Anshu Johri reads Anniqua Rana’s “Birth Canal”

So much of the joy we get in producing Play On Words shows comes from pairing amazing writers with fabulous performers—often people who have never met, but discover they share artistic passions. Such was the case in October, when local writer and performer Anshu Johri made her POWSJ debut by reading “Birth Canal,” an excerpt of Anniqua Rana’s debut novel, Wild Boar in the Cane FieldHere she is giving a dynamite performance at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre on Oct. 19:

Big thanks to Anshu and Anniqua for contributing their talents to our LitCrawl show, as well as to Branden Frederick for taking photos and Cleveland Motley for capturing it all on film.

Can’t get enough POWSJ? Our next show is coming up on January 12 at the San Jose Museum of Art. Stay tuned to learn more!

Sage Curtis’ “Small Apocalypses” in San Francisco

What, exactly, constitutes a “small apocalypse?” Listen as Melinda Marks reads Sage Curtis‘ poem, “A Series of Small Apocalypses,” as performed at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on Oct. 19:

Sage’s chapbook, Trashcan Funeral, is available from dancing girl press. You can also gain exclusive access to her poems, book reviews and more by supporting her work on Patreon.

Big thanks to San Francisco’s amazing Stage Werx Theatre for providing the great LitCrawl space, to Branden Frederick for taking photos and to Cleveland Motley for shooting the video.

Ryan Alpers’ “Union Meeting” Comes to Life

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Ryan Alpers, Ronald Feichtmeir, Melinda Marks and Julia Halprin Jackson perform “Union Meeting.”

On October 19, Play On Words was thrilled to return to San Francisco’s LitCrawl to participate in a raucous evening of storytelling, good food and friendship. Thank you to our friends, new and old, for making the show possible and for coming out to support our work. Thanks, also, to the more than 40 donors who contributed to our fall t-shirt drive—it is thanks to you that we will be able to start incentivizing artists to do their thing in the coming months.

What kind of rad art are you supporting by buying our shirts, you ask? Look no further than “Union Meeting,” a hilarious short play written by #powsj digital asset manager Ryan Alpers and created by him and #powsj alumnus Andrew Christian. We kicked off our Play On Words: Live in San Francisco show with this great piece, performed by Ronald Feichtmeir, Julia Halprin Jackson, Melinda Marks and Ryan Alpers:

Big thanks to Cleveland Motley for filming and Branden Frederick for acting as our resident photographer, as well as to the wonderful folks at Stage Werx in San Francisco.

 

Get Your Own #POWSJ shirt!

Support our Sixth Season with a Rad T-Shirt!

Our mission is to elevate the voices of our community by performing their work onstage. We want to incentivize writers and artists to take artistic risks, which is why we want to pay honorariums to writers, performers, and photographers. By buying a Play On Words t-shirt, you are not only helping us pay artists and recognize their contributions to the community, but you’re effectively joining the #powsj movement.

Plus it’s a rad shirt.

Two Week Fundraiser

Men’s and women’s t-shirts are available for purchase on our fundraising site until November 2. For $25 you can contribute directly to the artists who make our show possible.

 

Ryan Alpers’ Play Debut

Who knew the drama, history, romance and conflict one could find in a teacher’s union meeting? Ryan Alpers sure did. The longtime San Jose teacher and frequent Play On Words performer and contributor wrote his first ten-minute play after months of deliberation with his teacher colleagues. The resulting “Union Meeting” captures a fictional teacher’s union as they try—and, spoiler alert, fail—to understand technology, recognize retirees, and raise money for “the children.” We’re thrilled to be performing this hilarious sketch at 5 pm this Saturday, October 19, at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre. 

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Writer, teacher and playwright Ryan Alpers.

Ryan lives in San Jose with his wife and daughter. He says that his former colleague and fellow teacher Andrew Christian helped him develop the concept. He is—how shall we say this?—also very succinct. Here are his answers to our standard #POWSJ three questions:

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

My wife told me to do it.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

As a teacher, I am inspired by the stories my students tell in their own writing.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play that inspired this piece, as well as the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Intrigued? RSVP for our Live in San Francisco show. Get the full LitCrawl lineup!

Gary Singh Goes Voodoo

Gary Singh is an expert at creating ambience. A San Jose fixture and regular Play On Words contributor, we have always noticed how well his turns of phrase translate to the stage. That’s why we’re thrilled to perform his flash fiction piece, “Voodoo,” next week at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco, our return to LitCrawl.

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Gary Singh

Gary is a journalist and creative writer with over 1100 articles in numerous trade and consumer publications, including feature stories, travel essays, music and arts criticism, sports writing, business journalism, poetry and short fiction. For 14 straight years, his newspaper columns have appeared in Metro, the alternative weekly newspaper of San Jose and Silicon Valley. His poems have been published in The Pedestal Magazine, Maudlin House and several other publications. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. His photography was included in a 2014 statewide exhibition at the Triton Museum. He received a bronze medal from the Society of American Travel Writer’s Western Chapter Awards in 2013.

