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ACTOR SPOTLIGHT: James Yi is the Second Actor Ever to Play the Role of Appa (and plays another role in the hit TV series!)

What is it about Ins Choi’s story that has made it such a success?
Ins is able to let every audience member feel connected to the story in some way. Some will relate to the ethnic aspect of the play where someone else might relate to the struggles of a family running a small business but everyone will relate to the theme of family. His ability to have such strong comedic writing in it, while at the same time having these incredibly touching moments as well, makes this play so special.

Taproot is exploring Family Ties this season. How does family affect your character?
Appa is flawed on many levels but he deeply loves his family and wants to leave a legacy for them. I think everything he does in life is with his family in mind. He can be quite narcissistic in the way he relates to his children but he is also incredible sacrificial in his love for them.

You were just in an episode of the Kim’s Convenience TV show. What was it like being on set?
It was surreal to share the screen with Paul [Sun-Hyung Lee] and Jean [Yoon], the original Appa and Umma from the play when it debuted at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2011. I happened to be in Toronto and saw it on closing night and then I hung out with the cast afterward. I remember telling them the play was going to blow up and I thought it could be an amazing TV show; so I’d like to take some credit there. (Laughs.) I was in such awe at their performance that night. And then to be able to play Appa years later and actually be on the show with them was a very special moment in my life. I was also so happy to see Ins on set enjoying the fruit of his labor of love. Dreams really do come true and his story is an incredible story of perseverance and hard work.

Is there anything you miss about being on stage when you’re working on a TV set? And vice versa?
TV can feel so much more like work because of the number of takes and angles that are required to make just a few minutes of actual footage. So, I definitely miss the live aspect of theatre, the energy of the crowd and the pressure of having only one take in my performance that night. Theatre also has much more rehearsal than TV, so that the actor feels prepared going on stage. TV often will have you block it once on set and then just start shooting and adjusting as you go. What I do like about TV is that you shoot as many times as you need to get it right. It pays way more than theatre too!

What’s the best advice you’ve received, theatrical or otherwise?
The best advice I received theatrically was to really listen to the other actor in the scene. Often actors can get preoccupied with themselves and thinking about how their performance is going and they fail to connect with the other actor. I think focusing on the other actor immediately makes your acting much more authentic. The same is true in life. We need to listen more. It has always helped me to connect with others better when I listen.


Rehearsal Snack: Carrot sticks
Pump-Up Song: “Rocky Theme Song,” “Eye of the Tiger” and “Conga” by Miami Sound Machine
Drink: Sparkling water with a hint of juice on the rocks or an ice cold wheat ale on a hot summer day
Book: The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
TV Show: Breaking Bad
Podcast: I don’t listen to podcasts but like to listen to sports radio talk shows – Dan Patrick is my favorite.


The winner of six Canadian Screen Awards including Best Comedy Series of 2018, the TV show Kim’s Convenience has been a smash hit for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) since its debut in the fall of 2016. The first three seasons of the acclaimed sitcom are available to watch in the U.S. on Netflix.

Writer, Ins Choi originally created the show as a short sketch (inspired partially by a convenience store his first-generation Korean-Canadian uncle owned while Choi was growing up in suburban Toronto) which he debuted as part of an event at the Fu-Gen Theatre Company. Five years later, after developing the story into a full-length play, Choi submitted it to the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2011; a production he directed himself while also playing the role of Jung.

At the Fringe Festival, the play won the Best New Play Award and, shortly after that, Soulpepper Theatre, Toronto’s largest non-profit theatre picked up the show. It played in front of sold-out audiences and won two Toronto Theatre Critics Awards, becoming the most commercially successful show in Soulpepper’s history. Due to the popularity of the play, Soulpepper remounted the production twice within a year of the original staging and it went on to do a three-year tour of Canada which concluded in a month-long Off-Broadway run at New York’s Pershing Square Signature Center.

