Christina Shon’s Pursuit of Truth

What’s in a name? Regardless of where you’re from, the names we are assigned and the names we claim carry great weight. Just ask Christina Shon, author of “A Bright Hope,” which details the journey she–and her given name–took from South Korea to the United States. We fell in love with this lyrical and compelling piece, and look forward to performing it this Sunday, February 24 at our New Terrains show at the San Jose Museum of Art.

Germany
Christina Shon

 After immigrating to the US with her family,Christina grew up within a number of different suburbs around Los Angeles, California. She completed her undergraduate degree in comparative literature and spent several years as a high school English teacher. She later moved to New York City to attend graduate school and began working in education administration. Christina currently lives in East San Jose, where she enjoys writing, book clubs, karaoke, hiking with friends, climbing in a gym, pub/bar trivia nights, and conversations over wine and cheese. She is also a consultant for Rodan & Fields. She agreed to answer some questions for us in advance of her show.

What keeps you inspired?

I’m currently taking a writing class that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in being inspired and exploring ways to expand your writing:  “The Lab” Writing Classes with Matthew Clark Davidson

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I have been a huge fan of POW since it was created. They provide a great platform for emerging or seasoned writers, actors, creative types to have their work published and receive feedback from the community. It’s also wonderful to see a group that encourages the Arts in the San Jose area.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I’m inspired by writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and modern humorists like Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Amy Tan has a collection of essays called The Opposite of Fate. In one of the essays, she talks about a memory that she has as a child where she is sitting under a tree. A peach falls from the sky and lands in her hand. Her mother later tells her that it was not a peach, but an apricot, and it fell from the tree and not the sky. However, in her memory of the event, in her mind’s eye, that piece of fruit in her tiny hand was a peach and not an apricot. Which is the truth?

As an undergrad, I had an opportunity to hear Amy Tan give a talk about her novel, “The Joy Luck Club.” One of the stories in that novel is based on Amy Tan’s grandmother, who had been the 3rd wife (a concubine) of a wealthy man. Tan decided, while writing the novel, to write the character as the 4th wife, because the number four sounds similar to the word for death in Chinese and it made for a richer story. Tan’s mother revealed later that her grandmother had, in fact, been the 4th wife, but she had been too ashamed to share that truth with her daughter.

When I heard this, it felt to me that Amy Tan had written the novel from her heart and that was more true than the details that she had been given as a child. Just like her memory of seeing a peach fall from the sky, the truth is in the narrative and not the details. Fundamentally, as a writer, I want to write a truthful story. Even if the details are entirely fiction, the story should resonate as truthful. Writing is the most truthful thing anyone can do.

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

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.

'
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.

 

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.

becky kling
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.

mairead2
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.

Introducing Mike Karpa

Exciting news, Playonwordsians: After reading through a delicious pile of submissions, we have selected 15 amazing pieces for our February 24 performance at the San Jose Museum of Art. The New Terrains show, which is included in SJMUSA’s ongoing exhibit, include original fiction, nonfiction, theater and poetry, with stories highlighting Iran, Ireland, Serbia, South Korea, China, India, Mexico and the United States. We’ll be rolling out our full lineup in the weeks that follow, starting with Mike Karpa.

new online thumbnail 2018
Mike Karpa

Mike is a queer San Francisco writer shifting from deeply felt literary writing to meaningless escapism. Briefly a professor and a DoJ staff translator, his biggest work victory is surviving as a freelancer for over thirty years, which may be why a full-time job, like a literary conference, sets his mind spinning murder-mystery plots.

His memoir and/or short fiction has been published in Tin House, Chaleur, Sixfold, Faultline and other literary magazines. His work has been selected for Memoir Monday, a weekly newsletter co-curated by Narratively, Catapult, Granta, Guernica, The Rumpus, Longreads and Tin House.

Mike is currently readying for launch, by any means necessary, his novel Criminals about drug smugglers in early ’90s Tokyo who blur the line between gay and straight. He answered a few questions for us in preparation for the February 24 show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
Hearing about it from Julia, plus a desire to hear how my story would sound with someone else–a pro!–reading it.

Which writers or performers inspire you?
Lydia Davis, Mark Haddon, Jorge Volpi, Flannery O’Connor, Philip K. Dick, Jody Angel, Michael Nava, Carol Rifka Brunt, gay writers living in the Midwest self-publishing mysteries and romances (you know who you are—love you!).

