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!

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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! 

Deadline Extended to October 15

Call for Submissions Alternate DE

Good news, Playonwordsians: We are extending the deadline for the chapbook that we are producing in conjunction with the fabulous Flash Fiction Forum. You’ve got until October 15 to send 500 words of fiction, nonfiction, poetry or theatre to activistchapbook@gmail.com.

Not sure where to start? Here’s a brief recap of recent headlines that might trigger a response:

  • Last week, Trump announced that he plans to rescind the DACA program, which will affect approximately 800,000 students and their families who are working and studying legally in the United States.
  • Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma displace thousands of families, many of whom may have been previously displaced by Katrina in 2005.
  • Charlottesville–August 12, 2017, and the rise of neo-Nazism.
  • Trump’s July announcement to ban transgender citizens from serving in the military.

There are lots of ways to resist and show solidarity with communities whose livelihoods and basic civil rights are at risk. We’re hoping to provide a platform for writers to speak up and speak out.

We look forward to reading your work.

Call for Submissions: Activist Chapbook

Attention poets, playwrights, and other creative writers!

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Community activists from Play on Words and Flash Fiction Forum are producing a chapbook and want your fiction, poetry, works of theater and creative nonfiction work about activism.

Specifically, we’re interested in the complexities of activism (humorous, tragic, inspiring, or all three), situations that call for activism, pitfalls and rewards of activism, and above all, the personal, unexpected, and inexplicable. We’re interested in stories that move but don’t preach, and shed light on communities or causes that may not make it to the news every day. Help us prove that our words matter–perhaps now more than ever.

In addition to publishing a chapbook in collaboration with Flash Fiction Forum, Play On Words will select a number of the accepted pieces for a corresponding performance in early 2018.

GUIDELINES FOR SUBMISSION:

  • Deadline for submission is August 31, 2017.
  • Please limit submissions to 500 words.
  • Email submissions to activistchapbook@gmail.com

ATTENTION ARTISTS:

  • We are also seeking black and white artwork that speaks to these themes. Submissions can be emailed to activistchapbook@gmail.com. 

 

Join Us Tonight in Person…Or On YouTube

The rain might be coming, San Jose, but you know what else is? New Year Nouveau, our first show of 2016. We’re delighted to share our lineup for tonight’s performance, which starts at 7pm at Cafe Stritch:

POWprefinal (1)
ACT ONE:
“Not the Madonna” – Allison Landa, read by Nita Lambert
“Suck it Up” – Tania Martin, read by Ivette Deltoro
“Indra’s Low Sodium-Oxide Streetlights” by Gary Singh, read by Ryan Alpers
“Land of the Thunder Dragon” – Sarah Lyn Rogers, read by Ivette Deltoro
“Van Tribe: Free Medical” – Rick Alpers, read by Brian Van Winkle

“Compassion: the Essence of Nursing” – Lita Kurth, read by Melinda Marks
“A Girl in Pink” – Christine Keating, read by Taylor Sanders, Alex Draa, Brian Van Winkle and Ryan Alpers

INTERMISSION
ACT TWO
“The Night Subway Crawl” – Pratibha Kelapure, read by Taylor Sanders
“Collectibles” – Betsy Miller, read by Melinda Marks
“Neighbor” – Marilyn Horn-Fahey, read by Jeremy Ryan
“The Golden Beauty of Carlina Johansen” – Keiko O’Leary, read by Alex Draa
“Van Tribe: Dudley & Donnie” – Rick Alpers, read by Brian Van Winkle
“End of Time” – Freya Seeburger (Cellista), read by Julia Halprin Jackson and Ryan Alpers
“Fabulous Water Sports” – Roy Proctor, read by Jeremy Ryan and Ryan Alpers
For our online fans and friends around the world, we invite you to tune in to our live-stream channel, provided courtesy of the fabulous online and print magazine South Bay Pulse, at 7pm Pacific Standard Time. Intrigued? It’s easy as one, two, click:
South Bay Pulse  was founded by journalists and graduate students at San Jose State University. Not only do they write great stories–they’ve mastered the art of live-streaming events such as CineQuest, and their YouTube channel hosts all kinds of great content, such as lectures from the Santa Cruz Music Festival, the SubZERO Festival, and interviews with Silicon Valley Artists. We’re delighted to be working with them on New Year Nouveau.
Bottom line: you’ve got no excuse to miss out on all the greatness that is headed your way. We can’t wait to share the work of our writers and artists. Grab a specialty cocktail at Cafe Stritch’s great bar, try out their spicy macaroni and cheese, drop us a few bucks at the door and prepare yourself for New Year Nouveau. See you there.

