Sun Mee Chomet and May Lee-Yang speak out in Under the Porcelain Mask.
(Minneapolis – August 19, 2008) Mu Performing Arts opens its 2008-2009 season with a showcase of talented up-and-coming female playwrights in Under the Porcelain Mask: Asian American Women Speak Out, playing at The Playwrights’ Center September 13 – October 5. On the program, historical stereotypes are unraveled and put to the test in two edgy new one-act plays: Sia(b) by May Lee-Yang and Asiamnesia by Sun Mee Chomet.
Both works draw heavily on the real-life experiences of the playwrights, as well as a desire to highlight, in intrepid new ways, often overlooked issues that affect Asian American women. Hmong American playwright May Lee-Yang considers her work a means of speaking for those who often do not speak for themselves. “Coming from an oral culture, written documentation is an incredibly bold, scary, and exciting endeavor, allowing me to tell my truths. . . and, in some cases, create social change” she explains. Her play Sia(b)—the title derived from a play on the Hmong words for “life” (sia) and “liver” (siab)—is what she describes as “part memoir, part political statement.” A simultaneously humorous and poignant portrait, the play follows a Hmong American woman as she searches for the real voice of her community in the face of continuous dissection and the clash of cultures around her.
Sun Mee Chomet’s Asiamnesia likewise confronts stereotypes, this time in the acting world, with an aggressive, youthful work motivated by the common trials and triumphs of her sisters in arms. “For years, I’ve had the dream to create a piece with a group of Asian American women,” she says of the camaraderie that inspired the play. “[Our bond] is filled with humor and joy, yet grounded in intense struggle and survival that, most often, is kept hidden behind the Asian American mask of ‘having it all together.’” What began as a collaborative project with fellow Asian American actresses evolved over two years of workshops into Asiamnesia’s series of vignettes in which four charismatic women share the challenge of attempting to break out in “the business.” Chomet hopes that her work will draw attention to issues affecting Asian American women in the performing arts arena, a subject that is not often brought out of the shadows.
In addition to writing, Lee-Yang and Chomet each take the stage in each of their respective works, along with Katie Vang, Katie Bradley, and Rose Le Tran. Robert Karimi directs Sia(b), and Asiamnesia is under the direction of Randy Reyes.
Under the Porcelain Mask runs Thurs-Sat at 7:30 pm; Sun, Sept 14 and 21 at 2:00 pm and Sun, Oct 5 at 4:00 pm; discounted preview performance Sept 12 at 7:30 pm; pay-what-you-can Wed, Sept 24 at 7:30 pm. Tickets $16-$18, available at 612-824-4804 and www.muperformingarts.org.
Press photos attached. All photos by Cory Ryan. For additional photos, please e-mail Stacey at email@example.com.
Well, what can I say? This has been one of the most challenging artistic endeavors in quite awhile. For years, I’ve had the dream to create a piece with a group of Asian American women. But why? What’s the draw? Perhaps it’s rooted in a personal for search for who I am; perhaps, it’s a curiosity to see if there is a national identity for Asian American women; perhaps it’s growing tired of seeing my Asian American actor-colleagues constantly frustrated with the struggle for visibility and opportunities in “the business.” More than anything, I suppose, it’s the feeling of connection that I feel with my Asian American sisters. The bond is complex. It is filled with humor and joy, yet grounded in a common intense struggle for survival that, most often, is kept hidden behind the Asian American mask of “having it all together.”
Honestly, it’s been a terrifying journey. Being a performer first, and a writer 425th, I most certainly have a newfound respect for playwrights. What I thought would be a piece of cake has tasted more like a carburetor covered in liver frosting.
Over the course of a tremendous two years of workshops, Asiamnesia has evolved from a piece centered on our own personal stories to broader and more concrete, theatrical evening, where historical stereotypes of Asian women promoted by the media, Hollywood and Broadway clash against the human beings that have portrayed, resisted and questioned them. It is my hope that I’ve created a theater piece that both pays homage to the forgotten Asian-American actresses (such as Anna May Wong and Isabel Rosario Cooper) as well as examining tough stuff with humor, wit and razor sharp edges.
-Sun Mee Chomet
About the Playwrights
May Lee-Yang is a playwright, prose writer, poet, and performance artist-in-training. Despite no experience and bad acting, she got her first acting gig at eighteen. Since then, she has gone on to perform her writing as a solo artist as well as a member of the spoken word group, FIRE (Free Inspiring Rising Elements). Her play Stir-Fried Pop Culture was produced and toured through the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT). She is a recipient of a MN State Arts Board grant, a Playwright Center Many Voices Residency, and a past participant of the Loft’s Mentor Series in Creative Non-Fiction. Beyond obligatory statistics, she is a fan of Nintendo games, likes all things chubby, and considers food a hobby.
To contact May Lee-Yang, e-mail may_lee_yang (AT) hotmail.com.
Sun Mee Chomet is a local actor, dancer, and collaborator. She most recently danced at the Walker for Choreographers’ Evening 2007, 36 Views with Walking Shadow Theater Company, and Iizuka’s world premiere of After a Hundred Years at the Guthrie (thanks, Jeany). This past year, she was also in 100 Men's Wife by Jeany Park (dir. Suzy Messerole, History Theatre) and Circle Around the Island by Marcus Quinones (dir. Randy Reyes, Mu Performing Arts/Guthrie Theatre). National theater credits include Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses at Hartford Stage, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Kansas City Repertory and Cincinnati Playhouse; M. Butterfly (dir. Robert Moss) at Syracuse Stage and Charlotte Repertory; and an actor for Lincoln Center’s Directors’ Lab 2005. Other local theater credits include for colored girls who have considered suicide…(dir. Kym Moore, Penumbra Theater), numerous Mu shows, Late Night at Pillsbury House Theatre and Thirst Theater. Sun Mee has a B.A. in Sociology & Anthropology from Earlham College and a M.F.A. in Acting from New York University.
To contact Sun Mee Chomet, e-mail sunmee_2002 (AT) yahoo.com.
To find out more about Mu Performing Arts and upcoming programs, visit our website at http://www.muperformingarts.org.