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Staging Korean Haenyeos in Celine Song’s Endlings: Diasporic Subjectivity Torn between Ethnic Lineage and Metatheatrical Satire

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2023, 36(1), pp.123-149
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Received : March 24, 2023
  • Accepted : April 6, 2023
  • Published : April 30, 2023

Miseong Woo 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

In March 2020, haenyeos—Korean female sea divers who make their living by harvesting seafood without any breathing support apparatus—debuted on the New York stage in Celine Song’s play Endlings at New York Theatre Workshop. The play’s title indicates that being a haenyeo is a disappearing way of life that the younger generation will not learn or follow. The play comprises two distinct segments and locations: the first act tells the stories of three haenyeos on Man-Jae, an island near South Korea’s Jeju Island, while the second part focuses on Ha Young, who is trying to succeed as a playwright on the island of Manhattan in New York. Mourning the extinction of a pursuit that has existed for hundreds or even thousands of years, the first part of the play pays heartwarming tribute to the haenyeos. In the second part, however, the play juxtaposes the stories of the haenyeos with the topics of immigration, real estate, and the survival of a millennial Korean Canadian playwright, abruptly turning into a cynical metatheatrical satire about the white/other binary racial paradigm and the politics of representation. The issue of authenticity looms too large, reducing the grand, resilient spirit of the haenyeos to a mere theatrical device, and the play ends up missing the rare opportunity to tell a powerful story of the haenyeos.

Citation status

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