Christina Shon Explores the Opposite of Fate

What happens when a young educator meets her match in a challenging student? Christina Shon’s short story, “Closure,” explores the ambiguity of a relationship between a teacher and her student. We love this piece of writing and are excited to perform it TONIGHT in San Jose’s St. James Park.

Christina Shon
Christina Shon

Christina is an amateur writer. She grew up in Southern California and moved to the Bay Area in 2012 after a 5-year layover in New York City. She enjoys writing stories about twins and hopes to someday record all the stories that her grandmother used to tell her about their family life in Korea.

Upcoming projects:

I am interested in starting a local Writing Club. If anyone is interested, please send me an email at christinashon@gmail.com

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I have enjoyed attending “Play on Words” events in the past. I was initially a bit intimidated about handing over my writing to another artist to read and interpret, but it’s not any more intimidating than having your work published. Once it’s out there, it belongs to the reader (or the audience) to do what they want with it. I’m actually very excited to see how my story is going to be performed.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

My friend Julia. She is not only a beautiful writer, but also a truly grounded person. She inspires me to believe in myself as a writer and to sit down and actually do some writing instead of just dreaming about it.

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 an experience she has as a child. She is sitting under a tree, and 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. But in her mind’s eye, in her memory of the event, of that piece of fruit in her tiny hand, she remembers that it was peach. So which is the truth, and does it matter? This story helped to shape me as a writer, because as writers, we want to write something that is truthful, even if it’s not necessarily factual. A lot of what I write about comes from what I remember.

Tonight’s show is made possible through the generosity of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association.

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Drive, Said Lyra Halprin

What’s your dream car? It’s an innocent question, but as the character in Lyra Halprin’s “Drive, She Said,” explores, it can pack surprising meaning. We can’t wait to produce Lyra’s piece tomorrow night at San Jose’s St. James Park for our Words&Music show.

Lyra Halprin
Lyra Halprin

Lyra is a Davis, Calif. writer whose commentaries have aired on NPR, Capital Public Radio, and KQED San Francisco, and appeared in newspapers, magazines and online venues. A former newspaper, television and radio reporter, she worked for more than 20 years as a public information officer for the University of California sustainable agriculture programs. She enjoys writing about growing up in California in the 1950s and ‘60s, family, fresh food, and access to healthcare.

Publications:
Sequoia in the Storm, California Northern
Tinge of Pink, Sacramento News & Review
The Nativity and the Trailer, Santa Monica Daily Press

Upcoming projects:
I’m working on a collection of memoir stories.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
Sometimes I’ve enjoyed the audiobook version of a book more than reading it because actors can take the words to another dimension. Twenty years ago I was thrilled to hear my own written words make that shift when someone else read them aloud. I look forward to hearing that again!

Which writers or performers inspire you?
I appreciate writers who can teach me something as well as entertain, often historical fiction: Andrea Barrett, whose fiction about women in science leave me thinking (her short story collection Servants of the Map is my favorite); Mario Zusak’s The Book Thief combines a gripping, loving story with important history; Sherman Alexie, who brings “life on the res” alive in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; Chris Bojalian, who taught me about the Armenian genocide with grace in Sandcastle Girls; Anthony Marra, whose A Constellation of Vital Phenomena pulled me into a time and place I didn’t know I needed and wanted to understand; Zoe Ferraris, who introduced me to the hidden life of women in the Arab world through an unlikely female heroine – a Saudi Arabian morgue assistant (Finding Nouf), and Kristiana Kahakauwila, whose stories about Hawaii forever changed the way I feel about the island (This is Paradise). Two non-fiction writers skillfully introduced me to their lives: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in My Beloved World, and Anne Lamott in Operating Instructions.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
Each year there are books that knock me to the wall with their beauty and meaning (above). Seeing the Broadway production of Rent reinforced my belief that the arts are our key to making change.

Keenan Flagg’s Spinning Mythologies

What’s it mean to be a moth to a flame? Keenan Flagg’s piece “Spun Mythologies” paints a new picture of metamorphosis. We’re excited to produce it at our Words&Music show this Tuesday at San Jose’s St. James Park.

Keenan Flagg
Keenan Flagg

Keenan studied Creative Writing and Poetry at the University of Puget Sound and is currently enrolled in the Writing Program at San Jose State. When not writing or composing, his hobbies include live theater, picnics, salsa dancing, and distance running.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I enjoy being a part of the local artistic community. The value of this organization far transcends that of simply providing artistic exposure; it creates a place for writers and performers alike to network, share ideas, and then regurgitate those ideas back into the laps of friendly and enduring audiences.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Adrienne Rich, Robert Frost, Gary Snyder, and Hoa Nguyen are a few of my favorite poets. Anis Mojgani and Taylor Mali are two of my favorite spoken word performers.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac; Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs; and The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall because they each caused me to reevaluate the changing landscape of written language.

