Keenan Flagg Chimes for America

What does the American dream mean in 2019? In his epistle to America, writer and actor Keenan Flagg writes that “though your voice is rasped, and your eyes are heavy, I still love you.” We were intrigued by the way the narrator in this prose poem both loves and loathes this complicated country, indicating yet another take on “new terrains.” We’re looking forward to performing his piece, “Chimes,” this upcoming Sunday, February 24, at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Keenan is a local writer, actor, and activist who believes strongly in the power of words. “Chimes” among other new work attempts to use this power to highlight the disassociation some feel living in this current time of political gridlock and how that feeling can bleed into action.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

When I think of words like migration and movement, I think first of the act of moving, of picking up and leaving, and what that means to a person. Second to that is the act of settling. You moved, you took a leap, you left your home, your comfort zone, etc. but now you have to carve out in unfamiliar terrain a new life for yourself, a new series of patterns. Migration isn’t just leaving for something new, it’s a hard restart and it takes a lot of courage and determination and faith.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I’ve been reading Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. Recently, I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from sci-fi writers which is kind of odd for poetry, but the depth of language and shear imagination of concepts resonates with me.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Ohio, by Stephen Markley. Amazing piece of historical fiction that really peels back the layers of small-town middle America and examines, in probably a little too much detail, the collapse of the industrial middle class. Also, George Saunders beautiful work Lincoln in the Bardo, this novel is incredible, and everyone should read it. It’s an intense and intimate study of grief and love.

Want to learn more about Keenan? Join us at our New Terrains show on Feb 24. Click here to reserve your tickets, which include free admission to the San Jose Museum of Art! RSVP on Facebook for more details.

 

Laura Domingo Short’s Fresh Start

Throughout our exploration of “new terrains,” we learned of yet another means of expressing shift and change: shifting gears in lifestyle and career, breaking routine long enough to explore creativity, imagination and the potential to create. That’s what we learned from Laura Domingo Short’s piece, “The Start,” which sets the stage for her leaving her tech job, setting aside time to explore lifelong passions, and taking creative risks. We’re excited to perform her work on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Laura Domingo Short

 

Laura is an actor, blogger, writer and podcast producer. Last fall, she quit her job in tech to embark on what she’s termed her self-imposed, self-sustained sabbatical (SISSS) to explore entirely new and more creatively fulfilling career paths. You can follow her journey on betterlatethanblank.com. The recipient of a San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle award for best featured actress, Laura is launching the Bring Your Own Movie podcast next Saturday, February 22. She will also be performing in Sojourn at the Pear Theatre from March 15 – April 7. Laura agreed to answer a few questions for us in advance of the show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

While I’ve done a lot of writing throughout my life, it’s only been my current sabbatical that has afforded me the time, energy and mental space to focus on creative writing, particularly through my blog. The theme “New Terrains” it resonated with my decision last fall to quit my job and set myself on a brand new path.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I have two that are probably at opposite ends of the spectrum.

First, when I was a kid, I found my dad’s old books from a college literature class. One was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. I was fascinated by the language: how words can have double meanings and how a match of wits can be just as exhilarating as a fencing match.

In 2008, I saw a production of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land at the Gate Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. This play and subsequent productions of Pinter works that I’ve seen taught me that silence, stillness, and negative space can communicate just as much and be just as powerful as words and movement.

Join us February 24 to see Laura’s work performed live! Reserve your ticket now to gain free admission to the San Jose Museum of Art and RSVP on Facebook to let us know you’re coming.

