Ivette Deltoro reads “Dear español” by Anjela Villarreal Ratliff

The last few months we at Play On Words have been busy behind the scenes, getting ready for some amazing new shows we will be producing later this year. Busy–but not too busy to continue uploading content from our April 11 show at Cafe Stritch! Over the next few weeks you’ll get a chance to enjoy performances by our stellar cast, as recorded by POW social media manager Ryan Alpers.

Today we’re thrilled to share Ivette Deltoro’s performance of “Dear espanol,” a beautiful poem by SJSU alumna, the Texan poet Anjela Villarreal Ratliff:

We’re grateful to the amazing writers, performers and volunteers who make our shows happen. Stay tuned for more videos–and for news of our next big project, coming to a theater near you in late August!

 

Arcadia Conrad reads “The Boy in the Van”

What happens when a young American girl in the Middle East encounters a friendly boy looking for a friend? One of two things happen, according to Marilyn Horn‘s story “The Boy in the Van.” The fabulous Arcadia Conrad performed this great piece on April 11 at our New Horizons show at Cafe Stritch:

Many thanks to Arcadia for loaning us her voice–and to Marilyn for sharing her story.

The next Play On Words show on the books is at Redwood City’s Dragon Theatre on August 29, though we are searching for a venue for a summer show before then. If you’re interested in participating in upcoming shows, shoot us an email at playonwordssj@gmail.com.

Marilyn Horn’s “Boy in the Van”

 

We love stories with a strong voice. That’s why we were drawn to Marilyn Horn’s “The Boy in the Van,” which follows a young narrator as she fails to befriend a boy Tehran. The lovely Arcadia Conrad performed this piece on April 11 at our Play On Words: New Horizons show.

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Marilyn Horn

Marilyn Horn is a technical editor in Silicon Valley. Her short stories have appeared in publications such as Blotterature, Marathon Review and Waccamaw, and her collection Beyond the Fence was published in 2016 by Thinking Ink Press. 

 

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I’ve had other stories (“Snake,” “April in Paris,” and “Neighbor”) performed by Play on Words. There’s nothing quite like hearing your words being interpreted by those fantastic POW players.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Lately I’ve been inspired by Donna Tartt and Kobayashi Issa. That may change.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? You need to check that out if you haven’t already.

Stay tuned to watch footage from our April 11 show and discover ways to participate in future events.

Valerie Fioravanti’s “Glove”

About last night:

We filled Cafe Stritch with artists, writers, performers, volunteers, and friends, old and new. It feels so good to see our community expanding–blossoming in ways we never expected. In the coming weeks and months we’ll be sharing content from Play On Words: New Horizons, and until then, we’d like to feature a few more of the writers whose work we shared onstage last night.

Play On Words exists in part because of something Valerie Fioravanti said to Julia Halprin Jackson way back in 2013. Valerie is the artistic genius behind Sacramento Stories on Stage, an organization which produces short fiction in the heart of our capital city. Julia had driven 100 miles to see work by the writer Alex Russell performed in Sacramento, and remarked that she wished that there was a Stories on Stage in her own neighborhood. Valerie looked at her and said,”You could start one. That’s what I did.”

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Valerie Fioravanti

Five years later, we were delighted to work with Valerie once again. Valerie is the author of the linked story collection Garbage Night at the Opera. Her fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in many literary journals, including North American Review, Cimarron Review, and LUMINA. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize eight times. Her story Garbage Night at the Opera received special mention in the anthology. A former Fulbright Fellow in creative writing to Italy, she has won the Chandra Prize for Short Fiction and the Tillie Olsen Short Story Award. Valerie had two stories recently published in North American Review. She wrote about social bubbles and her second collection on their blog.

 

We first performed Valerie’s work in 2015, and were thrilled to bring her new piece, “Toilet Paper Glove,” to light last night at Cafe Stritch. We’ll share footage from this in the next several weeks. Until then, Valerie was kind enough to answer some questions for us.

 

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

Have to check on my literary children every once in a while 😉.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I’m blown away by Karen Bender. She’s a teacher, mom, editor, writer, and committed social activist. I suspect there are five of her. Or I’m a sloth. One of these statements must be true.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Tillie Olsen’s Tell Me A Riddle blew me away as a teenager. It was the first time I read work about working class characters from the female perspective, and those moments of literary recognition are so important for a young writer, even one who hasn’t yet articulated her desire to write.

