The Edinburgh Fringe Took Everything Out of Me. It Also Gave Me Everything I Wanted and More | Playbill

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Playbill Goes Fringe The Edinburgh Fringe Took Everything Out of Me. It Also Gave Me Everything I Wanted and More

Part 3 in a 3-part essay series from Zoë Kim about how she created her Edinburgh Fringe solo show: Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?).

Zoë Kim performs Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?) at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Saenam Kim

This year, Playbill is inviting two artists performing their shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to write down their reflections. These artists first perform their works in New York City, and then again abroad—and Playbill is asking for a behind-the-scenes look before, during, and after their Edinburgh run. Below is an essay by Zoë Kim, whose solo show, Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?), first premiered at Off-Broadway’s 59E59 as part of its East to Edinburgh Festival. The six performances quickly sold out.

Then, Kim headed to Edinburgh August 4-26 with Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?). The full three-week Fringe run was a success, garnering multiple positive reviews by critics. Audience numbers grew steadily over the course of the run. The play was directed by Chris Yejin and co-produced by Zoë Kim and Kayla Kim Votapek, as part of their newly created Seoulful Productions. In this third essay, Kim reflects on her festival experience and what’s next on the horizon for their company.

On the opening night of Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?) at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as I stood crammed behind the curtains getting ready to go on stage, I felt like pooping my pants.

Sure, we had incredibly successful previews in NYC before heading to Edinburgh. But, still, that was in New York City—arguably the most diverse town and where our primary demographic for the show, the AAPI community and particularly people of the Korean-American diaspora, resides. Now we were 3,000 miles away from home and it felt like a different animal sharing my vulnerability here. I had heard of nightmares of no one showing up and the run being cut short due to it. Out of the 3,535 shows registered at this year’s festival, I was pretty positive that we were the only Korean-American show (though there were numerous shows from South Korea).

I could do nothing to mentally prepare, so I braced myself for anything. I closed my eyes and took one final deep breath before stepping out. I told myself to stay unapologetic about my bilingualism and the intimate nature of my show. I reminded myself of the reason why I was doing this, which was to make discoveries and get a full workshop process out of Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?) so that Seoulful Productions could continue developing it into the full-length version we envision. Edinburgh was meant to be a test drive for what we are eventually making, and if that meant I had to fall on my face taking risks for a month, I had to be brave through it.

I was scared shitless but I did it anyway. 

And then I did it again the next night. Then again. I performed 21 shows in 23 days. It was a wild, insane, magical, challenging, thrilling, exhausting, and transformative 23-day journey packed with more exploration, experimentation, failure, achievement, and awakening than I had ever encountered before.

Zoë Kim in Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?) Scott Mendenko

Over the course of the Fringe run, I figured out what was working and what wasn’t, what was missing or what was consistently confusing to the audience, what I wanted to lean more into and what I could do without, and how the story could get stronger, clearer, and tighter as a 70-minute full-length play. Every day I tried something new, and every day I uncovered a new meaning in some capacity.

Furthermore, as an actor, I experienced things I had never experienced before in my nearly 20-year acting career. One night, I forgot all my lines and threw myself a grand old pity party for three hours. Another night, I felt triumphant with an unending standing ovation. Many days, people cried in my arms after the show. A few times, I received ignorant and hurtful remarks as people left the theatre. I got long DMs, emails, and handwritten notes expressing how deeply my story impacted or resonated with them. One person told me that I changed their life. Another told me that it made them think differently. Countless told me they were going to call their mom.

A few more things I realized during my time at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe: 

  1. I was more prepared than I thought I was.
  2. Good job to me for being an early bird in planning for Fringe, because I really got a lot of worms.
  3. Doing a 50-minute show in a 60-minute slot was not too short.
  4. I couldn’t have chosen a better collaborator and director to go on this ride with. Chris Yejin was my experience. She’s a genius and everyone should work with her.
  5. Nothing else matters other than the story.
Pull quotes from Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?)

Ultimately, the Edinburgh Fringe gave me everything I wanted and more.

It's been a hard but rewarding summer. We showcased a 50-minute workshop presentation of Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?) at 59E59 in NYC and then again at Edinburgh Festival Fringe over the course of six weeks.

What’s next? The 70-minute full-length production of Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?) is now in development with the goal of a full production in 2024–2025. We are actively fundraising and looking for another theatre company to co-produce with us to bring the full-length vision to life.

If you’re interested in collaborating with us or would like to request our producing packet, please e-mail [email protected]. If you’d like to make a donation to support the development of our production, click here.

Seoulful Productions Logo Design Eric Ng

Zoë Kim (she/her) is a storyteller who is passionate about creating art that encourages humanity, compassion, and kindness. She is the Founder of Seoulful Productions, Korean-American women-led, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to create artistic experiences that celebrate the culture, artistry, and voices of the Korean Diaspora. Did You Eat? (밥 먹었니?) is a debut play by Seoulful Productions. To buy tickets or to learn more about Seoulful Productions, visit: Special thanks to Saenam Kim.

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