Cellista and the “End of Time”

What do you get when you combine classical music, community organizing, a real passion for the arts, and savvy business sense? In a word: Cellista, also known as Freya Seeburger. Fans of San Jose’s The Commons might have seen this remarkable cellist performing downtown over the last few years–or gracing the stage at SubZERO fest, South First Fridays, and any number of venues in the Bay Area and beyond. This week we are delighted to share an excerpt of Cellista’s latest work, an introduction to “The End of Time,” a piece that was originally performed in a World War II prisoner of war camp–and one that she will be performing, alongside the Juxtapositions ensemble, this spring in San Jose’s Anno Domini gallery. We hope you can join us this Wednesday at Cafe Stritch for New Year Nouveau to see her monologue performed live.

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Cellista

Since moving to downtown San Jose, California in 2010, Cellista has been actively involved in SJ’s vibrant arts scene as a performer as well as arts enabler both participating in and organizing community-based projects. Her arts-based company Juxtapositions reflects her love of San Jose and the entire Bay Area. Cellista aims to foster new audiences, and stages for the arts by presenting performances that promote inter-arts collaboration, innovative programming, and community dialogues facilitated by artists themselves.

Cellista is a noted performer.  She has recorded and performed with independent rock, hip hop, and classical groups including Van Dyke Parks, The Awesöme Orchestra Collective, Grammy-nominated artist Tanya Donelly, and The Coup (as a member of Classical Revolution) as well as Casey Cresenzo of The Dear Hunter.

Cellista’s penchant for performing music in unconventional spaces, and her devotion to collaborating with artists across mediums has led her to create unique performances that incorporate elements of classical music, improvisation, and visual art.

Her debut solo album Finding San Jose will be released in Fall of 2016.

Publications, Honors or Awards:

Cellista’s musicological research writing, focused on interdisciplinary topics in music, including French composer Olivier Messiaen’s “Quatuor pour la fin du Temps,” earned her a panelist position at the 4th annual College of Liberal Arts Graduate Student Symposium (CLAGS) at the University of Nevada, Reno, as well as SFSU’s “Otey” award for research writing.  In April of 2015, she presented her paper, “The End of Time,” as an invited speaker at the University of Calgary’s graduate music symposium.

She is the recipient of the Nagel’s scholarship and a Bell Foundation grant awardee.

She is a recently appointed member of the San Jose Arts Commission.

She studies with cellist Jennifer Culp (SFCM, Kronos Quartet), and members of the Alexander String Quartet.

Upcoming projects:

I will be performing Messiaen’s “The End of Time” with the Juxtapositions ensemble on February 20, March 12 and 13 at Anno Domini gallery in San Jose. As part of this unique installation, I proposed the idea of creating artwork inspired by Messiaen to the artist Barron Storey. His work will be on display  at Anno Domini starting February 5. You can join us for the opening on February 5 or click here to buy tickets for our February 20, March 12 and 13 performances.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

Julia is my rad neighbor.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Anais Nin’s life was a performance that inspires me. Ferlinghetti. The writers of the Harlem Renaissance.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Illuminations by Rimbaud opened the gateway for some pretty angsty teen years and a whole life of good art making.

Want to join the conversation? Sign up for our new email newsletter, RSVP for our January 6 show, tweet us, catch up on Instagram…and if you see us in San Jose we’ll usually accept a high five.

As a reminder, our January 6 show will be collecting $5 donations at the door. We also will be live-streaming this show with South Bay Pulse–stay tuned to learn more!

Sarah Lyn Rogers in the Land of Dragons

So, Sarah Lyn Rogers might have moved to Bhutan, but in our minds, she will always be a San Jose writer. You might recognize her work from previous POW shows–and you’ll be lucky to catch an excerpt of her essay, “Land of the Thunder Dragon: Expectations vs. Reality,” at New Year Nouveau on January 6 at Cafe Stritch.

