An elderly Korean woman with a prickly disposition tries to communicate with a young American nurse who doesn’t speak the language.
Matthew Chong is a Korean-American playwright. His work revolves around the Asian-American experience, and investigates the ramifications of living under a scarcity model. His plays include Lessons (Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative finalist 2023, Bay Area Playwrights Festival semifinalist 2023), Assimilation (Pipeline PlayLab semifinalist 2021), Plague Year (Red Bull Theater’s Short New Play Festival 2020), and Hurricane Regan. He assisted Scott Rudin during the Broadway productions of Three Tall Women and To Kill A Mockingbird. He is a member of Playground-NY’s Writers Pool and has been published by Stage Rights. He graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and will be pursuing an MFA at Yale University in the fall.
A BIT ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I spent my childhood in Seoul before moving back to the States and started writing to cope with the unmooring sensation of suddenly being the Other. In a world where I felt overlooked, storytelling became a way to will myself into existence.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
As a Korean-American playwright, the experience of straddling two cultures has deeply informed my work. Hangul still feels like the more intuitive language, and I am always frustrated with translation — there are certain Korean words that have no English equivalent, while others that can be converted seem to lose some essential life-force in the process. It has made me wary of any translated text: am I reading what the author truly intended, or scanning through a flimsy facsimile? This play was also inspired by interactions I witnessed between my immigrant friends and their parents. Mastering English was considered the means by which they could achieve the American Dream of upward mobility, even if it meant their native language skills would atrophy. I wanted to explore how the loss of a heritage language can leave generations stranded in parallel spaces.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Cruel, Empathetic, Honest, Pensive, Hopeful
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
María Irene Fornés, Patricia Highsmith, Philip Glass, Park Chan Wook, Suzan-Lori Parks
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I took sailing classes in high school and can operate a dinghy.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
Mud by María Irene Fornés, True West by Sam Shepard, Three Tall Women by Edward Albee, Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven by Young Jean Lee
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I am currently working on a play entitled Kung Flu which addresses the spike in anti-Asian hate during the pandemic. I will be attending Yale University in the fall for an MFA in playwriting.