By KIM HWANG
AAP staff writer
MINNEAPOLIS (Sept. 20, 2013) — “How To Be a Korean Woman” is a one-woman play I attended at the Guthrie Theater.
Ms. Sun Mee Chomat, once a local artist is now a globally renowned performer. Written, performed, choreographed and cast out of brilliance, Sun Mee seamlessly moves in and out of a broad range of unique and salient characters. The diversity of Korean personas within the Korean community is authentically represented through nuanced non-verbal gestures, as well as an incredible and highly skilled voice.
Sun Mee plays each role as though the preceding one had come and gone. Her ability to rise up and move into each distinctive character is truly out of the ordinary. Sun Mee, which means Beautiful Angel performed with grace. She unfolded a poignant and deeply meaningful story about her adventures as a Korean adoptee and what it was like to adopt Korea as an adult. The convincing dialogue and gifted theatrical presentation blew unique life into each character, which was simply wonderful and out of the ordinary!
Upon entering the theater, I couldn’t help but notice the sea of black hair among a typically blonde audience. In Minnesota, it’s rare to see Asian images scattered about. It was certainly pleasing to my eyes to see that tonight was going to be different.
After the sitcom, MASH went off the air in 1983, Koreans are hard pressed to see Korean representation within performances of any kind! Hats off to the Guthrie Theater for having the forward moving insight to welcome the talented Sun Mee’s amazing and mind-blowing piece of work!
All too often, positive Asian images are hard to come by in any form of media. Sun Mee captured her story and journey as a Korean adoptee that made me feel proud to be both Korean and adopted again. Often, Korea is referred to stereotypically or politically. But tonight’s experience revealed a personal message that awakened Korean adoptees as individuals, who are apart of a larger group.
In waiting for the performance, I wondered, “Where are (we) Korean adoptees hiding and why are Korean adoptees so disconnected in Minnesota?” More often than not, I’ve felt isolated in the Midwest, but not tonight! Tonight’s performance by the Korean adopted actress reminded me to reenter both worlds with patience.
Prior to attending the play, I felt much more isolated as a Korean in Minnesota and an adoptee in the Midwest. I honestly believed that my story, similar to hers was unilaterally different. Her performance is inescapably filled with humor, creative and emotional. It served to remind me that I am a part of a broader and disconnected community that exists in the Twin Cities. I was reminded how important it is to find our own voice? It was refreshing to sit amongst many adult Korean adoptees, willing to listen, learn, reflect and draw wisdom from Sun Mee’s story.
All of Sun Mee’s performances were sold out prior to opening night. I couldn’t imagine what it took to reveal a life full of questions to a large audience of complete strangers? She created an experience impossible to duplicate. Not only did Sun Mee perform aspects of her intimate and private life, she did this in a way the audience was able to relate to.
Sun Mee boldly exposed and admitted that there are vulnerabilities regarding the human condition that may unfold differently with adoptees? Her play openly unpacked adoptee’s desires to love and be loved. Sun Mee intermingled issues regarding ethnocentrism, politicized adoption, adoption as a business and systematic oppression. In addition to systematic issues, she covered emotional experiences that some Korean adoptees are socialized to yearn for, but become lost when they don’t yield the emotional presentation we had hoped for.
Clever, Creative and Confident, Sun Mee performed with pride, enthusiasm and truth. Her strong presence revealed that with reflection, support and healthy relationships, Korean adoptees are resilient, curious and determined. Our stories, while similar are also unique. Her story revealed hope. Her ability to take in life experiences and analyze them with soul was obvious. Born in South Korea, raised in Michigan, transplanted to Minnesota and returned to Korea to unveil the secrets from her past, Sun Mee realized that she could take in the best of both worlds. I remembered that my Korean heritage, along side a life in America allows me to move fluidly in ways that fuel me and are important.
Sun Mee normalized the Korean adoptee experience in ways that were uplifting, full of promise and honored Korean adoptees as a cultural group. Adopted Koreans are different. Korean adoptees are similar. We are also special and unique because we navigate both. Her play reminded Korean adoptees that it’s okay to wonder about and express curiosity regarding a life lost in Korea. She also underscored the joy of our present lives as well. Too often people become polarized and are forced into one way of thinking. Tonight however, it was acceptable to engage in complex and unspoken dialogues. It was okay to be a Korean adoptee, both and at the same time.
After Sun Mee Chomet’s performance, she humbly requested that the audience participate in a survey to give her feedback. While I thought this was a very kind and open gesture, I realized that her ability to find her voice within was what brought HER play to life. She emulated the best of Korea and the growth it took to live in between two worlds. The manifestation of her play communicated that listening to people’s stories is equally as healing as telling one’s own. Sun Mee did this generously and with plenty of Seoul!