While the show was touring in Vancouver, Choi was approached by representatives from Thunderbird Films who convinced him to adapt the play into a television series. With original Toronto Fringe Festival and Soulpepper actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Jean Yoon reprising the roles of Appa and Umma, respectively, the TV show Kim’s Convenience premiered October 11, 2016. The groundbreaking series is also noteworthy for being the first Canadian TV series with a predominately Asian cast.

PRODUCTION SPOTLIGHT: How do you build a convenience store on Taproot’s stage? Good question.

How did you create an authentic, fully-stocked convenience store where the focus is on the people rather than the products?
Visually, this show is a challenge no matter where it’s produced. With the nature of our thrust stage, we couldn’t crowd the stage too much with aisles and aisles of product. In a proscenium theatre it would be easier to put a lot of the products at the back and sides and then allow the actors to just be downstage-center. On our stage, we had to leave room for the actors to be able to create pathways in, around and between all of the aisles and products. And as with all of our shows, the directors need to keep the actors moving and the stage picture changing.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in creating the store?
The biggest challenge was fitting in all of the things the script requires. Front door, counter, exit to backstage, a good representation of products, a merchandiser refrigerator and a small area for a scene not set in the store to take place. Plus, I also wanted to see some of the exterior of the store including the fluorescent sign and roof above, to help indicate that it’s a two-story building where the family lives above the store.

Part of what brings this show to life is the set dressing (the items on stage that aren’t typically handled by actors; like bags of chips, newspapers, etc.), how did you find all of these items?
We were very, very lucky. This play has only been produced a few times. And those were all in Canada, where the play takes place. I contacted Pacific Theatre in Vancouver, BC last fall and they graciously donated almost all of the store items to us that they had acquired from local vendors and from a previous production last spring on Vancouver Island. I took a van up last fall and came back with more than twenty boxes of Canadian convenience store products. Most of the products look the same as they would in the U.S. but are labeled in both English and French. Plus, they gave us a number of items that are Canadian brands. Our audiences may not recognize the brand but they will know they’re not familiar. And our audience is close enough to read the labels.

Do you have a favorite product on the shelves?
So far, it’s probably the Froot Loops. They’re labeled in both English and French and say “Made in Canada” on the front. Or the Ketchup flavored Lay’s Chips which are not sold in the States.

Did you hide any fun surprises on the set?
Not this time. …or maybe I did?

You consistently try to reuse building supplies from past shows; will we recognize any set pieces?
For this and most shows, the things I recycle are materials that have been reconfigured and repainted or are structure that the audience would never see like platforms. Half of the floor tiles are the flooring from the Always… Patsy Cline platforms. Virtually all of the walls are from stock and have been in many shows (repainted). The front door is used from the RE-STORE in Ballard and the merchandiser refrigerator is refurbished from Craigslist.


Drink: Iced tea.
Book: The Daily Show’s History of America and Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency.
TV Show: Colbert (both shows). Anything by Mike Schur.
Podcast: Against the Rules with Michael Lewis. How it Got Made.


Sherla Clomes: An Improvised Twist on Sherlock Holmes

Bring the family to meet Sherla Clomes!

Sherla Clomes is hot on a new case! But the world-famous detective needs your help creating her esteemed associate and deducing clues to identify a prime suspect in this delightfully funny improvised mystery. Join our illustrious detective and a line-up of hilarious characters for a surprising sleuthing adventure. Together you’ll unravel a thrilling puzzle that reaches hysterical new heights every night. Laughs are afoot!

Performance Information

June 7, 8, 14 & 15 at 7:30 PM

Length: approx. 1 hour
Age Rec: 12+

**Please note: Seating in the Isaac Studio Theatre is General Admission. There are no reserved seats.**

Tickets are on sale now! Tickets for 2019 Jewell Mainstage Subscribers and 25 & Under are $10. Tickets can be purchased online at taproottheatre.org (choose “2019 Mainstage Subscriber” price), by phone at 206-781-9707 or in person at 204 N 85th St. General admission tickets are $15.


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