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Sarah Lyn Rogers

Sarah is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area and currently lives in Thimphu, Bhutan. Over the past months, Sarah has grown accustomed to walking with cattle, meeting royalty, and writing poems about spells, rituals, and magical objects. Her first chapbook will be published by Sad Spell Press this spring. She is stoked. When she’s not writing, Sarah is the fiction editor for The Rumpus. For more of Sarah’s writing, doodles, and life stuff, visit sarahlynrogers.com.

Recent Publications:

Five of my On the Road erasure poems were published semi-recently in Potluck Mag for their spooky Halloween week. They are viewable here.

 Upcoming projects:

One of my poems, “Drones,” will be published in the next issue of DMQ Review. A few of my illustrations and microblogs of Bhutan life will be in the premiere issue of galley, a new zine for which there is not yet a link. Mostly I’m stoked about my chapbook which will be released by Sad Spell Press, an imprint of Witch Craft Magazine.

 What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I’ve said this one before in a different way, but my Bay Area friends are a crisscrossing community of writers and performers. How could I not get tangled up in this?

 Which writers or performers inspire you?

I know I’m like five years behind here, but I recently discovered Tavi Gevinson, a nineteen-year-old powerhouse who shot to internet fame for her fashion blog at the tender age of twelve and is now a successful actress, model, and editor-in-chief of Rookie Mag. I like that she’s unapologetic about being girly and legitimizes the real questions and frustrations of being a teenage girl in her magazine by and for teenage girls.

Working in writing and publishing, for me, has made me think twice about how feminine I’m “allowed” to be in my work and public persona, and how much I’m “allowed” to write about feelings. I liked having my perspective smacked around a little by discovering someone who is successful because of—not in spite of—her femininity.

 Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Madness, Rack, and Honey is an amazing book by poet Mary Ruefle. It’s a collection of essays, ostensibly about poetry, that’s really a curio cabinet of strange facts, quotations, and observations—food for writing-thought. I was delighted enough by the just intro to push my face into the spine and press the pages against my cheeks.

Allison Landa is “Not the Madonna”

At Play On Words, we love meeting fellow Bay Area writers, so we were delighted to receive a wonderful submission by Allison Landa. Join us January 6 at Cafe Stritch to see an excerpt of “Not the Madonna” performed live!

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Allison Landa

Allison is a Berkeley-based writer of fiction and memoir. A graduate of St. Mary’s College’s MFA program in creative writing, Landa’s work has been featured in Salon Magazine, You and Me Magazine, Word Riot, Toasted Cheese and Defenestration, among other venues. She has taken the stage at events including Flash Fiction Forum, Why There Are Words, Lip Service West, Quiet Lightning and Porchlight SF. She is represented by Miriam Altshuler of DeFiore and Company and is currently revising her memoir into a young adult novel. She shares her home with her husband, son and two manic Labrador-Australian Shepherd mixes. Stalk her at allisonlanda.com.

Recent Publications:

  • Salon Magazine
  • CherryBleeds
  • Word Riot
  • Defenestration
  • You and Me Magazine
  • Toasted Cheese
  • Swill
  • Sparkle & Blink
  • Cease, Cows

Honors:

  • Finalist, SheWrites Passion Project
  • Nominee, Micro Award Contest

Awards:

  • Fellow, Mendocino Coast Writers Conference
  • Fellow, The MacDowell Colony
  • Fellow, Playa Summer Lake
  • Fellow, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts
  • Fellow, Julia and David White Artists’ Colony

Upcoming projects:

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

It’s an exciting opportunity to see my work interpreted in a new and fresh way. Also, I dig San Jose.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

In no particular order: Stephen King, Jackie Collins, Michel Houellebecq, T.C. Boyle, Spaulding Gray, Ann Packer, Persimmon Blackbridge, and likely you.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Gone with the Wind, both as a book and as a movie. Scarlett O’Hara rocks my world and has ever since I first read the book at 6 – yes, 6! – years old. I was kind of a weird kid. Not much has changed.

Sign up for our new email newsletter, RSVP for our January 6 show, tweet us, catch up on Instagram…and if you see us in San Jose we’ll usually accept a high five

As a reminder, our January 6 show will be collecting $5 donations at the door. We also will be live-streaming this show with South Bay Pulse–stay tuned to learn more!

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 http://valeriefioravanti.com/.