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.
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Happy “Birthday” Valerie

Childbirth is a personal and particular experience–one that every mother could describe in a thousand different ways. Valerie Singer’s poem “Birthday” describes the vulnerability, humor, exhaustion and love that one mother experiences giving birth to her third child. We can’t wait to perform this lovely piece on Wednesday at Play On Words: New Horizons.

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Valerie Singer

Valerie is a San Jose native and was raised by literature-loving parents and educated by cool, hippie nuns. A graduate of UC Davis, she earned both a BA in history and a multiple subject teaching credential.  Valerie has performed in local theater since forever, where she has met many wonderful artists, including her husband of 22 years, Matt. She stays up far too late in bed writing on her iPad, but she loves writing too much to stop. She claims that she has no publications, honors or awards, but is quite proud of the “World’s Greatest Mom” coffee mug presented to her by her kids. She will be performing in “Shakespeare’s Most Wanted” with Silicon Valley Shakespeare April 27 – 29. 

Valerie answered a few questions for us in advance of our April 11 show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I know Melinda and some of the past performers through local theater.  I’d watched some performances and love the patchwork beauty of the evening. Each piece is always so distinct but juxtaposes so nicely. It’s exciting to see word-based art in San Jose. Life in Silicon Valley is so insanely fast-paced-go-go-go that it’s a blessing to have a venue where people can sit down, relax, enjoy the exchange of the spoken word and practice active listening.  I’d just written some poems when I saw the POW call for submissions on Facebook and I decided 2018 was the time to get one of my works out of my iPad and into the world. I’m thrilled to have one of my poems performed!

Which writers or performers inspire you?

Oh, so, so many! Toni Morrison, Katherine Anne Porter, Thomas Wolfe, Michele Serros, John Nichols, Steinbeck…there’s a lot more.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Elizabeth Coatsworth’s The Cat Who Went To Heaven. It was the first book that made me cry. I was in the first grade and I burst into tears in my room after reading it. My mom came running upstairs because she thought one of my siblings had hit me. When she realized what had really happened, she turned it into a nice teachable moment about the power of storytelling. I was hooked.  I wrote my first story “A Stranger In The Field” shortly after.

Want more Valerie? Join us Wednesday at Cafe Stritch

Anjela Villarreal Ratliff’s Letter to Spanish

While reading submissions for our New Horizons show, we were delighted to come across the work of poet Anjela Villarreal Ratliff. Anjela’s poems explore a personal relationship with language and tell stories with every line. We’re looking forward to performing her poem “Dear español” April 11 at Cafe Stritch.

 

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Anjela Villareal Ratliff

Anjela is a graduate of San Jose State University. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Texas Poetry Calendar, Australian Latino Press, Chachalaca Review, Boundless, Pilgrimage Magazine, riverSedge: A Journal of Art and Literature; Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems; Latinas: Protests and Struggles in the 21st Century USA; and is forthcoming in Southwestern American LiteratureWomen in the Southwest: From the Frontier to the Frontline; and Poems for the Tricentennial – A Poetic Legacy. She is also a creative writing workshop presenter. A native Tejana, Anjela was six months old when her migrant family moved to southern California where she was raised. She has lived in Austin, Texas, since 1990.

Anjela has published several poetry chapbooks, including Jardín de Poesía and Entre Piedra y Sol. Some of her chapbooks have been archived at the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas in Austin, and at Michigan State University Libraries Special Collections. Her poem, “Merged Mundos,” was a winner in the San Antonio Tricentennial Poetry Contest. Her poem, “I Exist,” was animated by Francesca Talenti. Her short story, “In My Classroom,” was published in Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul. Several of her poems were winners of the Poetry With Wheels contest, for the Austin Metro area. Anjela was also editor for the Austin Poetry Society’s MuseLetter. Her artistic photos have been published in Pilgrimage and the San Pedro River Review. She was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself for us.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

