Arcadia Conrad reads Mairead Brodie’s “Back Where They Came From”

Despite what our media outlets may tell us, the immigrant experience in the United States is varied, unique and specific to the individual’s journey. In a moving essay, Mairead Brodie explores just what it means to “go back” where one comes from, tracing her own family’s journey from Ireland to New York and back, from the perspective of an expatriate living in Silicon Valley today. Last month we were treated to a special performance of this lovely essay by the one and only Arcadia Conrad at the San Jose Museum of Art:

This was one of those performance that had the audience murmuring in the minutes after Arcadia left the stage. Many thanks to Mairead and Arcadia for bringing us this story, and to Ryan Alpers for filming and Branden Frederick for taking photos.

Thomas Times reads Mike Karpa’s “Make a Muscle”

Sometimes it is the smallest, most intimate actions that make the biggest impressions. For the character in Mike Karpa’s “Make a Muscle,” his decision to lean into an EMT in his grandmother’s nursing home represented far more than just a casual flirtation. Watch the wonderful Thomas Times make his #powsj debut at our New Terrains show on February 24, reading this great story:

Major kudos to Thomas and Mike for making this story come to life. Thanks also to Ryan Alpers for filming and Branden Frederick for taking photos.

Tonya Duncan reads Laura Domingo Short’s “The Start”

How many fresh starts, false starts, or new beginnings can we embrace in our lives? Today we’re delighted to share Tonya Duncan’s animated performance of “The Start” by Laura Domingo Short, read live at our February 24 show at the San Jose Museum of Art:

Wouldn’t it be great if Tonya could narrate all our major life transitions? Thanks, as always, to our amazing cast and writers! Props to Ryan Alpers for filming and Branden Frederick for taking photos.

Christina Shon reads “Bright Hope”

At Play On Words, part of our calling card is finding the right actor to perform someone else’s work. This allows the writer to hear an interpretation of his or her work and gain insight into how the audience reacts. With Christina Shon’s beautiful and personal essay, “Bright Hope,” however, we knew there was only one person to do the piece justice: herself.

Not only did she slay the performance, she arrived in a gorgeous Korean dress called a hanbok, adding depth and meaning to every word. Thanks to Ryan Alpers for capturing this on film and to Branden Frederick for taking photos.

Thank you, Christina, for this heartfelt and moving performance. We’ve enjoyed working with you over the years (we first read her story “Closure” in 2015–and you can watch Laurel Brittan’s performance of her 2018 piece, “Bleeding Heart”), and are sorry to see you move to Colorado! We hope to follow along in your literary career as you continue sharing stories with the world.

P.S. We are currently seeking a venue for our next show. If you’re interested in partnering with us, please contact us to learn more!

Watch #NewTerrains with Witty Bantr

Well, we did it, friends: We filled the San Jose Museum of Art’s Wendel Gallery with beautiful stories, wonderful performances and even better people. Thank you to all the artists, writers, performers, friends, family and community members who joined us Sunday for an amazing show.

Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be rolling out photos and videos of each individual performance, but until then, #powsj contributor Anniqua Rana of the Witty Bantr podcast has graciously shared her recording of the entire show, which opens with Ronald Feichtmeir’s reading of her piece, “The Shrine of Sain Makhianwala.” In case you missed it, watch the whole show here:

Many thanks to Anniqua and her team for sharing this, and stay tuned for more show recaps in the coming months. Thank you all for exploring new terrains with us.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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.