In Which Ryan Alpers Rides the Bus to the Suburbs

‘Tis graduation season at Play On Words!

Have you ever written an ode to your diploma? Gary Singh has–and Ryan Alpers performed “Sirs Parchment” June 3 at Cafe Stritch, along with “I Ride On the Bus Out to the Suburbs in the Searing Heat”:

Don’t forget to submit to our July show! We’re looking for short, funny, absurd, thought-provoking, surprising content that performs well aloud. Send us your short stories, essays, poems and one-acts at Deadline is June 30, but the sooner the better!

Rick Alpers’ “Van Tribe” Takes Flight

Last week we took the stage at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch with a fun cast of characters–thanks in part to the generosity of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association. In case you missed it, we’ll be rolling out footage from our June 3 performance over the next few weeks, starting today with excerpts of Rick Alpers’ “Van Tribe” saga.

“Van Tribe” is a novel-in-progress that follows a group of people living along San Jose’s Guadalupe River, whose lives are affected by suburban growth. Michael Weiland kicked off the evening with “Van Tribe: The River” and “Dudley and Lisa”:

Tiffany Edwards read the next installment, entitled “Pumpkin”:

Finally, Brian Van Winkle read “Miracle Ticket”:

Like what you see? We’ll be posting more videos over the next few weeks. Thanks again to everyone who made this show possible!

Drumroll Please…Tomorrow’s Lineup!

It’s nearly time to take flight. We had our rehearsal on Saturday night and we are pumped to perform tomorrow at Cafe Stritch. Our playbills will be printed tomorrow–and in one last effort to spread the word, we’re sharing the full lineup for Play On Words: Take Flight here:


  1. “Pink Suitcase,” by Tania Martin, read by Gray Performs
  2. “Van Tribe: The River” and “Dudley and Lisa,” by Rick Alpers, read by Michael Weiland
  3. “Bees,” by Betsy Miller, read by Adam Magill
  4. “Van Tribe: Pumpkin,” by Rick Alpers, read by Tiffany Edwards
  5. “Bride,” by Lita Kurth, read by Melinda Marks
  6. “Van Tribe: Miracle Ticket,” by Rick Alpers, read by Michael Weiland
  7. “Sirs Parchment” and “I Ride on the Bus Out to the Suburbs in the Searing Heat,” by Gary Singh, read by Ryan Alpers
  8. “Stage Kiss,” by Mara Sherman, read by Laurel Brittan, Gray Performs, and Ryan Alpers


  9. “Suburban Fantasy,” by Renée Schell, read by Adam Magill
  10. “Hot Turkish Man For You,” by Valerie Fioravanti, read by Melinda Marks
  11. “Red,” by Melinda Marks, read by Arcadia Conrad
  12. “Swimming Lessons,” by Pratibha Kelapure, read by Laurel Brittan
  13. “Scars,” by Andrew Christian, read by Ryan Alpers
  14. “Cardio Tai Chi,” by Sarah Lyn Rogers, read by Tiffany Edwards
  15. “Audition,” by Brian Van Winkle, read by Michael Weiland, Melinda Marks, Brian Van Winkle, Adam Magill, and Julia Halprin Jackson

As we gear up for the big show, we’d also like to extend our gratitude, once again, to The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the San Jose Downtown Association, as well as Steve and Max Borkenhagen of Cafe Stritch, whose support and guidance helped make this show possible.

San Jose Downtown Association
San Jose Downtown Association

Tania Martin and the Little “Pink Suitcase”

Tania Martin
Tania Martin

There is something magical about Tania Martin’s “Pink Suitcase,” which we are excited to present June 3 at Cafe Stritch as part of Play On Words: Take Flight.

Tania is originally from New Zealand and has lived most of her life in California. She earned a B.S. in geology from UC Davis, and has worked as a lab technician, geophysicist, and technical writer. She stumbled into a writer’s workshop in Alta, Utah a few years ago and has been hooked on creative writing ever since. Her focus has been on the short story and flash fiction. She co-founded The Flash Fiction Forum reading series with Lita Kurth, and she is an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. She also helped curate the Spoken Word Lounge reading series at The San Jose Art Party festival held at the Santa Clara Fair Grounds in 2014.

