Seeing “One Too Many Racist Musicals” is What Led Preston Choi to be a Playwright

His sardonic new play You Will Get Used It Examines Workplace Culture

Rebecca Wear, professor of Performance, Play and Design.

Playwright Preston Choi met Rebecca Wear, a professor in UC Santa Cruz’s Department of Performance, Play, and Design, at San Diego’s Cygnet Theatre, where she was directing his friend’s play. In her time there, Wear saw a reading of Choi’s new play, You Will Get Used to It, a work satire with people in cubicles and liquid oozing out of the walls, and she told him she wanted to work with him. Choi said an enthusiastic yes. Now, Wear will direct the student production at UC Santa Cruz Nov. 3-12, 2023. 

“She’s an incredibly smart director who’s able to think about a play on both a large scale with the flow and story elements but also the small scale of the moment-to-moment things with actors and performances,” Choi said. “There’s also a wonderful practicality about how she approaches things. Sometimes I can get a little heady or conceptual, and she’ll grab me and say, ‘Okay, but what’s actually happening?’”

Choi’s plays include This Is Not A True Story which reimagines Madame Butterfly and Miss Saigon, unraveling “the history of Orientalist art, theater, and the danger of fiction becoming reality.” Doing theater growing up and seeing “one too many racist musicals” is what led Choi to be a playwright whose work deals with “social science fiction, Asian-American/mixed race/queer lives, and the horror of being alive.”

Before getting his MFA in Playwriting at UC San Diego, Choi got a BS in Theater at Northwestern University in Chicago, and he says being in the city had a big impact on him. 

“Chicago has so much new theater, and I was like, ‘Oh, you can actually make the stories you want to see,’” he said. “So it was sort of spite for how theater had hurt me, but also love for what it could possibly do [that led to becoming a playwright].”

While living in Chicago, he went to storefront theaters and started writing skits with friends, which he loved.

“Those days were really exciting, where it's like, we had nothing to risk because we had no investors,” he said. “We had no board of directors we had to go back to — it was just each other.”

Choi says the play that will be performed at UC Santa Cruz, You Will Get Used to It, though dark, is also funny. 

“For how grim it is, it is a comedy, and it is about a workplace,” he said. “I think as absurd as the people are, there is, I think, an identifiable sort of humanity inside of all of them. I think that's something where you can see yourself reflected, and then the reflection sort of gets more twisted.”

The idea for the play came when he was a temp worker in Chicago doing third party health insurance data accounting.  

“Every year they take one or two people from the temps to join their fold,” he said. “I thought what would it be like to actually be like to be one of those people?”

Choi will be coming up to Santa Cruz from Los Angeles Nov. 2-4, doing a workshop with the students and a talk back. He looks forward to seeing the play performed. 

“Just seeing how they interact with the script, beyond how they move, how does it flow, how are these images that have been written down actually manifested?” he said. “The language and visuals often go hand and hand, and sometimes they get fantastical. So how do you solve those problems for the stage? I'm always excited to see how teams come together to do that. Also just having an audience to see how the jokes work. Do they get quiet at moments? Are they paying attention, or are they drifting off? I usually like to stay in a far back corner and observe everything from there.”