Before Chung could write this play — before she was even a playwright — she was living in Los Angeles. By day, she worked a handful of assistant jobs. By night, she wrote screenplays. And really the only problem with this existence was that she hated L.A., and also her screenplays were terrible.
She’d always wanted to be a writer, but this L.A. thing just wasn’t panning out. Even though Chung had enjoyed a stint working for HBO at the Comedy Arts Festival, she wasn’t so sure sketch comedy was really for her. It was a lifestyle she wasn’t entirely psyched to adopt, and the sketches themselves were unsatisfying. “You write it, it goes up,” she recalled. “It’s almost like you sneezed and it was gone.”
For a couple of years, what she refers to now as “probably the least happy part of my life,” she tried to make it work, the operative word being “tried.”
“I feel like the time [I was] in L.A., I was slowly losing the will to live,” she said.
And then a friend offered Chung a spot in this “illegal-illegal sublet” in New York, and Chung, like a protagonist she hadn’t written yet, bolted to the city.
Once Chung arrived in New York, she nurtured a longtime appreciation of theater with ushering gigs at off-Broadway playhouses. When she was an undergrad at Yale, she “sort of fell in love with theater.” Having decided not to pursue sketch comedy or screenwriting, she wrote a one-act play, just for kicks, and “It felt like I’d found my medium,” said Chung. Her first crack at playwriting gave pretty telling glimpses of her work to come: the play, “We Spend Our Lives,” was about two middle-aged Korean sisters.
On a cold day in October, Chung sat in the lobby downstairs at Woolly, taking a break from rewrites and sitting in on rehearsal to discuss her work. With elbows on her thighs, shoulders forward, she seemed to talk as much with her hands as her mouth.
Between her first playwriting effort and her professional theatrical debut, Chung met and married her husband. They moved together to Berkeley, where he was a professor. While there, she explored the theater scene, getting a few readings and landing a short play into the Bay Area Playwrights Festival. From 2006 to 2007, she and her husband lived in D.C., where Chung interned at Arena Stage.
While her screenwriting career was one dead-on-arrival draft after another, her playwriting track record tells a significantly brighter story: she's had work developed all over the country, from the Doorway Arts Ensemble in Silver Spring to the Icicle Creek Theatre Festivalin Leavenworth, Wash. to the Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival. “You for Me” will move to Boston’s Company One after its Woolly run.