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 Field. Here 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.
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.
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.
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.
Anniqua 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.
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.
Five years ago, we had the pleasure of performing in San Francisco’s Clarion Alley as part of LitCrawl, an evening of events hosted by LitQuake, a weeklong literary festival. Today we’re thrilled to share that we will once again participate in the SF LitCrawl, this time at the amazing Stage Werx theatre at 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 19.
We Need Your Words!
We’re looking for fresh, smart, funny, provocative, absurd, thoughtful, goofy, surprising work to perform at this year’s show. We will be curating about 45 minutes of content, which means we’re especially interested in flash pieces, poetry, ten-minute plays—anything that can be performed aloud with gusto. We are looking for:
Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, theatre, work in translation accepted under 1500 words.
On February 24, we were thrilled to perform work by Play On Words’ youngest contributor, eighth grader Michelle Qiao. The multitalented Ronald Feichtmeir closed out our New Terrains show at the San Jose Museum of Art with his performance of “The City Across the River”:
Thanks to Ryan Alpers for filming and Branden Frederick for taking photos, as well as all of the amazing writers, performers, artists and friends who helped make this show happen. We hope to host more POW shows in the months to come, so stay tuned to learn how you can participate!
Have you ever had dinner with your late grandparent? How about a drink with your long-dead grandmother? We were taken by Arcadia Conrad’s “Dead at the Palm Court Hotel,” which actor Tonya Duncan knocked out of the park at our Feb. 24 show at the San Jose Museum of Art:
Big thanks to Ryan Alpers for filming and Branden Frederick for being our trusty photographer. We hope to have another show this summer or fall–contact us if you’re interested in participating!
Sometimes the sacrifices of seeking a better life feel like a catch-22. Just ask “Norma,” the protagonist of Michelle Suzann Myers’ piece, who gives up everything for a better life in California. We were treated to a special performance by Nita Duarte Lambert on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art:
Muchísimas gracias to the lovely Nita for this moving reading, to Michelle for sharing her work for us, to Ryan Alpers for filming and to Branden Frederick for taking photos.
How many parents must learn to read between the lines–or gauge the distance between postcards? Last February our pal Keenan Flagg performed Tony Press’ wonderful “Postcards from the Underground” at the San Jose Museum of Art. Thanks to Ryan Alpers for capturing this on film:
Thanks, as always, to our writers for loaning us their words, and to our actors for making their stories come to life. Photography by Branden Frederick.
What does love look like, act like, feel like? Sometimes it is possible to be overtaken by a feeling, a person, a moment in time. We were so moved by Nita Duarte Lambert’s poignant performance of “When the Bearded Lady Found Love” by Allison Landa. Watch her February 24 reading at our New Terrains show at the San Jose Museum of Art:
Big thanks, of course, to Allison and Nita, and to Ryan Alpers for filming and Branden Frederick for taking photos of this wonderful afternoon.