 

Michelle Qiao’s “City Across the River”

The best part about receiving submissions is that we have no idea what to anticipate–where the stories come from, which characters will pique our interest, what new voices we might discover or–perhaps the most intriguing–what inspires fellow writers and artists. We were delighted to read “The City Across the River,” a moving and eloquent tale set in 20th century China–and were surprised and amazed to discover that its author is none other than eighth-grader Michelle Qiao, whose English teacher suggested she submit to us. (Shout-out to English teachers everywhere!) We are thrilled to perform her story on Sunday, February 24 at our New Terrains show at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Michelle Qiao

Michelle loves birds, volleyball, and writing. She is the vice president of her student council and will be attending Leland High School next semester. She is the winner of the Scholastic Writing Awards Gold Key. She was kind enough to tell us a little bit about herself.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I asked my language arts teacher to help me edit my writing, and she recommended that I submit!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind. She starts writing out of boredom but the novel eventually won her a Pulitzer Prize.

Name a book or performance that has fundamentally affected you.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It’s the only book that has made me cry!

Want to see Michelle’s work performed live? So do we! Reserve your ticket now to gain free admission to the San Jose Museum of Art on February 24 and RSVP on Facebook to let us know you’re coming.

Enjoy Free Museum Admission on February 24

Great news, Playonwordsians: As part of our partnership with the fabulous San Jose Museum of Art, anyone attending our New Terrains show on Sunday, February 24 can gain free admission to the museum for the day. We encourage you to reserve free tickets in advance so you can take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

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What to See at the San Jose Museum of Art:

  1. Other Walks, Other Linesa special exhibition on display through March 10 that considers what walking means in a contemporary context, touching upon topics such as urban planning, immigration, and the dérive. Organized by the San José Museum of Art, and curated by Lauren Schell Dickens, curator; Rory Padeken, associate curator; and Kathryn Wade, curatorial associate, Other Walks, Other Lines focuses on artwork made during the last thirty years by artists around the world who use walking as a mode of making the world, as well as being in it. The exhibition is divided into six sections: Meaning of Ordinariness; Pilgrimage and Psychogeography; A Body Measured Against the Earth: Immigration and Land Wars; Access/Ability; Street Life: Processions and Protests; and Other Walks: Gabriel Orzoco. In conjunction with the exhibition, performances will activate the gallery and take the exhibition outside of SJMA’s building. Choreographer and artist Brendan Fernandes addresses the borders that are constructed within a museum’s walls. In his commissioned work Inaction, Fernandes choreographed the movements of dancers to explore boundaries and thresholds within SJMA’s building.

    Artists included are Yuji Agematsu, Francis Alÿs, Ginny Bishton, Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Brendan Fernandes, Ana Teresa Fernandéz, Regina José Galindo, Hiwa K, Brad Kahlhamer, Glenn Kaino, Suki Seokyeong Kang, Kimsooja, Pope.L, Omar Mismar, Paulo Nazareth, Gabriel Orozco, Wilfredo Prieto, Lordy Rodriguez, Michal Rovner, Lara Schnitger, Clarissa Tossin, and Charwei Tsai.

  2. Conversionthe third installment of the Koret Family Gallery exhibitions that focus on STEAM education. Explore the intersection of art and engineering through artwork selected from SJMA’s permanent collection.
  3. Explore all the gallery spaces, chat with the friendly docents and check out the great museum cafe.

Reserving Tickets is Easy:

 

  1. Visit this museum ticket link.
  2. Click “register,” fill out your details.
  3. Print your tickets or save on your phone for easy access on February 24.

Free entrance is granted for all day on Sunday, so we encourage you come early to enjoy all that the museum has to offer. Big thanks to Robin Treen and the San Jose Museum of Art for making this possible for Play On Words fans! Don’t forget to RSVP on Facebook to let us know that you’re coming.

Ksenia Lakovic and the Power of Language

How do different generations grapple with social change? For the narrator in Ksenia Lakovic’s “The New Disease,” it means clearing trash on her middle school courtyard in 1986 Belgrade while her stalwart teacher lectured her on the perils of fascism. We were taken by the language and style of Lakovic’s prose, which expresses its own exploration of “new terrains,” and are thrilled to perform it on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Ksenia Lakovic

Ksenia lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, with her husband and son, and revisits her native Serbia every summer. She holds a PhD from UCLA and a BS from University of Belgrade, and is an alumna of Squaw Valley Community of Writers and Napa Valley Writers Conference. Her work won the UCLA Kurnitz Creative Writing Award and was a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award and Tillie Olsen Short Story Award. She has written for The Globe and Mail, The Millions, and several other publications.