Publications, Honors or Awards:

Tania’s flash fiction has been published in Sugar Mule Literary Magazine and Flash Flood’s online anthology. She recently had her poem “Smoke and Fire” published in (After) Life, Poems and Stories of the Dead, Purple Passion Press, 2015.

 What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I was delighted to hear there was another venue for story-based art in San José. My co-founder of Flash Fiction Forum and I reached out to the folks at Play On Words. Julia Halprin Jackson, one of the founders, read her wonderful flash fiction for our reading series. I jumped at the chance when she mentioned that there was a call for submissions for Play On Words. I am very excited to see my story “Pink Suitcase” performed by actors. Because it’s a character driven story, I think it will be well suited for the stage. I’m also really excited to be part of the strong writer’s community emerging in San José.

 Which writers or performers inspire you?

Tolstoy and Austen are favorites, but lately Denis Johnson has had a big influence on me, and I just read J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey for the first time and thought it brilliant.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I very much admired Poet Laureate (Santa Clara County) David Perez’s poetry booth, aka “The Poetry Site,” in which he organized local poets to write poems for festival patrons on typewriters. The poetry booth is both a performance piece and the individual works of the poets. The process of the poets at work on their old fashioned typewriters, thinking and punching away at the keys, then handing over poems to curious hands was inspiring, and I thought this is a great way to expose people to poetry by making it personal.  It’s the kind of collaboration I hope to see more of in San José.

Rick Alpers’ San Jose Stories

At Play On Words, we love to feature writers in our own backyard–San Jose writers who have an intimate knowledge of the Valley of Hearts Delight and are proud to engage in a literary conversation. When it comes to San Jose stories, Rick Alpers has quite a few up his sleeve. We’re thrilled to perform three short excerpts of his novel-in-progress, Van Tribe, which follows a cast of characters living in downtown San Jose, on June 3 at Play On Words: Take Flight.

Rick is a San Jose native with family roots dating back to 1871 in central California. He graduated from San Jose State in physical education and earned a master’s degree, along with a lifetime teaching credential, from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He taught high school PE at Santa Teresa High for four years before going into commercial construction, where he still works. Rick writes for relaxation  and the creativity it provides. His series of vignettes is part of a novel with the working title of Van Tribe.

Rick Alpers
Rick Alpers

What inspired “Van Tribe”?

The working title “Van Tribe” came from a thought I had about all the tribes of people who have lived on the Guadalupe River, and the river’s effect of our community. The latest and on-going “state” of the river is almost forgotten by current residents, but the constant motif is the river and how it has welcomed so many. The Native Americans lived here with the Grizzly bears, the Spanish settlers raised crops and cattle here, the American settlers set up canneries to produce canned fruit for our country, the inventors have used this valley for the creative talent to communicate to the world. All this time we have used the river and its shelter, water and housing.

What inspires you to write?

My inspiration to write is from my father and mother. They understood that each of us is a writer.

What author inspires you?

TC Boyle.

What book has had a profound effect on you?

JPS Brown’s The Outfit.

Valerie Fioravanti’s “Hot Turkish Man”

If you delve into the Play On Words archives, you’ll discover that Sacramento author Valerie Fioravanti played a key role in our origin story. That’s part of the reason why we are so excited to produce her short piece, “Hot Turkish Man,” June 3 at Cafe Stritch.

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, Silk Road, and Jelly Bucket. She’s the founder of Stories on Stage Sacramento (which, if you live anywhere near Sacramento, you need to go see).

Valerie Fioravanti
Valerie Fioravanti
Garbage Night at the Opera
Garbage Night at the Opera

Publications, Honors or Awards:

2011 Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. Fulbright Fellow to Italy.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

Julia Halprin Jackson asked me to participate.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I’ve always admired Margaret Atwood, who is unafraid to work across different literary forms and genres.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

My favorite reading series, which inspired me to start my own reading series in Sacramento, was New York City’s Selected Shorts, which also airs on NPR and can be downloaded via podcast. I loved hearing actors read stories with so much gusto. It felt like the best of bedtime for adults.

To learn more about Valerie, visit