Laurel Brittan reads Christina Shon’s “Bleeding Heart”

What stories do our bodies tell? We really loved Laurel Brittan’s April 11th performance of “Bleeding Heart” by Christina Shon. Sometimes one’s journey to find love requires a detour in the OR:

Big thanks to the wonderful Laurel for loaning us her talent and to Christina for sharing her thoughtful, hilarious and poignant story.

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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.

Tania Martin
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.

christina
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.

Arcadia Conrad reads Lyra Halprin

Thank you to everyone who came out on January 17 for our Activists Unite show at Cafe Stritch! In case you missed it, we will be sharing highlights from the show on our blog over the next few weeks.

Today we are proud to share Arcadia Conrad performing Lyra Halprin‘s “Dressed For Success.”

Inspired? Stay tuned to learn about our forthcoming chapbook, Activate, which will be available for sale soon.

We are currently accepting work for our April 11th show at Cafe Stritch. Email works of fiction, nonfiction, theatre and poetry under 1500 words to playonwordssj@gmail.com by March 1.

Lyra Dresses for Success

Tonight’s the night! We are thrilled to be performing 10 original pieces inspired by activism to San Jose’s Cafe Stritch. We will be performing work in chronological order, starting with “Dressed for Success,” an excerpt of a memoir-in-progress by writer Lyra Halprin. We first performed Lyra’s work in July 2015, when her piece “Drive, She Said,” introduced us to the California highway in the late 1960s. We were drawn to the way she shares implicit messages about humanity by showing what it means to demonstrate at any age. For Lyra, to write about one’s family is in itself a political act. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself, her process and “Dressed for Success,” which will be included in Activate, our forthcoming chapbook.

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Lyra Halprin

Tell us about your writing.

 

I’m a former reporter and UC public information person now trying to harness my holy writing gears and transform essays and journal entries into a book about a girl growing up a feminist in California in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. My manuscript feels more urgent in the wake of the frightening political reality of the last year and the birth of my first granddaughter. I am reminded that members of my family perished in the Holocaust and family and friends were blacklisted during the McCarthy Era but I grew up in a vibrant activist household filled with hope and optimism. I want to share that with my daughter, son, granddaughter and other young people and show them that art, music and progressive action can thrive during chaotic political times. I believe the secret to staying happy in this crazy world is having a big humor gene, people you love and a soft dog.

Publications:

My commentaries have aired on NPR, Capital Public Radio, and KQED San Francisco, and appeared in newspapers, magazines and online venues.

A story about my dad and his art professor Chiura Obata was featured in the literary journal California Northern in Memoir: The Sequoia in the StormFamily, memory, and Chiura Obata’s art of resilience. Other stories have appeared in the Sacramento News and Review, and the Santa Monica Daily Press, including one in which I described growing up as Jewish child during a time when released-time religious education trailers were parked outside elementary schools and Nativity scenes were displayed in public parks. My commentary on NPR’s Day to Day described wearing my daughter’s insulin pump for a day.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I was thrilled to hear the focus of this show and chapbook was Activism, something near and dear to my heart. I want to share my enthusiasm and joy in the arts and how they can both thrive and produce change during times of oppression.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Doris Haddock, aka Granny D, whose walk across the country at the age of 88-90 to champion campaign finance reform inspires me daily. I was lucky enough to hear her speak about her journey and treasure her memoir, Granny D: You’re Never Too Old to Raise a Little Hell, in which she describes the beautiful landscape of our country as she tells the story of her life and the importance of citizen activism.

Gloria Steinem and her dogged pursuit of equality and social justice mixed with stories about life as a woman and how we help each other survive.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose book Between The World And Me reminded me of the honor and importance of writing to inspire our children.

Alexandra Fuller, whose memoir Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight showed me another way to put a story together.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I listened to the audiobook recording of The Book Thief and was floored again how art can move and inspire me. I hope the Flash Fiction/POW chapbook on activism does the same!

Join us at 7 pm at Cafe Stritch tonight to see Arcadia Conrad perform Lyra’s work live. Hope to see you there!

Tarn Wilson’s Father Refuses

One exciting trend emerged while we were reading submissions for our Activists Unite show: We noticed writers responding to similar themes regardless of era. Among our chapbook submissions we were excited to stumble across an excerpt of Tarn Wilson’s memoir, which included a 1968 letter that her father had written to his university administration. Keenan Flagg will be reading this letter, as well as her interpretation of it, tomorrow night at Cafe Stritch.

Tarn Wilson is the author of the memoir The Slow Farm (Ovenbird Books: Judith Kitchen Select, 2014) about her childhood with her hippy parents in the Canadian wilderness. Her essays appear in Brevity, Defunct, Gulf Stream, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, J Journal, River Teeth, Ruminate, South Loop Review, and The Sun, among others. She is a graduate of the Rainier Writing Workshop and a co-founder of Creator Schools, which offers writing courses for innovative Bay Area teens and adults. She is currently at work on a new memoir, How to Become the Second Most Popular Girl in the Sixth Grade.

She also directs and teaches at the Creator School. She shared some insight into this piece with us.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
It has been so inspiring poking around your website. What a fantastic gift you have given writers and the community! (And I’ve loved your performances I’ve seen.)  Thanks for all your efforts.

What inspired you to write “My Father Refuses to Attend his Commencement, May 1968”?
“My Father Refuses” is a letter I found after in some files after my father’s death. I love it because is so perfectly encapsulates the earnest, sometimes naive activism of ’60s. I find it both charming and maddening. I included it in my memoir the Slow Farm, about what it was like living with hippie parents in the wilds of British Columbia.

I am a local high school creative writing teacher.

tarn wilson

We hope you can join us tomorrow at Cafe Stritch to see her work performed–and to preorder our chapbook, Activate!