About the Artist
Born in South Korea, Joonhee Park (she/they) is a theatrical scenic designer and educator. Their design work has been seen at Writers Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company and Filament Theatre in addition to many other theatre across the nation. Park's work has been recognized regionally by the American College Theatre Festival Region III, nationally by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and internationally at the Prague Quadrennial exhibition held in the Czech Republic. Their photography work has been exhibited in New York City.
They earned their Master of Fine Arts degree in Stage Design for Scenic Design from Northwestern University's Stage Design Program in Evanston, Illinois where they received a full-ride scholarship, and trained under award-winning scenic designers: Daniel Ostling, Todd Rosenthal, and Walt Spangler, and training from Linda Roethke, Ana Kuzmanic, Joseph Appelt, Anna Shapiro and Jessica Thebus.
They are an Associate Professor of Theatre in Northeastern Illinois University's (NEIU) Department of Communication, Media and Theatre (CMT) where they serve as the Managing Director of Stage Center Theatre (SCT). In addition, they are the Resident Scenic Designer and Technical Director, and oversees the CMT Talent/Special Skills Scholarship program and is the Secretary of Faculty Senate.
Park resides in NW Chicago with their partner and two delightful children.
Joonhee Park has previously designed under the names: Sarah JHP Watkins and Sarah J. Fabian
ONCE for WRITERS THEATRE
"The transitions in the piece, which are crucial, are exquisitely done and although it at first seems like there is not much set, the design from Joonhee Park slowly reveals itself over time, especially in the poignant scenes above Dún Laoghaire, which is, at least, where I always have imagined them taking place as a struggling couple escape from their city problems and try to find some salvation in each other. It’s quite beautiful, like everything in this show."
"The musical moves between locales with the smooth fluidity of the River Shannon. It begins on the streets, moves to Guy and his Da’s home and appliance repair shop, then to Billy’s music store, on to the Girl’s home, a bank, a recording studio, an Irish pub and eventually high above Dublin at night. All these scenes are seamlessly created through Yael Lubetzky’s subtle lighting and with the addition or removal of a single piece of furniture, per Joonhee Park’s sparse scenic design."
THE CAKE for NASHVILLE REPERTORY THEATRE
"Joonhee Park delivers a gorgeous scenic design, giving Della's cake shop the perfect ambience and creatively helping scenes to transition with some theatrical wizardry that audiences are sure to love. ."
"Scenic designer Joonhee Park draws us into Della’s world with a cozy little cake shop outfitted with plenty of homey kitsch, along with a clever pair of oversized drawers that open up to reveal the respective couples’ beds."
"Filament Theatre, the little Portage Park center for children and family entertainment and education, is known for its exciting, incredibly inventive productions of kid’s stories. But this magnificently moving adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s 2006 children’s novel about self-discovery may be the company’s finest production in a long line of great theatre...Staged alley style, with cushion seating available for younger theatergoers wanting to get up close and personal to the story, Sarah [JHP] Watkins’ scenic design builds mountains and buildings, furnishings and fishing boats from a vast collection of period suitcases and trunks...It may be that this is Filament Theatre’s greatest achievement ever for family audiences, and it will certainly be remembered for a long time to come."
"Koogler’s script and McLeod’s direction benefit by Sarah JHP Watkins’ stripped-down set. The design, or lack thereof, demonstrates the importance of strong acting and direction. With a blank adobe-toned stone wall as backdrop, furnishings are just a bench and an assortment of corrugated boxes that serve as tables and desks."
"No show — like, ever — has as many orgasms, and it’s interesting to see “In the Next Room” again, especially in so different a production with a very clever setting from Sarah JHP Watkins..."
- Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
"Sarah Watkins’ set provides the warm intimacy of Derya’s home yet easily uses the narrow Gift space to suggest a bar, an art gallery, and a combat zone."
"Staged in the alley with minimal furniture to suggest location, A Life Extra Ordinary asks audiences to fill in environmental blanks just as often as they are tasked with filling in gaps of story. In one instance, audiences become a part of the play, transforming The Gift’s small storefront into a crowded vigil full of Annabel’s friends and loved ones. Sarah JHP Watkins’ scenic design straddles the metaphysical and real with stylish minimalism that adds texture to Annabel’s life without confining the cast."
The play’s triumph comes from Adam Goldstein’s direction. With his designers, he’s created a specific world worthy of Twain’s descriptions. Sarah JHP Watkins’s economic set design includes a massive gilded mirror which is used to great effect. Goldstein’s ensemble athletically balances an incredible variety of plot devices. From the opening steamboat race to the final trial, the cast is constantly moving and well choreographed.
- Jamie Mermelstein, TimeOut Chicago
The first thing that struck me upon entering the house of the Chopin Theatre after waiting in the elegant lobby, which is always delightful, is just how elaborate the set (Sarah JHP Watkins) and properties (Angela Campos) were. Everything we would expect to find in a modern house is here: a kitchen, a living room, an upstairs bedroom so that one gets the sense of a large and spacious home where more than one thing would thing would likely be occurring.
- Lawrence Riodan, Around the Town Chicago
The Gilded Age, in short, is a period-perfect expedition back to the future. City Lit’s sprightly staging, an election-year special, regales us with Sarah JHP Watkins’ Victorian properties and a wonderfully false parquet floor, Caitlin McLeod’s class-conscious costumes, Paul Edwards’ evocative musical backdrop, and Becca Jefford’s unsparing lighting.
- Lawrence Bommer, Stage & Cinema
That's not the only way the show subverts expectations. Under a gorgeous, mythical-looking sycamore made from twisted white plastic tubing, canonical characters appear in unfamiliar attitudes.
- Jena Cutie, Chicago Reader for A Midsummer Night's Dream, Two Pence Theatre Company
WOMEN BEWARE WOMEN at the Den Theatre
This set design (by Sarah Watkins) worked extremely well, creating a sense of separate but shared spaces and immersing the audience in the curtained machinations of this scheming cohort.
- Chicago Stage Standard for Women Beware Women, Two Pence Theatre Company
"Set Designer Sarah Watkins creates an elegant and functional ambiance. Within the audience’s couches and chairs, little nooks are reserved for the drama to unfold. The closeness gives it a personal appeal as the actors tango, duel or die at the audience’s feet."
- The Fourth Walsh, Theatre Review
"The most obvious technical choice was to put this play in room rather than on a stage, and have the actors move among the audience who are seated on sofas or at tables. It certainly intensified the performances..."
- Lawrence Riordan, Around the Town
Smoothly and energetically directed by Kathryn Walsh, the show makes excellent use of Sarah JHP Watkins’ large performance area that allows her actors plenty of room to play, climb and swing. The wide, gymnasium-like expanse, is laced with rigging and sports several assorted, surprise-filled trunks and suitcases, whose contents are revealed as the story unfolds. The upstage wall features a large, translucent, peach-shaped screen, upon which the audience is treated to several of the more dramatic moments, all depicted in shadow.
- Colin Douglas, Chicago Theatre Review of James and the Giant Peach at Filament Theatre Ensemble