Gary answered a few questions for us in advance of next week’s show. The piece we’ll be performing, “Voodoo,” will be published by Digging Through the Fat.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

Having your own work performed, read, or interpreted by someone else, on stage, is a fantastic experience. You get to see how each person brings his or herself into the performance. One often discovers new inflections or degrees of meaning that were not apparent beforehand.

Which writers inspire you?

Over the last year, I seem to be reading: immigrant fiction about the Asian-American diaspora in any shape or form, authored by women or men; rereading travel literature by Pico Iyer and Henry Miller; blowing through classic spy novels; and a few rock and punk memoirs here and there.

Name a book that fundamentally affected you.

This would depend on the moment and often changes daily, but as of right now, The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell continues to swirl its way back into my consciousness. Written before and during WWII, each of the four books relates to the others in nonlinear space-time. The first three books reveal the same story — part-thriller, part-travel writing, part experimental love triangle—but from different perspectives. The fourth book can be understood as a sequel to the first three. All four, together, are designed to be experienced like a hall of mirrors, so to speak. That is, there is no overall beginning, middle or end in the conventional linear sense. Scenes from the past take place simultaneously with scenes in the present, each book is filled with references to the other three in a cross-connected 3D fashion, and it’s often up to you to decide if you’re reading a book written by one of the characters himself—still operating within the narrative you’re looking at—or if you’re reading something written in retrospect, after the describe events have taken place. It often switches.

Durrell would say it’s a stereoscopic interlinear novel in four parts. Some have said the city of Alexandria is the main character. His evocative depictions of the Greco-Arab atmospherics of the city during WWII are incomparable, if not floridly overwritten at times. Plus, there’s a trifecta of occultism, hermetic philosophy and quantum physics woven into the whole thing, underneath it all. It never gets old. I return to it to over and over again.

Join us on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 5 pm at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre to see Gary’s work performed. Learn more about all 100+ LitCrawl events and RSVP here.

Fuck Yea, Kansas, Writes Becky Kling

Sometimes courage reveals itself on long trips–or at least it does for the narrator in Becky Kling‘s “The Road Trip.” From ringing in the New Year with her mom in a Vegas nightclub to screaming “FUCK YEA, KANSAS!” on the open road, she discovers the power of reinvention as she moves cross country, leaving an ex behind. We can’t wait to perform this piece at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on October 19.

Becky is a lecturer in English and the Humanities at San Jose State University. When she is not teaching, she loves to write, hike, do yoga, cook, and hang out with her family. She answered a few questions for us in advance of the show.

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Becky Kling

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words? 

I participated in Play on Words’ “New Terrains” show last February, and I loved having my piece interpreted by a performer. The performer read the piece so well, and it helped me to consider it from a new perspective. I also loved hearing the wide range of talent showcased through Play on Words, and I am excited to be part of such a rich literary community.

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. 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.

Want to see us perform “The Road Trip?” RSVP for our Oct. 19 show at Stage Werx Theatre.

T.A. Edwards and the Art of Return

What does it mean to survive one’s “return of Saturn?” To what extent can we predict the shape of our lives? For scientist T.A. Edwards, her entire world shifted in one monumental year, following her father’s death. We are honored to perform her moving essay, “Return of Saturn,” on October 19 at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre as part of the 2019 LitCrawl.

A former theatre kid and current professional treehugger, T.A. lives and writes in San Francisco. She answered a few questions for us.

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T.A. Edwards

 

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words? 

I love the diversity of voices POW brings onstage, and it’s really special to see how each actor interprets the words on the page.

Which writers or performers inspire you? 

Terry Pratchett, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tom Stoppard, Dorothy Sayers, Armistead Maupin.  

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you. 

Neither a book or a performance, but the first time I read Angels in America. It was the first time a play felt so vivid I felt like I was watching it in the room with the characters as I read.

Want to see her work performed live? RSVP for Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on Oct. 19.

Anniqua Rana Returns

How does birth transform us? In “Birth Canal,” an excerpt of Anniqua Rana‘s forthcoming novel, Wild Boar in the Cane Field, the narrator labors alone on the banks of a canal in rural Pakistan. We are delighted to perform Anniqua’s work on October 19 as part of our LitCrawl show at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre. We are excited to work with her again, after reading a different excerpt at our New Terrains show in February. 

anniquaAnniqua lives in California with her husband and two sons, where she teaches English to immigrant and international students at community college. Her extended family lives in Pakistan and England, and she visits them regularly to rekindle my roots. Her debut novel is a celebration of the rural women of Pakistan whose indomitable spirit keeps them struggling despite all odds. 

Anniqua has interviewed Asma Jahangir, Human Right’s Advocate, Pakistan and published essays on gender and education. She is at work on her next novel, A Sanctuary for Dancing Bears. She also produces the podcast Witty Bantr. She kindly answered a few questions for us in advance of our LitCrawl show.

wildboar

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words? 

I enjoy the interplay of story writing and storytelling. POW does an excellent job combining the two. And, of course, I’m honored to be selected.  

Which writers or performers inspire you? 

Elena Ferrante and Mohsin Hamid.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you. 

The Meursault Investigation: A Novel.

Intrigued? Check out her launch party at the Bindery in San Francisco on September 17. Don’t forget to RSVP for Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on October 19.