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.

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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. 

 

Introducing Sage Curtis

We are delighted to kick off our sixth season with Play On Words: Live in San Francisco, our return to SF’s inimitable LitCrawl festival. Our summer call for submissions brought in such riches—poems, plays and stories written by amazing people—that it made our job as curators tough. This week we are proud to introduce one of our featured writers for our October 19 event.

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Sage Curtis

Sage Curtis is a Bay Area writer fascinated by the way cities grit and how women move through the world. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Vinyl, Glass Poetry, The Normal School, burntdistrict, Yes Poetry, Juked and more. She has received an honorable mention for the 2017 Wrolstad Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2017 Rita Dove Award in Poetry and the Gigantic Sequins Poetry Award that same year. Also in 2017, she was named one of LitQuake’s Writers on the Verge. Her chapbook, Trashcan Funeral, is available from dancing girl press. 

We are excited to perform her poem, “A Series of Small Apocalypses,” this fall. In the meantime, she agreed to answer a few questions for us.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words? 

I believe writing is as much about words as it is about community. Part of what is magical about writing is that your words can sound completely different, or mean something completely new, depending on who is reading them. This is what is unique and inspirational about Play On Words. 

Which writers or performers inspire you? 

I owe my poet lineage to Kim Addonizio, D.A. Powell, Lidia Yuknavitch, and Bruce Snider. Currently, I am inspired by the writing of Camonghne Felix, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Hanif Abdurraqib, Fatimah Asghar, and Angel Nafis.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you. 

Jamaal May’s reading of Macrophobia: A Fear of Waiting at AWP 2014 in Seattle. 

Want to learn more about Sage? By supporting her work on Patreon, you can gain exclusive access to poems, book reviews and more. RSVP on Facebook to our LitCrawl event to get the latest.

 

Michelle Myers’ “Norma”

Could death be a new terrain? In “Norma,” Michelle Suzann Myers explores the journey one woman makes to create a new life for her family while mourning the loss of her own mother. We were compelled by Michelle’s moving piece and look forward to performing it this Sunday, February 24, at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Michelle Suzann Myers

Born and raised in San Jose, California, whilst it was still the Valley of the Heart’s Delight, and once more a proud resident, Michelle Suzann Myers supports her meandering writing journey as a bilingual psychotherapist in private practice.  Myers holds degrees from the University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University.  After graduating with sociology and English writing degrees from USF, Myers headed to Dallas, Texas as a legal aide for refugees with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. She then escaped to Sao Paulo, Brazil for four years, volunteering in support of women and girls. Myers was fortunate enough to learn of social justice, human rights, and mysticism in her early spiritual formation, and still has hope for the loving transformation of this world.

Her story  “Communion on the Road” was published in the anthology, Sanctuary (DarkHouse Books, 2018). She agreed to answer a few questions for us in advance of the show.
What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
My writing teacher, Lita Kurth, and the wild, witchy, wise women of my Friday morning writing group inspired me to submit my work to Play on Words. Participating in the last performance at Cafe Stritch gave me a new lease on life–just thrilling!
Which writers have inspired you?
Laura Nichols, Ph.D., Kristin Heyer, Ph.D., Mary Oliver, Anne Lamott, Rumi, Hafiz, Barbara Kingsolver, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Join us at 2 pm February 24 to see Michelle’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.

Anjela Villarreal Ratliff’s Pedacitos de Tejas

In her poem “Hija de Tejas,” Anjela Villarreal Ratliff writes that “the body seeks its way back home.” Sometimes we encounter new terrains inside our body, in the air we breathe, in the cultures we inhabit. We were impressed by Ratliff’s voice and spirit, and are excited to perform two poems–“Hija de Tejas” and “Pedacitos”–this Sunday at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Anjela Villarreal Ratliff

Anjela is a graduate of San Jose State University. Her poetry has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies, including Chachalaca Review, Boundless, San Pedro River Review, Insterstice, Pilgrimage Magazine, riverSedge: A Journal of Art and Literature; Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poem; and30Poems for the Tricentennial—A Poetic Legacy. A native Tejana, Anjela lives in Austin, Texas.