Ksenia is currently finalizing her first novel, both in English and Serbian language. The novel, set between 1992 and 2012, is based on her memories of the Yugoslav wars and their aftermath. Read an excerpt and more of her work at www.klakovic.com. She agreed to answer a few questions for us in preparation for our show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I like the idea of bringing together writers and performers, and contributing to our creative local community. Play on Words has also been recommended by Valerie Fioravanti, whose writing I admire.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Dubravka Ugrešić has been a huge inspiration to me for over two decades, because of her distinct writing style and her sharp perspective on my home region and the world.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro and Black Lamb and Gray Falcon by Rebecca West.

Intrigued? Join us on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art for Play On Words: New Terrains to see Ksenia’s work performed aloud.

Tony Press and the Power of Postcards

Sometimes what is unsaid is as powerful as what we say aloud. How do you communicate loneliness, hope or love on the back of a postcard? We were taken by Tony Press’ “Postcards from the Underground,” which tells the story of a military spouse and her pacifist son, and look forward to performing it on February 24 at our New Terrains show at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Tony Press

Tony Press writes fiction when he has questions and poetry when he thinks he has answers; thus, mostly fiction. His story collection Crossing the Lines was published by Big Table in 2016. Equinox and Solstice, an e-chapbook of his poems is online, available via Right Hand Pointing. He claims two Pushcart nominations, 25 criminal trials, 12 years in the same high school classroom, and not one website. He loves Oaxaca, Mexico; Bristol, England; and especially Brisbane, California. He answered a few questions for us in advance of the show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
Other writers have told me how wonderful it is to hear talented performers read their words–I wanted a taste for myself.

Which writers or performers inspire you?
Marilynne Robinson and Luis Alberto Urrea.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. A few days after I finished it, I hitched from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The next summer (when I was 17) I hitched across the country.

Want to learn more about Tony? Join us at Play On Words: New Terrains on Sunday, February 24, from 2 – 4 pm at the San Jose Museum of Art.

Becky Kling’s Dream Sequence

It can be hard to capture the dream state that is early parenthood. Not only is a new parent trying to understand a life they are responsible for introducing to the world, he or she is trying to juggle competing identities, often on very little sleep. Talk about new terrains! We fell in love with Becky Kling’s “Postpartum Dream Sequence,” a series of shorts that perfectly capture the seeming absurdity, joy, and incongruity of parenthood. We look forward to performing this original work on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Becky Kling

Becky is finishing her PhD in English at UC Davis, where she studies writing and composition as well as nineteenth-century literature. When she is not dissertating or teaching, she loves to write creatively, do yoga, cook, hike, and hang out with her family. She contributes to “Bitching the Pot,” a blog about all things Victorian coauthored with Leilani Serafin, PhD. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for us in advance of this month’s show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I have been following Play on Words San Jose on social media and I love the concept of staging literary performances. When I saw the theme of “New Terrains,” it seemed like a great fit with some of my recent writing. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share my work through Play on Words!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Toni Morrison, Ada Limón, David Whyte, Mary Oliver, David Sedaris, Junot Diaz, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Brontë, and so many more!

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I got to see David Sedaris perform in Santa Cruz last May. I love his complete unabashed joy in being himself, both in his writing and on the stage. I think of writing as a window to the soul, and sharing that with the world is exhilarating, but it can also be terrifying! His comfort in his own skin is inspiring and contagious.

Join us on February 24 to see Becky’s work performed at the San Jose Museum of Art.