I saw the recent call for submissions by Play on Words posted on Facebook; and since I am a former graduate of San Jose State University, it perked my interest right away. I was delighted by the idea that readers and performers from the San Jose area would be reading the selected works.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I have been very inspired by numerous well-known poets, including Carmen Tafolla, Naomi Shihab Nye, Benjamin Alire Saenz, David Hernandez, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, Sylvia Plath, Pablo Neruda, and Octavio Paz, to name just a few. I am continually inspired by the poetry of several talented Austin poets I am privileged to know personally: Gloria Amescua, Lydia Armendáriz, Liliana Valenzuela, and Celeste Guzman Mendoza.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

I very much enjoy the performances by the gifted and multitalented, world-renowned poet/writer/performer, Dr. Carmen Tafolla, the 2012-2014 Poet Laureate of San Antonio, and Poet Laureate of Texas for 2015-2016. One of her earlier collections of poetry and prose, Sonnets to Human Beings and Other Selected Works, is one of my all time favorites by the Latina poet. She also performs a one-woman storytelling act, with an array of great characters, including “Tia Maria.” Every time I see her perform her literary works, I come away inspired and deeply moved.

Intrigued? Join us at 7 pm next Wednesday, April 11 at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch to see her work performed aloud.

Arcadia Conrad reads April Halprin Wayland

Today we share our final video from our January 17 show at Cafe Stritch: the inimitable Arcadia Conrad reading two poems by award-winning writer, activist and educator April Halprin Wayland. It was important for us to close our Activists Unite show on hopeful note–to show that though some struggles for justice take generations to gain traction, the legacy of the fight endures.

Many thanks to the many artists, writers and activists who made our January 17 show possible. We are grateful to you for loaning us your words and your talent–and we hope you submit this week to our April 11 show!

Anyone interested in purchasing Activate, our new chapbook produced in partnership with Lita Kurth, Tania Martin, Maria Judnick and Peter Caravalho, may place an order here.

And finally, to all our fellow activists: We’re here to carry your sign.

Melinda Marks reads Cindy Stewart-Rinier

When we were planning the lineup for our January 17 show, we staged our pieces in an intentional chronological order. The idea? To show how different generations of activists have grappled with some of the same big questions, year after year, campaign after campaign, president after president. Melinda Marks was proud to perform Cindy Stewart-Rinier’s “Under Trump, No Good Deed,” a poem particularly suited to today’s world:

Hard as it can be to grapple with the challenges of today’s world, we’re glad to promote artists whose work we feel offers a little respite, a little tiny dagger of truth, a gasp of hope in a changing environment. Cindy’s poem is included in our new chapbook, Activate, which you can order here.

We’re still looking for short stories, poems, and plays under 1500 words for our April 11 show. Got something you’re proud of? Send it along as an attachment to playonwordssj@gmail.com.

Michael Weiland reads Ken Weisner

Sometimes nothing is funnier than repeating the words “Dick Cheney.” The amazing Michael Weiland proved that by reading Ken Weisner’s comic poem, “Ghazal,” at our Activists Unite show at Cafe Stritch. Couldn’t make it? Check out Michael’s performance below:

Ken recited some poems and read his own work last week at DeAnza’s Euphrat Museum during our chapbook launch party. Want to get your hands on our beautiful new book, designed by Peter Caravalho of Black Kites Press and produced in partnership with the Flash Fiction Forum? Fill out our order form to purchase your own copy!

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Ken Weisner read at Euphrat Museum on February 28

We’re currently reading submissions for our April 11 show at Cafe Stritch–and we need more work! Submit your poems, short stories, and works of theater to us at playonwordssj@gmail.com. Please note we cap submissions at 1500 words.

Laurel Brittan reads Faisal Mohyuddin

What did you eat for breakfast on November 9, 2016, the day after the presidential election? The subject of Faisal Mohyuddin’s poem makes a pretty clear statement: Sometimes you just need pie.

In case you missed her fabulous performance at Cafe Stritch in January, please check out the talented Laurel Brittan performing Mohyuddin’s poem, which was originally published on The Rumpus:

This powerful poem is included in our forthcoming chapbook, Activate, which we will have in hand this Wednesday, February 28, at a special reading at DeAnza College’s Euphrat Museum. Join us from 5-7 pm to hear a number of talented contributors read their work–and preorder your own copy!

