Min Kahng is an award-winning Bay Area playwright and composer whose world premiere works include The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga (recipient of the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards for Original Script and Original Music, the Theatre Bay Area Award for World Premiere Musical, the Edgerton New Play Award, and a NAMT Production Grant) and The Song of the Nightingale. His Theatre for Young Audiences credits include GOLD: The Midas Musical, Inside Out & Back Again, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon: A Musical Adaptation, Bad Kitty On Stage!, and Tales of Olympus. Kahng also wrote the NEA-funded project Story Explorers, an original musical for young audiences with autism. Kahng has participated in the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, a residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s The Ground Floor Summer Lab, and the TheatreWorks New Works Festival. He has been invited as a Guest Lecturer/Artist at Harvard University, Stanford University, UC Berkeley, San Jose State University and The San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Kahng is a Jonathan Larson Grant Finalist, a Richard Rodgers Award Finalist, a Resident Playwright at Playwrights Foundation, a Board Member of Theatre for Young Audiences USA, and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. www.minkahng.com
Hello! My name is Min Kahng (rhymes with "song").
This is the story of how I became a musical theatre writer...
I was always drawn to the performing arts my whole life – writing songs as early as I can remember, recording my own variety talk shows with my then high-tech dual tape cassette player/recorder, and filming dramatic homemade movies using Lego men as my actors. By the way I was singing and listening to showtunes all the time, you'd think I had my heart set on Broadway from birth. The somewhat curious or unfortunate thing, though, is that I was completely oblivious to the vibrant theatre community all around me in the Bay Area.
I went to college with a hidden desire to be involved in theatre, but riddled with fear as to whether such a thing was a possibility. Even though I studied Music and Rhetoric, I still did not believe a career in the performing arts was a viable option for me after I graduated. So, after I got my BA, I entered the corporate world in an entry-level marketing position, even toying with whether I wanted to eventually attend business school. At first, I enjoyed and excelled at my job, and even moved up to become a Marketing Manager in a couple of years. However, the longer I stayed, the more I felt that the work wasn't fulfilling.
Thankfully, I was bold enough to take my first acting class. Then I auditioned and performed in my first community theatre musical. A few shows later, I soon realized that I could use my musical abilities to play in the pit for shows as well as take up vocal & musical direction. I started to think that it might be possible for me to sustain myself as an artist. After three years working for the "suits," I decided that I needed to try my hand at it before I turned thirty, or else I would always live with that tinge of regret for having never tried. If I failed, I could always find another job doing marketing for some company. So, I left the corporate world in 2008 ...and haven't looked back.
At first, it was about making ends meet. I worked as a private voice teacher – that was my primary source of income. Then I took as many gigs as I could, working as a music/vocal director, pianist, and theatre educator. I didn't quite know where I was headed. I wanted to try my hand at acting, but also wanted to finish writing a musical I had been working on for several years (what would eventually become The Song of the Nightingale). Somewhere in the midst of driving around like crazy to go to auditions that did not pan out (I think it was after an unsuccessful audition up in Petaluma for a body motion capture role in a video game), I decided it made more sense to throw myself more fully into my writing.
I wouldn't have called myself a musical theatre writer at that point, however. I was just "writing a show" which, in my mind, did not warrant self-identification as "writer" (or "composer" for that matter). It took a few years for that confidence to emerge within me. And a lot of that bolstering came from the inexplicable faith others had in me to write and compose a show. My first fully produced show, Tales of Olympus, came about because Nina Meehan, Executive Artistic Director of Bay Area Children's Theatre, took a chance on me and asked me to write a show for her company. My second show, The Song of the Nightingale, reached its opening night because Fred Chacon, then the Artistic Director of Altarena Playhouse, took a chance on me by helping get a staged reading mounted. And the Board of Altarena took a chance on me by including my show in their 75th anniversary season. These successes, made possible largely because of the faith of others, finally enabled me to think "Wow - I can do this..."
And that's how I started my career as a musical theatre writer. Of course, there are more stories to tell. That's why I keep my vlog, blog and newsletter. But I'm happy to say that I wear the title of musical theatre writer and composer without any reservations. Now, it's about throwing myself into my work, and hoping that what I do resonates with an audience.
Thanks for reading!