This summer, Kyung Hyun Kim, professor of East Asian studies and founding director of the Center for Critical Korean Studies at the University of California, Irvine, took his experiences of the pandemic to the page, writing his first play, “Pan Damn It!”

On Sunday, November 15, the UCI Center for Critical Korean Studies and UCI Illuminations will debut Kim’s play with a free live reading.

Written specifically for the Zoom platform, the play follows the story of a Korean American man, who experiences the symptoms of COVID-19 and must quarantine himself away from his own family. At the same time, he is embroiled in a mask debate with other parents at the school that his daughter attends. Both of these experiences Kim lived through during the summer, which inspired him to write the play.

“I wanted to create a drama that gave a platform for these rather cautious voices and subjects that creeped out during the pandemic,” Kim explains. “Children’s school was and continues to be an important litmus test and even a lab for medical science, social tolerance, and a divided political system in America during the pandemic. So, I found school to also be a perfect setting for such drama. Every element that belongs to tragedy, comedy, and even this Kafka-esque sense of the unknown were all there incubated in this actual debate on mask-wearing and school reopening.”

Kim worked with Jane Page, professor of drama at UCI, and Gavin Cameron-Webb, a theater director, to ensure the Zoom play retained some of the dramatic elements audience members would expect from traditional theater. A cast featuring professional actors, UCI drama students, and local children will bring the play to the Zoom stage.

“I hope one message the audience takes away is that we need to stop listening to our friends Tweeting ‘conspiracy theories’ on social media and instead trust our scientists who are trying to protect our health,” Kim shares. “I know this sounds simple, but it’s not that easy. It does require sacrifice for everyone because our individual freedom and privacy would have to be compromised. It starts with a mask mandate but continues with restrictions in travel and meeting friends and family, and the need to allow health officials to look at our phone records and pictures to contact trace. We have to defend the health protocols that are going to infringe on our rights.”

The live reading is free and begins at 4:00 p.m. on November 15 here.

More information is available here.