Thank you to all of the writers, performers, artists and volunteers who joined us last night. Stay tuned to access footage from last night’s show and learn how to participate in upcoming events.

Happy “Birthday” Valerie

Childbirth is a personal and particular experience–one that every mother could describe in a thousand different ways. Valerie Singer’s poem “Birthday” describes the vulnerability, humor, exhaustion and love that one mother experiences giving birth to her third child. We can’t wait to perform this lovely piece on Wednesday at Play On Words: New Horizons.

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Valerie Singer

Valerie is a San Jose native and was raised by literature-loving parents and educated by cool, hippie nuns. A graduate of UC Davis, she earned both a BA in history and a multiple subject teaching credential.  Valerie has performed in local theater since forever, where she has met many wonderful artists, including her husband of 22 years, Matt. She stays up far too late in bed writing on her iPad, but she loves writing too much to stop. She claims that she has no publications, honors or awards, but is quite proud of the “World’s Greatest Mom” coffee mug presented to her by her kids. She will be performing in “Shakespeare’s Most Wanted” with Silicon Valley Shakespeare April 27 – 29. 

Valerie answered a few questions for us in advance of our April 11 show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I know Melinda and some of the past performers through local theater.  I’d watched some performances and love the patchwork beauty of the evening. Each piece is always so distinct but juxtaposes so nicely. It’s exciting to see word-based art in San Jose. Life in Silicon Valley is so insanely fast-paced-go-go-go that it’s a blessing to have a venue where people can sit down, relax, enjoy the exchange of the spoken word and practice active listening.  I’d just written some poems when I saw the POW call for submissions on Facebook and I decided 2018 was the time to get one of my works out of my iPad and into the world. I’m thrilled to have one of my poems performed!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Oh, so, so many! Toni Morrison, Katherine Anne Porter, Thomas Wolfe, Michele Serros, John Nichols, Steinbeck…there’s a lot more.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Elizabeth Coatsworth’s The Cat Who Went To Heaven. It was the first book that made me cry. I was in the first grade and I burst into tears in my room after reading it. My mom came running upstairs because she thought one of my siblings had hit me. When she realized what had really happened, she turned it into a nice teachable moment about the power of storytelling. I was hooked.  I wrote my first story “A Stranger In The Field” shortly after.

Want more Valerie? Join us Wednesday at Cafe Stritch

Griffin’s Question: To Journal or Not to Journal?

Just what does the writing process look like–and how our creative habits carry over into our personal lives? We were taken by John “Griffin” Lamachy’s hilarious piece, “Journalissimo,” which we will be performing on Wednesday at Play On Words: New Horizons.

29790535_1241367555997066_1930253660190529930_nGriffin describes himself as a “former screenwriter, filmmaker, video producer, musician, slam poet, stand-up comedian, Mahjongg champion…. Okay, maybe not former … just on hiatus.” He is currently working on a full-length stage place that he plans to produce locally–so stay tuned. He shared a few thoughts about himself for us today.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

My wife, Arcadia Conrad, an excellent writer and performer, has been involved.  And I like what POW has to offer the downtown scene, as well as the local writing and performing community.  It’s always fun to see how one artist interprets another’s work, and unless one writes for theatre or film, one never gets to hear one’s work heard aloud.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Inspiration comes from everywhere for me.  I just look for truth without a lot of embellishment.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

This question haunts me, because you never hear the bullet that kills you.      

Want to see us perform Griffin’s work? Join us Wednesday at Cafe Stritch.         

Anjela Villarreal Ratliff’s Letter to Spanish

While reading submissions for our New Horizons show, we were delighted to come across the work of poet Anjela Villarreal Ratliff. Anjela’s poems explore a personal relationship with language and tell stories with every line. We’re looking forward to performing her poem “Dear español” April 11 at Cafe Stritch.

 

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Anjela Villareal Ratliff

Anjela is a graduate of San Jose State University. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Texas Poetry Calendar, Australian Latino Press, Chachalaca Review, Boundless, Pilgrimage Magazine, riverSedge: A Journal of Art and Literature; Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems; Latinas: Protests and Struggles in the 21st Century USA; and is forthcoming in Southwestern American LiteratureWomen in the Southwest: From the Frontier to the Frontline; and Poems for the Tricentennial – A Poetic Legacy. She is also a creative writing workshop presenter. A native Tejana, Anjela was six months old when her migrant family moved to southern California where she was raised. She has lived in Austin, Texas, since 1990.