Ivette Deltoro reads work by Christine Stoddard

While reviewing submissions for our chapbook, Activate, we were struck by the poem “Thirty Pounds in Three Months” by Christine Stoddard. We have been on the lookout for work that reflects the anxiety and challenges of today’s political environment, and Stoddard’s piece sheds light on a reality that many people living in the United States face. We were lucky enough to have the amazing Ivette Deltoro read this live at our Activists Unite show on January 17:

You can hear Ivette reflecting on this performance in our latest episode of the Play On Words POWer Half Hour. We also recommend joining her this weekend at San Jose’s City Lights Theatre for “boom,” a play by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. This show represents the hard work of the inaugural Mini Lights Emerging Artists program, which offers experience to up-and-coming theatre professionals.

And because this wouldn’t be a POW blog post without a call for submissions, we want to remind all our faithful fans and friends to submit original fiction, nonfiction, poetry and theatre to playonwordssj@gmail.com by March 10 to be considered for our next show.

 

April Reclaims America

We are excited to promote the work of writers whose art intersects with activism. Children’s book writer and poet April Halprin Wayland is one such unicorn. April is the author of seven books, including More Than Enough—a Passover Story (Dial) which has been praised by the New York Times, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly; the gold medal-winning picture book, New Year at the Pier—a Rosh Hashanah Story (Dial), and the award-winning novel in poems, Girl Coming in for a Landing (Knopf). She was named UCLA Extension Writers’ Program Outstanding Instructor of the Year, where she has been teaching since 1999. When she is not writing, April plays the fiddle, hikes with her dog, and helps people vote. She blogs at TeachingAuthors.com and is the co-founder of www.AIforC.org, a progressive PAC of 1200 published children’s authors and illustrators.

We can’t wait to perform two of her poems. “My Arms Are Tired,” and “So This is How You Felt” at our Activists Unite show next Wednesday at San Jose’s Cafe Stritch. Her poem “My Arms Are Tired” will appear in Activate, the chapbook we are producing in conjunction with San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum.

Recent publications, honors or awards:

UCLA Extension Writers’ Program’s Outstanding Instructor in Creative Writing

For the book New Year at the Pier (Dial):
The Sydney Taylor Gold Medal for Younger Readers (best Jewish picture book of the year)
starred review in Publishers Weekly 
Tablet Magazine’s Best Book of the Year

For the book Girl Coming in for a Landing, a novel in poems (Dial):

  • The Myra Cohn Livingston Award for poetry given by the Children’s Literature  Council of Southern California.  
  • Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor Book for Children’s Poetry, presented by the College of Education and the University Libraries at Penn State University and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book.   
  • A Junior Library Guild Selection.
  • Nominated for a Best Book of the Year for Young Adults by the American Library Association (ALA)
  • Nominated for the ALA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers

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Six-time winner of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Magazine Merit Award for Poetry
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April’s album, IT’S NOT MY TURN TO LOOK FOR GRANDMA AND OTHER STORIES (which includes five stories, seventeen poems and a fiddle tune) won the National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Gold Medal for Storytelling.
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8-2017 AHW with BE KIND sign after rally in solidarity with Charlottesville 8-2017
April Halprin Wayland

April’s upcoming projects:

Reclaiming our country.  

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
The dynamite energy of Play on Words and the topic.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

singer/song writer:
Joni Mitchell ~ the poetry of her lyrics changed my life

performance:
Hamilton ~ for it’s audacity and raw energy and crazy-wonderful word choices

books:
Recent: Train I Ride by Paul Mosier, a beautifully crafted, highly original middle grade novel.

My all-time favorite picture book: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, which at its core is about being resourceful. This book gave me permission to draw my own world and then step inside it.

As the writer Nikos Kazantzakis said, “You have your brush, you have your colors, you paint paradise, then in you go.

 

Want to see April’s work performed live? Join us on Wednesday, January 17, for Activists Unite at Cafe Stritch.