How to Be a Korean Woman at the Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio

HowtoBeaKoreanWoman_SunMeeChometHow to be a Korean Woman, written and performed by Sun Mee Chomet, might have been a few chapters in a memoir, or at least a personal essay, but Chomet is first an actress. Also a dancer and a playwright. And she’s very good at all of them.

Armed with little more than her Korean name and the agency through which she was adopted as an infant, Chomet sets out to find her birth mother. Tenacity and the fortuitous assistance of a former Korean T.V. show employee ultimately brings them together.

Moving with the grace and precision of the dancer that she is, Chomet plays the roles – all women – of those who shaped her journey and the family members with whom she was reunited. But as fulfilling as it was to know them at last, her wonderful discovery holds disappointments. Hardly a family in Korea has not been affected by adoption, but it’s not accepted as it is in America. But as pain accompanies the unfolding memories, there are equal amounts of joy – and plenty of laughs.

Having failed to find her mother in previous attempts, she agrees to interview for a Korean T.V. show, “I Miss That Person,” where she is told that, “it’s ok to cry!” Yes, it’s reality T.V. capitalizing on desperate emotions, and it’s very funny, in the way that classic satire is.

In another scene, Chomet explains that her adoptive mother was an “extreme tomboy” and feminist, who didn’t believe in makeup, hair salons or shopping. Oh, but her Korean family did! They set out to paint her plumage and fluff those feathers – the better to land a husband and be a real Korean woman. The culture clash is sheer delight!

This is not the first time the Twin Cities has seen this one-woman play. It was more or less a smash right out of the chute when it was first produced at Dreamland Arts in St. Paul as part of Zaraawar Mistry’s The Origin(s) Project, an evening of two one-woman shows, both from the perspective of adult adoptees. Mistry is director and dramaturg for this production, as well.

The show runs only through September 24. It’s going to be full, if not sold out—trust me on this—and seating in the Dowling Studio is general admission. Plan ahead, so you won’t be disappointed. The performance runs 80 minutes and is played without intermission. The Guthrie issues a strong language warning and recommends it for age 14 and older.


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