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.

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.

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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!

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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

Tania Martin’s “Rites of Passage”

Tania Martin

Just what is a rite of passage–and what does it represent? The lovely Arcadia Conrad performed Tania Martin’s short piece, “Rites of Passage,” last week at Play On Words: New Horizons. We have previously performed Tania’s “Suck it Up” and “The Pink Suitcase”, and were thrilled to read more work by her.

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Tania Martin

 Tania writes fiction in San Jose. When she’s not teaching art to middle school students, or working on her first novel, she enjoys cycling around the Bay Area on her Bianchi road bike. She is co-founder of Flash Fiction Forum, a literary reading series focusing on short works since 2013, and she is an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. She earned a BS in geology from UC Davis and loves hiking in the Sierra Nevadas. Her work has appeared in Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Flash Flood’s online anthology, and in the collection, (After) Life, Poems and Stories of the Dead, Purple Passion Press (2015).

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
I love the way Play On Words combines the imaginings of both writer and actor to bring a new element to the work. And as a writer, it’s interesting to see my words interpreted by someone else. It’s like I have baked a delicious cake, and then handed it off to a talented cake decorator.

Which writers or performers inspire you?
I recently listened to the audio book, Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders, and loved it so much I bought the hardcopy and read the book too. I’m a fan of Louise Erdrich, Annie Proulx, Denis Johnson, and Zadie Smith to name a few; the poetry of Seamus Heaney and Elizabeth Bishop; and re-reading the classics: especially Tolstoy, Austin, and the Bronte sisters. I have wonderful memories of my dad reading The Hobbit to me when I young.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
My parents always left lots of books around the house, and didn’t notice me reading the Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby when I was 12, and for awhile I was terrified of being possessed by evil spirits. But now I’m fascinated by superstition and mythology, and often write superstitious characters into my stories.

Couldn’t join us last week? Stay tuned for video from the show in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out Branden Frederick’s photos from our show on our Facebook page. 

Our New Horizons

On Monday night we gathered to rehearse for tonight’s show and the air crackled with electricity. Each story, poem and piece is dynamite, and our seasoned cast is more than ready to light up the stage at Cafe Stritch. Play On Words has existed for five years, and in that time we’ve gotten to meet so many amazing artists, writers, performers and patrons of the arts. Every show is special and every show is different. Tonight we bring Play On Words: New Horizons to life.

29790535_1241367555997066_1930253660190529930_nJoin us at 7 pm to witness amazing performers read work by the following fabulous writers:

1) “Teacher of the Year” by Arcadia Conrad

performed by Melinda Marks

2) “The Boy in the Van” by Marilyn Horn-Fahey
performed by Arcadia Conrad
3) “Dear Espanol” by Anjela Villareal Ratliff
performed by Ivette Deltoro
4)  “Bearded Lady” by Allison Landa
performed by Laurel Brittan
5) “Pence” by Michelle Myers
performed by Michael Weiland
6) “Receiptless” by Dallas Woodburn
performed by Jeremy Ryan
7)” Bleeding Heart” by Christina Shon
performed by Laurel Brittan
8) “Rite of Passage” by Tania Martin
performed by Arcadia Conrad
10 MIN BREAK
9) “Your Superpower” by Ann Hillesland
performed by Ivette Deltoro
10) “Construction” by Jon Ford
performed by Adam Weinstein
11) “Sister Fowl” by Maria Judnick
performed by Ivette Deltoro
12) “Toilet Paper Glove” by Valerie Fioravanti
performed by Melinda Marks
13) “Birthday” by Valerie Castro Singer
performed by Laurel Brittan
14) “Fisherman and the Cloak” by Charlene Logan Burnett
performed by Ron Feichtmeir
15) “Journalissimo” by Griffin Lamachy
performed by Michael Weiland
New Horizons will also feature live drawing by Michelle Frey (Instagram/boule_miche and @michellange on Twitter) and Clifton Gold of Luna Park Arts. Michelle teaches weekly live drawing classes at the School of Visual PhilosophySpecial thanks to our photographer Branden Frederick and videographer Ryan Alpers.

Christina Shon’s “Heart”

How do our bodies reflect our lives? Which happens first: our experiences or our anatomical response? We were delighted to find Christina K. Shon’s “Bleeding Heart” in our submission pile this spring. Her story, which describes the narrator grappling with major surgery while falling in love, combines the perfect mixture of vulnerability, honesty, humor and self-awareness. We worked with Christina in summer 2015 and can’t wait to bring her new work to light tonight at Play On Words: New Horizons.

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Christina Shon

From a very young age, Christina has secretly dreamed of being a writer in the way that young children dream about becoming movie stars or professional baseball players. It always seemed like a profession destined for those who had been groomed for it. Then one day in graduate school, her “Teaching Writing” classmates were sharing sample stories that they had written. One of her classmates said, “You should give up teaching and become a writer.” That first seed of possibility has slowly grown to a sapling passion. Christina hopes to someday record all the stories that her grandmother used to tell her about their life in Korea.  

She doesn’t slow down, either: This year she is participating in the 100 Day Project. Participants commit to doing a creative project every day for 100 days. It started on April 3, 2018, but everyone is welcome to join at any time.

 

Christina answered some questions for us in advance of tonight’s show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I am a huge fan! I really love how Play on Words fosters a community of artists, writers and performers, to interpret, share stories, and support one another’s craft. It’s like art interpreting art and then bringing it to life.

Tell us about this piece.

This story started out as just a recounting of my experience of this particular surgery, which I had always wanted to document, but then it became a story about how people have a hard time letting go of things that hurt us, even when we know it’s hurting us.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Amy Tan, Jhumpa Lahiri, David Sedaris, and of course, Julia Halprin Jackson.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

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 third wife of a wealthy man. Tan decided, while writing the novel, to write the character as the fourth wife, because the number four in Chinese sounds similar to the word for death in Chinese and it sort of made for a richer story. Tan’s mother revealed later that her grandmother had, in fact, been the fourth wife, but she had been too ashamed to share that truth with her daughter.

When I heard this, I 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.

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 tonight to hear Laurel Brittan perform Christina’s story, “Bleeding Heart,” at Play On Words: New Horizons! Show starts at Cafe Stritch at 7 pm.