chinese. I’m very thankful for the persistence that my parents had to have my sister and me grow up learning Chinese and holding on to our ethnic culture. However, growing up, I felt like I was never fully Chinese nor fully American. I didn’t feel the need to blend in with the other kids, but I also desired to connect better with others. An opportunity came up in kindergarten when the entire grade put on a show for the whole school. This was the first time that I felt like I was part of a team, part of a larger group effort to create something fun and beautiful. I remember that year, our production was called ‘To the Future and Beyond,’ and I sang the final solo of the show. In middle school and high school, I continued to take drama classes whenever possible. I loved learning about the lives of people so different from me, memorizing my lines, and sharing those stories with audiences. In college at Duke University, I decided to major in Psychology and Theater Studies, and also performed in three of the Theater Department’s Mainstage shows. Currently, I’m in my second year of my MFA in Acting program at The Theatre School at DePaul University. What's your character's story in "The House of Bernarda Alba”? My character’s name is Angustias, which means anguish or distress. She is the eldest unmarried daughter of Bernarda Alba and is already 39. Angustias is the sole daughter of Bernarda Alba’s former husband, while the rest of her sisters are the daughters of Antonio Maria Benavides, the man they are all mourning at the top of the show. Angustias’ father was rich, so when Antonio Maria Benavides dies and the property must be divided, Angustias’ share of the estate is much larger than that of her sisters. This wealth that Angustias has is then attractive to Pepe, who is trying to marry her, and while Angustias truly believes that he loves her for her, she really just wants to be loved and free from the oppression and alienation she feels within the walls of Bernarda’s house. What challenges does your character face telling this story? Angustias is constantly struggling with the antagonistic energy she receives from her sisters. No matter what she does, her sisters find some way to make her feel even more alienated and separate from the group. No one really gives her a chance to share more about herself. Angustias is always defending herself, but somehow it always comes off as offensive towards her sisters. She doesn’t feel understood. She wants her mother’s approval, but also doesn’t feel fully understood by her either. Angustias has a hard time in this story, because she doesn’t feel like anyone is on her side. How does the character overcome those challenges? Angustias changes throughout the play—I won’t give away too much, but in some ways, Angustias is redeemed from all of her bitterness at the end of the play when her sisters discover how they have wronged her. While Angustias behaved more out of spite at the top of the show, she begins to genuinely ask for help, advice, and empathy at the end of the play. Angustias overcomes her challenges of alienation towards the end of the play when she risks being judged by her mother and sisters by being more vulnerable, and seeking to find the truth, even if she gets hurt in the end. Any other comments? I hope that this play helps audience members to be thankful for the people in life who love them, to hold them close, and to try to understand each other instead of being blinded by individual desires. Why not work together? Why not be a team and create something beautiful? Life is too short not to make the most of it every day. Thank you so much for your time!
Mia Park