Mairead Brodie’s Changing Places

What does it mean to be an immigrant in the United States? We confront thousands of conflicting messages about the immigrant experience every day–many unflattering, untrue or based on stereotype–which makes it all the more important to truly listen to the narratives of our neighbors, friends, coworkers, family and friends from around the world. At Play On Words, we want to highlight untold stories that provoke thought and conversation–stories that reveal human character and diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. That’s why we were so drawn to Mairead Brodie’s essay, “Back Where They Came From,” which compares her grandparents’ journey from Ireland to the United States to her own path, which has most recently landed her in California. We’re delighted to be reading an excerpt of this essay at our New Terrains show at the San Jose Museum of Art on February 24.

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Mairead Brodie

Mairead was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself for us.

Tell us about yourself.

I lived in Berlin, Brussels and Edinburgh, working in research communications and technology before moving to the United States in 2012 where I took an enforced child-raising career break due to visa restrictions. Since getting my green card a couple of years ago, I have completed a two-year remote novel writing program at Stanford Continuing Studies, written freelance and kept on with the child-raising, said children now being 7 and 4. I have a masters in international politics and I like to write about the world around me.

What are you working on?

I have a debut novel that I am currently getting ready to send out to agents, a satire about Silicon Valley mores and what happens when they clash in a head-on collision with motherhood.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I love the theme of New Terrains. One of the goals I have in my work is to address social and economic issues through literature and so the theme of immigration and changing places was inspirational to me. And of course the wonderful Julia played her part in convincing me to submit my work–something I don’t do enough of!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

George Saunders, Mohsin Hamid, Edna O’Brien, Flann O’Brien (no relation!), Anne Enright. On the non-fiction side, Barbara Ehrenreich, Alex von Tunzelmann (a UK historian), Ta-nehisi Coates.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

One of my favorite theater performances was a production of Macbeth by a Polish theater company in the grounds of Edinburgh Castle, in Scotland. The actors were on stilts, used a lot of fire and torchlight in their performance and quite simply gave me a new insight into a very old play, the most Scottish of plays. Recent books I have read that I have enjoyed mix politics with satire or social commentary. One memorable book that really spoke to me was Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, which addresses the global refugee crisis with a magic realist fairy tale about two lovers separated by war and time, flitting between worlds to find their version of happiness.  

Intrigued? Join us on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art to hear Mairead’s work performed aloud.

Anniqua Rana and the Imagination of the Young

What is the relationship between place and character, time and tradition? We were taken by the unique voice in Anniqua Rana’s “The Shrine of Sain Makhianwala,” an excerpt of her forthcoming novel, Wild Boar in the Cane Field, and are excited to perform it on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art. This same story will be published in the Noyo River Review in May 2019 and was described by novelist Shanthi Sekaran in this way:

“In ‘The Shrine of Sain Makhianwala,’ we are gifted a world that is vibrant and richly imagined. The narrative voice is tender and patient in its portrayal of how tradition touches modernity, how the ancients sway the imaginations of the young.”

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Anniqua Rana

Anniqua lives in California with her husband and two sons. When she’s not working as an educator in the community college system, she visits her family in Pakistan and England. The rest of the time, she reads, cooks, travels, and enjoys mystical music and poetry and does whatever it takes to keep her grounded and happy.

Her story “A Frog Underfoot” earned an honorable mention in the Desi Writers Lounge Short Story Competition. Also an excerpt of her novel, it tells the story of a woman in a village community who finds herself conflicted over whether to accept the fate decided for her or break away, as complex characters act in remarkably unpredictable ways around her.

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Wild Boar in the Cane Field

Anniqua also hosts the WittyBantr podcast, described as “an unstructured weekly podcast about what’s on our minds.” She will be reading “The Shrine of Sain Makhianwala” on Sunday, May 19, at the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

The connection between the written word and the many interpretations through visual and dramatic interpretations fascinates me. Reading to an audience also takes us back to the origin of storytelling.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

  • Elena Ferrante
  • Mohsin Hamid

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

  • The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferante
  • The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind by Yuval Harari

We look forward to performing Anniqua’s work at our New Terrains show on February 24, presented in partnership with the San Jose Museum of Art. RSVP on Facebook to get the details.