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
Lydia Davis’s Can’t and Won’t. I was astounded this style of writing existed, then doubly astounded she had been published so widely. (They let you do that?) She gave me permission to be more myself, which is something writing does for me generally. Thanks, Lydia Davis!

We can’t wait to perform Mike’s story, “Make a Muscle,” on February 24 at the San Jose Museum of Art. Stay tuned, because we will sharing a free ticket link before the performance so POW fans can gain free entrance to the museum.

Call for Submissions: New Terrains

This week marks five years since our first Play On Words show at San Jose’s Blackbird Tavern. With every season, we’ve tried something new–performed at festivals, partnered with Flash Fiction Forum on a chapbook, staged live readings of television shows. This fall, we’re delighted to partner with the San Jose Museum of Art on its upcoming “New Terrains: Migration and Mobility” cross-disciplinary exhibit. We’ve got our first 2019 date on the calendar–Sunday, February 24, from 3-5 pm–which means that we need you, faithful writers and artists, to share your work with us!

New_Terrains_logo_walking_RGB

What Does New Terrains Mean to You?

For our February show, we are seeking work that responds to the theme of New Terrains: Migration and Mobility. What does that mean to you? Does new terrain denote geography, movement, space? Could it be a crossing of emotional territory? Or a literal reflection on what it means to move your body, your family, your city?

Send Us Your:

  • fiction (short stories, flash fiction, stand-alone novel excerpts
  • nonfiction (memoir, short essays, meditations and reflections)
  • poetry
  • theatre (one-act plays, sketches, comedy, satire, drama)

For prose pieces, we ask you to cap submissions at 1500 words. Depending on the work of theatre, you can submit something longer if it reads quickly.

Email us your submissions to playonwordssj@gmail.com by December 15 to be considered for our February show.

Join Us for the Exhibition Kick-off: November 15

We’ve been invited to present at the museum’s November 15 partner kickoff, which will feature many of the organizations contributing to the New Terrains exhibit. Mosaic Silicon Valley will offer a number of special performances during the evening. The international creative collective known as RadioEE will roll up to the party with Autopiloto, a marathon radio transmission that will be broadcast while on-the-move in a semi-autonomous vehicle traversing the Bay Area, examining how emerging autopilot/AI technologies are transforming the world. RadioEE will be live streaming their interactions with partner organizations and visitors while at SJMA, as part of their project commissioned by the Lucas Artist Residency Program at Montalvo Art Center.

Play On Words will be reading a few show selections at the event. We’ll be there to promote our call for submissions and enjoy an evening of performance, artistry and excitement. We hope to see you there!

Tickets are available on the San Jose Museum of Art website: $5 after 5 pm, free for museum members.

 

 

Michael Weiland reads Michelle Myers

Given the current political climate, today seems like a good day to share Michael Weiland’s dynamite performance of “Pence” by Michelle Myers:

Big thanks to Michael for loaning us his voice on April 11 at our New Horizons show at Cafe Stritch. You can catch him in Los Altos Stage Company’s “Pippin” through June 24.

And while we’re at it, now is a good time to remind folks of all political persuasions to consider donating to Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), an organization that is helping families being forcibly separated at the U.S./Mexico border. There is nothing humane about taking children from their families, regardless of nationality.

Stay tuned for more footage from our April show!

Melinda Marks reads “Teacher of the Year”

Our April 11 show, New Horizons, featured some of the best Bay Area talent we’ve been lucky enough to work with over the years–returning friends and new voices. Starting this week, we will be rolling out footage from the live show at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch.

In case you missed it: Watch the inimitable Melinda Marks perform “Teacher of the Year” by Arcadia Conrad:

This dynamite piece kicked off our New Horizons show. Thank you to the many actors, writers, photographers, videographers and friends who helped make this show happen.

Stay tuned to watch other clips from the April show on our blog. Also: Melinda will be performing at 2 pm this Sunday, April 29, at City Lights Theatre’s Lights Up festival. Tickets are available here.

Want to see us at Redwood City’s Dragon Theatre? We’re busy preparing for a special POW event this August. And in the meantime, don’t hesitate to send us your work for consideration in future events at playonwordssj@gmail.com