Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 8:05 a.m.
Katie Hae Leo
Photo courtesy of Asian Arts Initiative
Katie Hae Leo and Sun Mee Chomet's highly popular The Origin(s) Project: Memoirs in Motion, co-produced by Dreamland Arts, returns this weekend after a sold-out run last summer. The two solo works, both directed by Zaraawar Mistry, include the Korean American artists sharing their personal stories about being adopted.
'Origin(s) Project' explores the search for birth families
Katie Hae Leo
Both performers first presented their pieces around the same time about a year ago, with Chomet's at the Pillsbury House Late Nite Series and Leo at the National Artist Exchange Program and Festival at Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia. Leo learned of Chomet's play around the time she was making plans to bring her piece to Minneapolis, and asked Chomet to partner with her to show both works.
In both plays, the writers talk about their experiences being Korean adoptees. Leo's piece, N/A, grew out of a series of essays she has been working on about dealing with medical issues when you are unsure of your family's medical history. Chomet's piece, How to Be a Korean Woman, explores traveling to Korea and meeting her birth mother for the first time.
Leo says that when they produced The Origin(s) Project
at the beginning of last summer, they sold out very fast, added an additional performance date, and had over 80 people on the waiting list. Because of the show's popularity, Dreamland Arts expressed interest in the shows returning. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, where they raised more than $1,000 over their goal of $10,000, they are set to open this weekend with an eight-performance run.
Leo says the response from when they produced the work earlier this year was overwhelming. She had thought that most of the audiences would be Korean adoptees, but she was surprised by how many parents, family members, and partners of adoptees there were, as well as people who work for adoption agencies and social workers.
Leo says she was also surprised by how hard it was to get up in front of people and talk about herself. "You're so naked and vulnerable," she says. Though she's an experienced performer and writer, this was the first time she had ever performed such personal work.
As with last time, Dreamland will be hosting talk-backs after some of the performances. "Audience members really wanted to talk about it," says Leo. The talk-backs aren't structured with any particular agenda, but are rather an open format where people can respond to the work and offer their own experiences and thoughts.
After this run, Leo will take a break from performing to focus on the book of essays that initially inspired her to write her play. Chomet, meanwhile, will take her piece to the same program in Philadelphia where she performed her piece last year. Chomet will then take the show to Korea, where she'll perform in front of a large Korean adoptees gathering.