I talked with John Joo, who plays Stantin and our praise team leader, at a break during rehearsal the other night. Becky Dale, fellow Institute student and our music composer for the show, has credited Joo with the idea to sing “God of This City” as the praise song towards the end of the play. Joo's connection to the Traction Avenue community is through his involvement with New City Church, the church Joo (and some other cast members) belong to. New City Church is one of the congregations mentioned in the play and has been meeting at e3rd Steakhouse for the last seven months, but will soon be moving to another location a few blocks away. Joo volunteers as a music leader as his church and began to go to the church after a period in his life when he was working in the Fashion District for a family business. “Everybody is very business-minded there and I used to drive through Skid Row daily, but didn't really care about the homeless people. I started thinking about ways to be involved in the neighborhood,” said Joo. Although Joo grew up in the church, he realized a lot of the teaching he grew up with was wrong. “Compassion is community,” said Joo. “Many people at my church used to be addicted, but they found that when they believed in God, they cleaned up and got jobs.” Joo came to audition for the show after the announcement was made at church that the play needed praise leaders. He said as an artist, he likes singing and performing and thought that if the invitation was extended and that his own church was portrayed in the play, he could help out. Though Joo originally auditioned with the intention to be part of the praise team, he quickly took on the role of Stantin, a Japanese American man in his 60s from Saint Francis Xavier. “It's scary to play Stantin,” he said. “But I've always wanted to try acting and this is an easy way. Page and Michael sat down with me and helped me dissect each line.” Another unexpected benefit is that the play has also given him a chance to know his fellow church members better. Joo has been playing guitar since the 7th or 8th grade and has been self-taught. He was originally an illustrator but now considers himself more of a songwriter. He bought himself a four-track recorder and went to Minneapolis for two years to go to school for music. Joo was also in a band called Cornerstore. Now, Joo is attending Glendale Community College as an English major and wants to be a high school English teacher in Los Angeles, preferably in an underserved community. To hear more of John Joo's music, visit http://www.myspace.com/volleythemusic.
Lyrics from “God of This City” by Bluetree/Chris Tomlin
I breathe some stuff in, I breathe some other stuff out. I take in food and drink and expend activity and waste and more. Our physical beings are created over and over from the environment around us. We take in some words and ideas and emit others. We are aware of only some of the things we take in and put out. My experience of making music is similar. Some stuff goes in and music comes out. Then, after it’s come out I have to get to know it – I have to learn it. It doesn’t really feel like I made it but more like it passed through me like breath or food or ideas. The other day I was thinking about the ingredients of one of the songs in attraction as if it were a recipe: generous portions of Page Leong’s wonderful prose, the memory of Alejandra Navarro’s lovely voice, a bike ride through Elysian Park, and my tendency toward less common musical modes. I intentionally read through the part of the play for the music before heading out on the bike ride, knowing that being in motion outside is my prime time for inspiration. I chose some ingredients; I am sure there are thousands of others ingredients of which I am not consciously aware. The larger musical landscape of attraction is a community creation with many musicians passing through (some for longer stays) Traction in this moment contributing ingredients to the production and to one another. I am very grateful for this opportunity to create with so many others. I have been inspired by the talent and humanity of all I have encountered here. In a couple of days I leave Traction for the far away and foreign land of Minnesota. My passing through here was brief. I have breathed in fuel for future use, as well as joy and hope for continuing forward. Bits of all the people and places and sights and sounds I have encountered here come with me, ingredients for future music, interactions, ideas and who knows what? “PI: Just passing through. Got my eye on you.” - from Page Leong's at Traction.