This is made possible through the generosity of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association.

Lorena Landeros’ Moving Language

When we were reading submissions for our July show, we couldn’t get these lines out of our head: “I spell colour with a u because I’m worried I’ll seem simple if I don’t. He uses words like ain’t, because he can.” Lorena Landeros’ “Moving Parts” is rich in language and lovely in its detail. We’re really looking forward to performing it this Tuesday at San Jose’s St. James Park.

Lorena Landeros
Lorena Landeros

Lorena is a writer, photographer, wanderlust. She taught Middle School English and Special Education in the South Bronx, and is currently a program director for an arts education organization in San Francisco. Her classroom experience and deep love of the arts compel her to work towards social justice and educational equity. She earned a B.A. in English from San Francisco State University, an Ed.M from Hunter College, and is a Teach for America alumnus.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
I met Julia in a writing lab and was always moved by her words and work, and thus inspiration struck.

Which writers or performers inspire you?
These lists are always incomplete. Junot Diaz, Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros, Michael McCourt, Charlie Kaufman, and Alan Ball open up my heart. But there are so many more.

I was so lucky to behold Philip Seymour Hoffman as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.
Woman Hollering Creek was the first book that gave me permission to tell my stories, and write in mixed languages.

This is made possible through the generosity of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association.

Marilyn Horn-Fahey Digs Deep

We love flash fiction–which is why we love the work of Marilyn Horn-Fahey. We hope you’ll join us next Tuesday at San Jose’s St. James Park, where we’ll be producing two of Marilyn’s short pieces, “April in Paris” and “Snake,” alongside a number of local writers.

Marilyn Horn-Fahey
Marilyn Horn-Fahey

Marilyn is an LA native and a graduate of Cal State Long Beach. She now lives in Silicon Valley, where she works as a tech editor and worries about smart machines taking over the world. Her short stories have appeared in Marathon Review, Blotterature and NonBinary Review, among others, and she also presents at San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum from time to time. When not tied to the computer, she is either sitting in traffic, cleaning up after her children, or looking for her keys.

Upcoming projects:
San Jose’s very own Thinking Ink Press will publish a collection of my short stories later in 2015.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
I knew I wanted to be included in a POW performance as soon as I heard about POW from Lita Kurth. What a brilliant concept. POW is such a gift to writers. We offer you our words, and then you spin your magic and offer them back again — it’s a win-win all around!

Which writers or performers inspire you?
I’m most inspired by the writers I know. When I don’t feel like writing, or when I’m feeling scared about digging deeper into what I’m writing, I think about my writer friends, knowing that they’ve gone through the same thing and yet have kept on writing. So that spurs me on. They’ve also taught me that the writing process itself is important — offering the world your own brand of craziness and weirdness and self-doubt is extremely satisfying, and also it’s very important but I can’t say exactly why. Maybe just so others with the same craziness etc. will know they aren’t alone.

Name a performance that fundamentally affected you.
My daughter took ice skating lessons when she was 10 years old. At the end of the session she had to give a solo performance of all she’d learned. She skated out to the starting point and promptly fell on her butt. I could tell she was mortified but she kept her cool and performed her routine without a hitch. When she got off the ice she cried and was miserable but a few minutes later she found out she won first place. That day has always stayed with me, and sometimes when I’m feeling down I remember her perseverance and grace and willingness to just keep going.

This is made possible through the generosity of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association.

Andrew Tucker, We Heart You

Ladies and gents, we’re thrilled to present the work of Andrew Tucker next Tuesday, July 14, at our Words & Music show in San Jose’s St. James Park. Andrew has been a core part of the POW community since our founding; he is the brilliant soul who designed our logo and all of our flyers. We’re really excited to perform his piece, “A Pessimistic Reading of a Journey Hit: ‘Don’t. Stop Believin.’” Also–he has fiction hot off the presses this week at the Rumpus–check it out!

Andrew lives and writes in San Jose, California, where he received his MFA in fiction and screenwriting from San Jose State University. He has served as the Managing Editor of Reed Magazine. He has been awarded the James D. Phelan award for short fiction above and below 2,000 words, as well as the Lois King Thore Short Story Scholarship.

When he isn’t writing, Andrew spends his time playing death metal, fussing over craft beer, and working as a tech writer and graphic designer.

