(HERE Artist Residency Program)

Chang(e) Soomi Kim

Show Description

Fighting for global social transformation, performance artist and activist Kathy Change (formerly Kathleen Chang) was on a mission to save the world from disaster. As a final act of protest, she self-immolated on the campus of UPenn in October 1996. Chang(e) is a live-staged biographical docudrama that slips between reality and fantasy, plunging viewers inside the mind of Kathy Change. Through a phantasmagorical blend of dance, text (interview and performance transcriptions and Change's own writings), video and original score, Change’s prescient defiance comes to life in this real life account of a modern day "Cassandra."
Conceived and Performed by: Soomi Kim
Directed by: Suzi Takahashi
Composed by: Adam Rogers
Set by: Bryce Cutler
Video by: Kevan Loney
Lights by: Lucrecia Briceno
Costumes by: Machine Dazzle

Photo by Kendall Whitehouse

Work in progress performance of "Chang(e)" at the Asian Arts Initiative in Phildelphia Dec. 6th, 2012. 

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Artist Bio

Soomi Kim is a Korean born, New York City based actor/movement artist (dancer, stage combat/martial arts, choreographer, gymnast). She works as a company member with several artists as well as producing, creating and performing her own work, almost always in the collaborative setting. Kim’s multidisciplinary dance theater collaboration, Dictee: bells fall a peal to sky (adaptation of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s seminal work of poetry) premiered in Los Angeles at the 3rd National Asian American Theater Festival, June 2011. Dictee.. was conceived and choreographed by Kim, created in collaboration with director by Suzi Takahashi and musician Jen Shyu. In October 2008 her original multidisciplinary performance play Lee/gendary (based on the life of Bruce Lee, also a Kim/Takahashi collaboration) ran for 3 weeks at HERE Arts Center’s mainstage where Kim served as producer & performer in this show. This performance run garnered 6 New York Innovative Theater (2009) award nominations and 3 wins, including Outstanding Production of a Play. Kim was also nominated for Outstanding actress in a lead role (as Bruce Lee) as well as Outstanding Choreography (alongside Airon Armstrong). Lee/gendary first ran at the First National Asian American Theater Festival (FNAATF) held in New York City. She is a company member with Ex.pgirl and has performed in several productions, workshops and residencies with this past HERE Artist Residency troupe. Kim has performed and worked extensively with composer/choreographer Grisha Coleman in her work echo-system: the desert. Soomi is a Urban Arts Initiative grant recipient and has been featured in KoreAm Journal, Asiance, Kung Fu magazine, The Korea times and the LA Times. 

SUZI TAKAHASHI (director and collaborator for Chang(e))is a Japanese/American director, collaborative theater maker, teacher, and actor. In 2009, Suzi began to pursue her love of directing fulltime after being named Best Director at the Innovative Theater Awards for her collaborative work on Lee/gendary with performer/choreographer Soomi Kim. That same year, Suzi was also an Emerging Artist Fellow in directing at the New York Theater Workshop, where she commissioned the first English translation of Betsuyaku's absurdist play, Godot Has Come. Previous directing credits include Fugard’s The Island at Swarthmore College, Dictee (with Soomi Kim) commissioned by the Women Center Stage Festival, Conversion: a musing on the mysteriously true events of Le Roy high school at NYU/Stella Adler, and Mary’s Wedding at the Bristol Valley Theater and the Rochester Fringe. Currently, Suzi is directing a new collaborative work Soomi Kim that is based on the life of the radical performance artist Kathy Change, who infamously burned herself to death on the campus of UPenn. From 2002-10, Suzi was the co-artistic producer of the intercultural women's performance ensemble, Ex.Pgirl, with whom she created and conceived four original devised works: Ablution (2002), Waving Hello (2004), 10 Plates (2007), and Paris Syndrome (2010). With Ex.Pgirl, she was twice a HARP Artist in Residence at HERE Arts Center (2002-2010,) and received grants from Franklin Furnace, NYSCA, DCA, and Swing Space. Previously, Suzi has taught theater at Swarthmore College, Hunter College, the City College of New York, and Marymount Manhattan. Currently, she is on the movement faculty at the Stella Addler Studio of Acting.

Suzi holds a BA in Theatre from Barnard College, and MA in Performance Studies from New York University. She has studied directing with Nick Mangano and Rinde Eckert. Suzi has trained with the SITI Company.

Artist Statement

Kathleen Chang added an “e” on the end of her last name after having an epiphany about devoting her life to changing the world through political activism and performance. Although her tale appears dark, I see it as full of hope, transformation, passion and humor. The image of her dancing, burning body as her final act of self-immolation is hauntingly beautiful; at once horrific and redemptive like a phoenix.

I am really excited by narratives that can be told through a multidisciplinary approach that involves various styles of movement, text, music/sound, and video. I am intrigued by biographical stories based on intensely and passionately lived lives cut short. My background in dance, martial arts, music, and theater create the foundation of my work and draw me to forms of storytelling that cross traditional theatrical boundaries and also fuels my desire to collaborate with other artists.


“ It’s difficult to know what to make of Chang herself. In the early 1990s she was easily dismissed as a throwback to the long-gone era of hippies and the leftist counterculture. In light of the recent economic crises and the rise of the Occupy movement, she can be viewed as a prescient oracle of the perils of unfettered capitalism. Whatever one’s view of her ideology, it’s difficult to come to terms with her decision to commit suicide as an act of public protest. Fortunately, Kim — while clearly admiring Chang — has created a multifaceted performance piece that presents the contrasts and contradictions of Chang’s troubled life and art.”
— Kendall Whitehouse, Wharton UPenn on Technology and Media

Soomi Kim Artist Page

Project Feed

Soomi Kim as Kathy Change with cast. Photo by Kendall Whitehouse

Chang(e) in Philly! October 2014

Chang(e) in Philly: Consortium of Asian American Theater Artists: Confest It was so exciting to be able to share this work in front of the participants of the National Asian American Theater Festival as well as Kathy's circle of friends....

Kathleen Chang a.k.a. Kathy Change 1950-1996

Artist Talk: “The Transformation” Oct. 22nd, 7pm 20 Cooper Sq. special guest Mary Thorn Gabriele

During my research process for "Chang(e)" I have had the good fortune of developing a relationship with Dr. Mary Thorn Gabriele, who was a good friend of Kathy's. She performed with Kathy at the Museum of Art in Philly in...

Culture Project’s Women Center Stage Festival 2013

This past July 2013, I workshopped some new excerpts of "Chang(e)" as part of an evening called "New Looks @ New Works" at this year's Women Center Stage Festival presented by the Culture Project. We introduced lots of exciting new...

Contemplating Kathy at the Peace sculpture near the Van Lier library, camous of U Penn. Photo by Kendall Whitehouse

Photos from video shoot, campus of U Penn, October 2012

I went to Philadelphia for a weekend in October to shoot some video footage with Gein Wong. We shot on the campus of U Penn near the Van Lier library where Kathy used to perform as well as on the...