From the fascinating true story that inspired the show, Lloyd Suh takes a look back at the journey behind Bina’s Six Apples
Lloyd Suh’s latest play may have had its co-premiere with a venue called “Children’s Theatre Company,” but don’t let the name fool you. Bina’s Six Apples is not exclusively for children.
“This is the second time I’ve written for that demographic,” Suh says. His previous play for young audiences, The Wong Kids in the Secret of the Space Chupacabra Go! also premiered at Children’s Theatre Company. “The first time was very different in that it included more things you would normally associate with children’s theatre, I suppose. It had its poignant moments and its serious moments, but it was a little more familiar in its tone and sensibility.”
With Bina’s Six Apples, he intended to create a story that would not be simply geared towards one age demographic and tolerated by another, but rather enjoyed by all ages.
“The guide for me with this play was to write something that’s truly intergenerational, something that can be as resonant to the parents and grandparents watching it as it is to the kids that they bring with them,” Suh explains. He specifically pictured the three generations in his family – from his parents to his children – to inform what this intergenerational style would look like. “It’s not a play for young audiences that adults can enjoy, but it’s more specifically for both.”
He says that in comparison to his aforementioned first play for young audiences, Bina’s Six Apples is a more earnest piece – and for good reason. “It’s rooted in some very real family lore that, I think, made me approach it with a certain sense of sincerity.”
A PERSONAL STORY
This family lore he mentions is a memory from his father’s childhood that inspired the play, with Bina herself inspired by Suh’s father.
“He was probably about five or six, and his memory of that time was that his family packed up in preparation of leaving their home and apple orchard to travel to Busan,” Suh shares, adding that at the time, his father was actually younger than Bina’s character. “He was the youngest of 11 children, and what he remembers is that they gave him this backpack with apples in it. It made him feel useful and special, and he really loved having that.”
Especially as a father himself now, Suh shares that he can relate to the idea of giving the littlest child something to occupy his hands.
“In retrospect, it was probably a situation where they were just giving him something to do, and maybe the contents of what he was carrying weren’t as important as maybe the things that his older siblings were carrying,” clarifies the writer. “But it always stuck with me that that moment was a happy moment for him in the midst of war.”
AN EXERCISE IN EMPATHY
That image of a child carrying apples is just about the only part of his father’s story that appears in the play, but Suh says this piece was still heavily influenced by his family.
“I kept very little of the literal truth in terms of- there are no characters who are based directly on my family members,” he explains. “I changed the age and the gender of the main character, and I did a lot of [those character changes] for a variety of reasons, one of them subconsciously. I didn’t realize I was doing it at the time, but I have a 10-year-old daughter, and I basically put somebody more like her into my father’s situation. It seems obvious now that that was part of the idea of creating something multi-generational and using my own family as an audience model.”
His decision to use his father’s story as a jumping-off point allowed him the flexibility to reach a broad audience while still telling a story his parents would see themselves in.
“I was definitely interested in creating a journey that wasn’t obligated to the facts of my parents, that could be just as resonant to them, but wasn’t directly literal,” he continues. “Something that’s a little sublimated and a little more rooted in imagination. The whole thing is an exercise in empathy. I think Bina’s journey is an exercise in empathy. I think the play itself is an exercise in empathy.”
As Bina’s Six Apples makes its Atlanta debut, it marks a “first” for more than just the play itself.
“This is the first show that I’ll have ever had in Atlanta. So I’m very excited,” expresses Suh. “I’ve spent a little bit of time in Atlanta, but this is the first time I’ve worked there directly. I’m just really, really excited to get to know the audiences. And I can’t wait. I’m very excited to share this with them!”
Sally Henry Fuller is a theatre nerd, journalist, and podcaster here in Atlanta. You can find more of her interviews on TheBroadwayGinger.com or find her in a local coffeeshop.
Bina’s Six Apples runs at the Alliance Theatre’s Coca-Cola Stage through March 27th. Visit AllianceTheatre.org for more information and to purchase tickets.
This article appears in the Alliance Theatre’s Bina’s Six Apples edition of Encore Atlanta. Go see the show or click the cover below to peruse the rest of the program!