Anjela has published several poetry chapbooks, including Jardín de Poesía, and Entre Piedra y Sol. Some of her chapbooks have been archived in the Benson Latin American Collection, at the University of Texas in Austin; and at Michigan State University Libraries’ Special Collections. Her poem, “Merged Mundos,” was a winner of the San Antonio Tricentennial Poetry Contest, and interpreted by a graphics artist for the “30 Poems for the Tricentennial” exhibit. Anjela’s poem, “I Exist,” was animated by Francesca Talenti. Her short story, “In My Classroom,” was published in Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul.Several of her poems were winners of the “Poetry With Wheels” contest for Austin Capital Metro. Anjela’s photographic images have appeared in Pilgrimage, San Pedro River Review, riverSedge, About Place Journal, and Interstice. She was the editor of Austin Poetry Society’s MuseLetter. She is also a creative writing workshop presenter.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

My poem “Dear español” was performed in 2018 by Play on Words. I was thrilled by Ivette Deltoro’s excellent job of interpreting it. I decided to submit work for the 2019 POW Terrain theme, and was pleased to have them accept two of my previously published poems for their upcoming live performance.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I have been inspired by numerous poets, including Carmen Tafolla, Naomi Shihab Nye, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Julia Alvarez, Billy Collins, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, and Octavio Paz, to name a few. Other poets on the contemporary scene whose works I admire include Natasha Trethewey, Tracy K. Smith, Carmen Giménez Smith, and Ada Limón.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I enjoy the works of the world-renowned poet/writer/performer, Dr. Carmen Tafolla (2012-2014 San Antonio Poet Laureate, and 2015-2016 Texas Poet Laureate). Her collection of poetry and prose, Sonnets to Human Beings and Other Selected Works,is one of my favorites. Her poem “Marked” was of great importance to me in my early years as a poet. Tafolla also performs a one-woman show with an array of great characters, including “Tia Maria.” I have had the pleasure of seeing Tafolla perform several times over the years, and have always come away deeply moved.

Join us at 2 pm February 24 to see Anjela’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.

Allison Landa Finds Love

One of the best parts of curating Play On Words shows is cultivating relationships with artists whose stories we learn over time. Such is the case with Bay Area writer Allison Landa, whose book Bearded Lady shares a first-person account of living with an adrenal condition that causes excess hair growth as well as obesity, infertility, and male-pattern balding in female sufferers. Over the years we’ve gotten to see this story blossom and gained insight into the main character, whose perspective of the world is shaped in part by her physiological experience. When it comes to new terrains, however, this character is caught off guard by one thing: love. We’re delighted to perform “When the Bearded Lady Found Love” this Sunday, February 24, at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Allison Landa

Allison is a Berkeley, CA-based writer of fiction and memoir whose work has been featured in The Guardian US, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and The Mighty, among other venues. Landa earned an MFA in creative writing from St. Mary’s College of California and is represented by Miriam Altshuler of DeFiore & Co. She is a city of Berkeley Civic Arts Grant awardee, a MacDowell Colony Fellow, and recipient of the Ginny Rorby YA Scholarship Recipient at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference and the Lee Standiford Memorial Scholarship Recipient at Writers in Paradise. Her residencies include Playa Summer Lake, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and The Julia and David White Artists’ Colony.

Her work has been featured, not only here at POW, but also at Flash Fiction Forum, Why There Are Words, Lip Service West, Quiet Lightning, Porchlight SF, Fireside Storytelling, About Last Night Storytelling, Get Lit, Anne and Mark’s Art Party.

Allison will be teaching a class called “Writing From the Edge” at the Book Passage in Corte Madera on March 30 from 10 am to 4 pm.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
I love this series! I’m so honored to see my work go live in the hands of a talented actor!

Which writers or performers inspire you?
Stephen King and Jackie Collins. Seriously. Spalding Gray. Dave Eggers. Charles Blow. Tommy Tomlinson. Joyce Maynard. You, probably.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman. She has no qualms about being seen as a difficult-to-like narrator in the name of candor. I also loved seeing Robin Williams live at Bimbo’s years ago. RIP, man.

Join us at 2 pm February 24 to see Allison’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.