Andrew Tucker
Andrew Tucker

Publications, Honors or Awards:

James D. Phelan award for short fiction (both above 2,000 words and below). Lois King Thore Short Story Scholarship. Fourth place for feature screenplay in the CSU Media Arts Festival.

Upcoming projects:

I’m always designing new nerdy t-shirts, so keep your eyes peeled for fresh designs at www.teepublic.com/user/designsbydrew.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I was introduced to Play on Words by Nicole Hughes and have been encouraged by countless others to submit my work. After seeing the shows, I knew I had to write a piece that would fit into the program!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

The list is never-ending, but lately I’ve been really inspired by Pete Holmes and his podcast You Made It Weird. I’m also inspired by writers like Sarah Rogers, Sage Curtis, Jesse Mardian, Jessy Goodman, and Jeff Heid (and I’m sorry if I neglected to list anyone); each of these people is a friend whose success in writing has pushed me to be a better writer myself.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I remember seeing Kevin Smith speak on several panels at San Diego Comic Con back in 2007. His wit and his ability to speak so clearly about his process and his goals really inspired me to follow in his footsteps.

Our July show is made possible through the generosity of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association.

Introducing Allie Costa

Our next show is less than a week away! Get ready.

Next Tuesday, July 14, we’ll be performing in San Jose’s St. James Park as part of the Summer in St. James Park series, sponsored by the San Jose Parks Foundation. This event is made possible through the generosity of The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association. RSVP on our Facebook page to learn more!

We’re thrilled to introduce some new writers to our series next Tuesday. First up is the lovely Allie Costa, author of “Glitter and Smoke.” Allie is an actress, singer, writer, and director. Her original screenplays and stage plays include Femme Noir, Who She Could Have Been, and Can You Keep a Secret? As an actress, her theatre credits include Spring Awakening, Anything Goes, and Hamlet, and her film/TV credits include 90210, Unusual Suspects, and You Me & Her. She’s currently playing Annie in the world premiere of Alien vs. Musical in Hollywood.

Allie Costa
Allie Costa

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I’ve always loved word play, so when I saw the submission opportunity for an organization called Play On Words, I had to learn more about it!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Christopher Golden. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Jonatha Brooke. Brooke Fraser.  Cary Grant. Gene Kelly. Barbara Stanwyck. Jack Lemmon. And so many more.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

When I was little, I saw a version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with a brunette Alice and realized that I could play that part, too.

Publications, Honors & Awards:

Little Swan, a Pas de Deux named Best of PlayGround-LA and subsequently published and available for licensing; has been staged in Los Angeles, Chicago, and London
Who She Could Have Been LBDI Semi-Finalist; produced at Black Rabbit Theatre in Canada
Femme Noir selected for GLO 2014, produced by multiple theatres in Los Angeles, readings in New York, upcoming production in D.C.
Can You Keep a Secret? 10 by 10 in the Triangle Semi-Finalist
Tofurkey Day produced in Los Angeles and Chicago, with additional readings in LA and London; named Best of Fest at Girl Play Festival in Florida; finalist for Shorties 2015

Upcoming projects:

On July 31st, Allie’s play Two Girls will be performed at the Clear Lines Festival in London. Learn more here. 

On August 2nd, Little Swan, a Pas de Deux will be performed at The Public House Theatre​ in Chicago as part of Echoes of…, a festival produced by 906 Theatre Company​. Get the details.

Prodigal Daughter, Part-Time, and Altared State will have staged readings at Cabrillo Playhouse in San Clemente, California on August 22nd.

Femme Noir will be produced by Silver Spring Stage August 20th-23rd.

The Intervention Will Be Televised will have a reading at Drama West in Los Angeles on August 29th.

Music of the Mind will be produced in Los Angeles September 3rd-25th as part of the Unknown Artists New Play Festival.

Brian Van Winkle’s “Audition”

As we read submissions and gear up for our July 14 show in St. James Park, we’re “auditioning” new material to see how it will sound when performed aloud. It only makes sense to conclude our Take Flight series with this final short play by Brian Van Winkle, aptly titled “Audition”:

Thanks to Michael Weiland, Melinda Marks, Julia Halprin Jackson, and guest “singers” Ryan Alpers, Adam Magill and Brian himself.

We hope to announce our lineup for the July show in the next week, so stay tuned!

Tiffany Edwards & the Art of Cardio Tai Chi

Have you ever taken a college P.E. class? How about tai chi–cardio tai chi? In case you missed it, here’s the lovely Tiffany Edwards reading “Cardio Tai Chi” by Sarah Lyn Rogers June 3 at Cafe Stritch:

We welcome any practitioners of cardio tai chi to perform alongside our public reading on July 14 in San Jose’s St. James Park. Stay tuned for the details!