We paired leading artists from Minnesota’s theater, music, visual arts, dance, and literary communities to talk about craft, creativity, and the inspiration behind their boundary-pushing work.
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Cat Brindisi and Sun Mee Chomet
Actresses Sun Mee Chomet and Cat Brindisi work at the same theaters under the same directors and with the same actors. But it wasn’t until this summer that they actually met. While chatting about their upcoming seasons—Chomet performs in Ten Thousand Things’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream October 10–November 3, and her one-woman show, How to Be a Korean Woman, at the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio September 19–22; Brindisi acts in The Chronicles of Kalki at Mixed Blood Theatre October 5–27—the women found that they had more in common than shared connections: recent ventures into producing, for one.
Sun Mee: So I just saw Hair, the show you not only produced but also acted in, on Friday. It was great! I was like, “I can’t believe this woman is organizing this huge show!”
Cat: It was pretty insane. We actually weren’t even going to form a company; we were just going to do a production of Hair. But then more people got involved and Kickstarter needed a producer’s name, and we made up a name (7th House Theater Collective), and all of a sudden there it was! It was a lot of work. Have you ever produced anything?
Sun Mee: Yeah, I’m producing my one-woman show, How to Be a Korean Woman, at the Guthrie. It feels like I’m working 82 hours a week.
Cat: It’s insane! You thought acting was a full-time job, but with producing you go to bed dreaming about it and then you wake up thinking about it.
Sun Mee: You realize what a luxury it is to just act.
Cat: Totally! Is this your first time?
Sun Mee: It is. Well, I first presented the show last year as part of the Origins Project. It was with one other woman—we produced and Kickstarted it—and this time it’s just me.
Cat: Are you just dying?
Sun Mee: Well it’s a one-woman show; it’s not a full-out 20-person cast like yours!
Cat: But still. And alone!
Sun Mee: Yeah, it is a lot. It’s way more planning than I’ve ever done in my life!
Cat: Totally. What’s it about?
Sun Mee: I was on a reality-television show, I Miss That Person, in Korea in 2010, and through that I found my birth mother.
Cat: Are you kidding me? Oh my gosh, I have goosebumps.
Sun Mee: We did DNA tests, and I flew back to Korea two times. She didn’t want to go on the show, though, so she disappeared for awhile then reappeared eight months later at my adoption agency with pictures and a letter. We did another round of DNA tests, I flew back, and it was a match.
Cat: That’s crazy!
Sun Mee: When I came back, I was in Burial at Thebes at the Guthrie, but I couldn’t focus. You reach a point in acting where you can’t be generous to the character you’re playing because you have to deal with your own stuff.
Sun Mee: So I left to write. I worked with my director, and I was like, “I’m just going to perform this for my own sanity because I need to tell the story to get it out.” Then two runs sold out.
Cat: Who’s directing it?
Sun Mee: Zaraawar Mistry, the co-owner of Dreamland Arts in St. Paul. But yeah, talk about ironic, both of us producing! When I came to Hair, I pointed you out to my friend and was like, “That’s Cat? She’s so young! And she’s in this? AND she’s raising money for this? How does she do it?!”
Cat: I feel 90. But I am just so into self-producing now. It’s so interesting to me how, when you’re producing and constantly working, you feel like you’re going crazy, but actually it’s feeding your soul.
Sun Mee: Even though it is so much work, in the end we’re doing what we love.
Sun Mee: There are times where I go to sleep at night and go, “What am I doing?! I just want to act!” And then I wake up and go, “No, it’s worth it.”
Cat: It’s so empowering. I would love to write and jump on that train, too. This town is becoming a place to build.
Sun Mee: That’s what is so great about it here: there are so many phenomenal artists and we don’t not become artists when we’re not hired. I think everyone—artists, actors, singers—is just taking that creative power right now, claiming it, and saying, “I’m not going to wait.” I feel like I’m just now finding what my place is in theater. I know I want to be in it, but I also want to define how I’m going to be in it—to not be at the mercy of the structure.
Cat: Exactly. Fumbling with that “typical” path and choosing different things and making it come together—figuring out how to be happy. That’s really what it is.
Sun Mee: I feel really proud to not only be an actor, but also a female who is figuring out how to be a leader in the arts. We need more women in positions of leadership in the arts community. I’m thinking more about that now: how can I be a leader, not just to create my own work, but also as part of a larger vision?
Cat: That’s why I have the need to create in the first place: to tell a story and to attempt to change peoples’ lives. That’s the soul of why we do what we do.
For extended interviews with this year's featured artists, visit mnmo.com/fallarts2013.
7 Other Must-See Shows
Fool for Love, Jungle Theater, 9/6–10/20, jungletheater.com
A Brown Tale, Penumbra Theatre, 9/12–22, penumbratheatre.org
Uncle Vanya, Guthrie Theater, 9/14–10/27, guthrietheater.org
The Hollow, Workhaus Collective, 9/26–10/12, workhauscollective.org
The Road Weeps, the Well Runs Dry, Pillsbury House Theatre, 9/27–10/27, pillsburyhouseandtheatre.org
Baby Case, History Theatre 10/5–11/3, historytheatre.com
A Strange and Separate People, Hillcrest Center Theatre, 10/12–11/3, mnjewishtheatre.org