We had the good fortune of connecting with Yijun Yang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yijun, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I tried many hobbies when I was very young, but only drawing stuck to me for the longest time. In the beginning, I have very enjoyed all the praise from the teacher every weekend, then later on it has grown in me. It helps me express the feeling and energy I had towards life and the world when the words have limitations. Drawing is my passion and I found out I am more enjoy in the process and want everyone to have the same emotional path as me, storytelling became the calling to me. Scenic design is the perfect pitch for me as an artistic career. Where I can allow people in this world that I created for a story and share experiences with many people. I want to create work that activates the audience’s imagination and focuses on stories of empowerment.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m proud of my multi-cultural upbringing and feel that I bring a unique perspective to the productions I design and design process. My design is making a statement of some kind about this story and it is inevitable. Because I am adding a perspective to it. I am always overwhelmed and moved by the team that invited me to join them to work together and create something we all proud of. This kind of trust encourages me to work harder. As Sondheim put in his musical “Sunday in the Park with George”- “Art isn’t easy.” I believe for most artists the journey is never really over and that is the exciting part of continually evolving. Scenic is not just illustrated the world in the story, it is creating the environment where the story can take place. It is very hard to learn how to give the audience what is the world of the story without a too obvious spoiler and illustrating what is going to happen. They walked into the theater to enjoy an experience that did not come and been told what happened. It is the element of time that makes theater exciting. The challenge often in scenic design is finding a unique approach that balances the audience’s expectations without rehashing what has been previously done. I am continually reading more plays and watching as many streaming plays as I can to inspire myself more. I believe the more I have in the toolbox to draw upon when I am approaching the next project the better. It is always rewarding as the team starts to piece the world together and eventually see the audience discover and react to it in performance.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Fort Tryon Park, where the Met Cloister is. It is a beautiful park near where I live in New York City. I walked there a lot as a peaceful place for myself to relax during the COVID 19. The Cloisters is a replica of a medieval monastery, with a focus on the Romanesque and Gothic periods where I can hide from the concrete jungle in NYC. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many. Many mentors and famous designers are the beacons in my life. But Carnegie Mellon University, School of drama is the one that made me who I am today. I initially was focused on fine art and exhibition design in my undergrad. When I was drawn to theatre and scenic design and decided to pursue a higher degree abroad, CMU picked me. Which gave me a huge encouragement, where I get appreciation from one of the best theatre school in the states. My time at Carnegie Mellon solidified my excitement for scenic design and working in such a collaborative art form. They allowed me to work with my peer, famous guest directors in the school before I work as a freelance scenic designer in the states. And they invited some well-known alumni like Mark Worthington ( American Horror Story) and Malchus Janocko (Orange is new Black) to guide our short film series. Now sometimes I get the offer to be a production designer or art director on a short film.
Ria Tobaccowala Film, Yijun Yang, Louis Stein, Isaiah Tanenbaum