Spotlight On: Haejin Han 

Alaina Feehan 

Outstanding Stage Manager Award goes to an Even More Outstanding Person

In September of this year at the 10th Annual New York Innovative Theatre Awards, Haejin Han received the Outstanding Stage Manager award for her work in Phoenix Theatre Ensemble's Don Juan in Hell.

"She is one of the most vibrantly kind, passionately committed, thoughtful, caring, detail oriented people I have ever had the pleasure of working with," said Elise Stone, Founder and Artistic Director of Phoenix Theatre Ensemble. "She brightens a room just by walking into it. And every bit of who Haejin is - is genuine. I have watched her get out paint and brush to repaint the set after an evening's performance because it has gotten chipped or scuffed up. No one asks Haejin to do this - she just does it - because she is devoted to every element of the art."
I believe every word Ms. Stone said because after I heard Haejin's gracious and endearing acceptance speech, I not only wanted to work with her, I wanted to become her best friend! As such, I was thrilled when I was asked to follow up with her to learn more about her, what she's working on, and what she has coming up next. After you read the Q and A below, I'm pretty sure you'll be on 'Team Haejin' as well.

*Note- the answers have been edited a bit to read easier as English is a second language for Haejin.

Q- Would you mind telling me a little about your back story? You mentioned that your parents were watching the awards from South Korea. Did you grow up there? What was that like? What is theatre and theatre education like there? 

HH: I am from Seoul, South Korea. I came to New York 7 years ago. I graduated from Seo-Keong University as a theatre major. I studied acting, directing, and designing. (Haejin was so dedicated that she would sometimes work at the theatre until 4am.)
Musical theater is very popular in Korea. We also have our own (original) Korean musicals, but they never run long because they lose financing. Many investors and producers prefer well-known musicals. It is kind of a sad truth. There are also many active theater groups in Hyehwa dong, where amazing work is created. It is like Off Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway.

Q- What first drew you to the theatre?

HH: I was a hip hop dancer and I didn't feel the need to go to university because I had steady work, but unfortunately in Korea, you are judged by your degree and not by your abilities. My parents told me that I can keep dancing but I should go to university so I wouldn't be disregarded by society. At that time, a friend invited me to see a musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The combination of the music, dance, lights, and set all together hit me really hard! I thought this is it! This is what I want!!! So, I applied to university as a theater major.

Q- What brought you to New York?

HH: Eight years ago, I won an award at the GM Daewoo musical festival in Korea for Outstanding Director and Stage manager. The reward was a ticket to New York. After coming here and seeing NYC theatre, I decided that I want to work here even if it was just to serve coffee backstage.

Q- Can you describe what it was like when you found out they were giving you the award?

HH: I remembered when I heard it at the first time I said "No Way! OMG! OMG! Really? No way!" I didn't believe it. Also, I was so happy there is such an award. 

I was in London doing a tour show and I wasn't sure I could get a visa to come back to the U.S.; however, when I got the email from the IT Awards saying I won the award, I was able to use it to get my artist visa! The embassy said, "You are outstanding in your field. You are approved. Go back to New York and get your award." 

Thank you IT Awards for saving my USA life.

Q- Also, how do you think winning the award will impact your career moving forward?

HH: After I got the award, I said this is just beginning. This award gives me more encouragement to always be an outstanding stage manager. 

I also thought that winning would give me a chance to work with some great people and its already lead to some opportunities as I have already received some emails from people who were at the award ceremony!

Q- What do you like most about being a stage manager?

HH: To make everyone happy. Really.

To make sure all designers and director are same page, so we can communicate well, and are happy.

Here we go!

Q- Are there any other roles in the theatre you'd like to attempt? Or outside the theatre?

HH: Actually, I work as a lighting designer, too. I really enjoy doing it. I want to do more and more. Also, I want to learn more about sound design. I love to challenge myself and to keep improving.

Q- Do you have any upcoming projects?

HH: I am doing Snow in the Living Room at the Theaterlab, and Jitney at John Jay starting Nov 20th. Also, Creditors with Phoenix Theatre ensemble starting December 3rd. Jersey City Nutcracker  in December, Sunken Cathedral at HERE in January, and Burq Off! which will tour USA, Europe, Asia in 2015.

Q-. Are there any dream productions you'd like to work on?

HH:  We can all make any production our dream production. (This is the best thing anyone has ever said about theatre.)

Watch Haejin's interview from backstage at the IT Awards Ceremony.

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