Actor Balances Career, Wife and Children for Time on Stage

Fort Worth’s Circle Theatre recently featured “Art.” The play starred three actors with equal stage time. Paul Jung, David Fluitt and Jakie Cabe did a fine job in this interlocutory work. Wordy, heady and full of banter, the dialogue and its delivery offered an evening of humorous entertainment. They enjoyed sold out shows and at least one standing ovation.

If there was a “main” character, it was Serge, played by Paul Jung. Serge buys an expensive piece of modern art. The story unfolds as Serge unveils the piece for his friends. It appears to be nothing more than a white-on-white painting of nothing at all.  His friends’ reactions stir thought-provoking discourse, arguments and fisticuffs. From the beginning, the audience could sense the awkwardness, as amiability turned cold. Spectators squirmed, chortled, and guffawed – even a shriek was heard – with interactive timing that brought vitality to the small-venue experience.

Paul Jung, as Serge, displayed an up-and-comer’s arrogance, with flair. Strutting out with the painting, stroking his face in demonstrative pride as he spoke of the acquisition, and sneering down his nose at his pals, he got the character’s mood just right. The emotional twists and turns were forceful but relatable. As the conversations continued, self-assuredness was questioned and friendships were challenged. The crowd was pleased.

After the show one night, Paul joined friends at a nearby restaurant. The air of pride was still there, though the tone was entirely different. Paul relished the moment, taking in the atmosphere and absorbing the compliments he received for his work. He laughed as he related stories of rehearsals and performances. During the show that evening, David and Paul had inadvertently bumped hands as they simultaneously reached across Jakie for an olive jar. The physicality of the incident gave them an impromptu opportunity to demonstrate their characters’ disdain for one another. “We couldn’t recreate that if we tried,” Paul said of the perfection in the moment. Sipping on a glass of Scotch, he shared his tales.

He was in his element.

Until a few years ago, Paul lived in New York. He acted in small parts, mostly commercials, often playing a nameless Asian businessman. He wasn’t famous. There weren’t great monetary rewards. But, he was living the life, the one he wanted anyway. Acting is his thing. As he reflected on his time in New York, someone asked Paul to name some famous Asian actors. He cited two that he has worked with, Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim, aka Jin and Sun Kwon of “LOST.”

Eventually, Paul took a job at a software company in New York to make ends meet. It was there he met Ashlee. She was a recruiter for the company. They were a match, and they married and had a son, Campbell. Still determined to make a go of it in New York, they lived in Manhattan, sharing a small space with their son. Not necessarily an idyllic place to raise a child, it worked, enabling them to realize their dreams.

However, when Ashlee got pregnant a second time, they decided to leave New York for Texas. Ashlee has family in Fort Worth. Raising their kids is the priority now, and that is made easier with space to move around and supportive grandparents nearby. Ashlee started her own recruiting firm, The Jung Group, and eventually Paul joined her. Sadly, there is typically little time for hobbies like acting these days.

Occasionally a part comes up that Paul can manage while juggling work and family responsibilities. When “Art” was cast, the director wanted Paul, and he got him without a struggle. “This is the most acting I’ve done in a long time,” he said, adding, “The dialogue is intense.” Paul explained that Christopher Hampton, who also wrote the screenplay for “Dangerous Liaisons”, translated the play from its original French. Paul struggled to fit in his passion with his day job, but with the play’s short run, he was able to make it work.

Giving deference to his co-stars, Paul considers himself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with both David and Jakie, “the real professionals,” who act full time. Sitting nearby, David assured the group that Paul holds his own. His satisfaction was evident in his smile. Paul Jung has found a way to make the most of both worlds, the acting he loves and the real-world family life that has taken center stage.

Next up, Paul Jung acts in Tapas, a series of short plays directed by Jaime Castaneda, April 16-19.  Circle Theatre is located at 230 West Fourth Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102,  

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