Anjela has published several poetry chapbooks, including Jardín de Poesía and Entre Piedra y Sol. Some of her chapbooks have been archived at 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 in the San Antonio Tricentennial Poetry Contest. Her 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 the Austin Metro area. Anjela was also editor for the Austin Poetry Society’s MuseLetter. Her artistic photos have been published in Pilgrimage and the San Pedro River Review. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself for us.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I saw the recent call for submissions by Play on Words posted on Facebook; and since I am a former graduate of San Jose State University, it perked my interest right away. I was delighted by the idea that readers and performers from the San Jose area would be reading the selected works.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I have been very inspired by numerous well-known poets, including Carmen Tafolla, Naomi Shihab Nye, Benjamin Alire Saenz, David Hernandez, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, and Octavio Paz, to name just a few. I am continually inspired by the poetry of several talented Austin poets I am privileged to know personally: Gloria Amescua, Lydia Armendáriz, Liliana Valenzuela, and Celeste Guzman Mendoza.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I very much enjoy the performances by the gifted and multitalented, world-renowned poet/writer/performer, Dr. Carmen Tafolla, the 2012-2014 Poet Laureate of San Antonio, and Poet Laureate of Texas for 2015-2016. One of her earlier collections of poetry and prose, Sonnets to Human Beings and Other Selected Works, is one of my all time favorites by the Latina poet. She also performs a one-woman storytelling act, with an array of great characters, including “Tia Maria.” Every time I see her perform her literary works, I come away inspired and deeply moved.

Intrigued? Join us at 7 pm next Wednesday, April 11 at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch to see her work performed aloud.

Charlene’s “Cloak”

Sometimes we are drawn to stories because of their premise or pacing; other times we are compelled by a singular and unique voice, one we hadn’t heard before. When we received “The Fisherman and the Cloak” by Charlene Logan Burnett, we were struck by the story’s tone, tenor and unusual, Aesop’s fable-turned-Nordic-fairy-tale rhythm. We look forward to performing this piece a week from today at our New Horizons show at Cafe Stritch.

 

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Charlene Logan Burnett

Charlene Logan Burnett writes fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Witness Magazine, Blackbird, Natural Bridge, RHINO, WomensArts Quarterly, and other magazines and journals. She was a writing fellow at the MacDowell Colony and a Pushcart Nominee. She earned an M.F.A. in Playwriting from the University of California, Davis.

She has been a finalist in a number of short fiction contests, including the 2017 Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction, sponsored by Nimrod International Journal, the 2017 Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction, sponsored by Colorado Review, and the 2017 Howard Frank Mosher Short Fiction Prize, sponsored by Hunger Mountain.

“The Fisherman and The Cloak,” published in Menacing Hedge, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2013. Charlene graciously shared some insight with us.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I had an English professor who used to read from a women’s fiction anthology to our class. It was a magical hour. Often, stories that move me to tears are spoken. The pace is slower. The space feels more intimate than a page. The words seem to penetrate deeper inside me.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

For this particular piece, I would say Angela Carter. Flannery O’Connor remains one of my favorites.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I went back to college as an adult with a small child. I had to take a remedial English class to catch up. The teacher used to read aloud to us from the fiction anthology, Women and Fiction: Short Stories By and About Women. It was my first experience listening to the words of women writers like Grace Paley and Margaret Drabble. They wrote about people I knew. It was in that class I decided to write. The paperback book, although falling apart, is still on my shelf.

Want to see Charlene’s work performed aloud? Join us at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 11 at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch. Hope to see you there!

Melinda Marks reads Cindy Stewart-Rinier

When we were planning the lineup for our January 17 show, we staged our pieces in an intentional chronological order. The idea? To show how different generations of activists have grappled with some of the same big questions, year after year, campaign after campaign, president after president. Melinda Marks was proud to perform Cindy Stewart-Rinier’s “Under Trump, No Good Deed,” a poem particularly suited to today’s world:

Hard as it can be to grapple with the challenges of today’s world, we’re glad to promote artists whose work we feel offers a little respite, a little tiny dagger of truth, a gasp of hope in a changing environment. Cindy’s poem is included in our new chapbook, Activate, which you can order here.

We’re still looking for short stories, poems, and plays under 1500 words for our April 11 show. Got something you’re proud of? Send it along as an attachment to playonwordssj@gmail.com.