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

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.