Jennie Webb asked me to write a blog post about this free workshop I’m teaching for the undocumented community at the Dream Resource Center. But I really have no time to craft an essay. Sooooo… In true solo performer form, I am interviewing myself about Undocustories: Journeys of Justice and Freedom which starts up on September 3.
What are the basics what, where, when?
UndocuStories: Journeys of Justice and Freedom is a twelve-week theater workshop facilitated by myself, Kristina Wong, with guest artists Yosimar Reyes and Kat Evasco! We engage in powerful conversations regarding issues impacting the undocumented immigrant community and transform those stories into an original theater piece for the public. Participants will learn skills in comedy writing, Theater of the Oppressed, movement, and performance. We meet once a week, Tuesdays from September 3- November 19. And our final show for the public is November 19. It’s all free! All meetings happen 6-8pm at the Dream Resource Center at the UCLA Labor Center in MacArthur Park. 675 Park View St. Sign up here.
The workshop is open to all! No prior experience with performance is necessary. Free dinner will be served at every workshop!
FREE workshop with free dinner? How the hell is such an amazing workshop free?
It’s supported by a generous Artist-in-Residence grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. The Dream Resource Center is our host venue and supports this project with staff support, outreach, food and helping with the curriculum.
You aren’t undocumented. Why are you teaching a workshop for the undocumented community, Kristina?
That’s right. I’m not undocumented but I am very conscious of my privilege in facilitating this space. I am a third generation Chinese American, and I have personally witnessed in my own family how much shame and secrecy there can be in immigrant communities. There’s always been a lot of misinformation about what rights immigrants have and that misinformation has been used to suppress immigrant communities from speaking out and advocating for themselves. I’ve seen how much fear there is to report injustice because of the fear of deportation or arrest. I’m also super sick about what’s happening to undocumented immigrant communities and especially to migrants being detained at our Southern border. Like many people, I want to change the conversation around immigration because the current narrative is literally being used to justify the heinous torture of immigrants. This workshop will hold space for folks to learn about these issues and also explore them in theater.
Is this workshop just for undocumented immigrants?
It’s meant specifically to serve folks who are undocumented but is open to everyone! Last year when I facilitated the workshop, we had participants who were undocumented, DACA recipients, permanent residents, folks who were part of mixed status families and allies. The workshop will specifically center the experiences of undocumented immigrants. Last year, our allies were really great about stepping up to support the storytelling of our undocumented participants and de-centering themselves when necessary to keep the focus of storytelling on the experiences of undocumented participants.
What happens at this workshop?
We meet once a week for twelve weeks. Every week we learn about a topic that specifically affects the undocumented community. These issues include things like “Know your Rights,” healthcare in undocumented communities and unaccompanied minors crossing the border. That information will come from Dream Resource Center staff or a guest speaker. Then we play theater games and exercises and we create some performance work incorporating the information we just learned.
The topic seems too depressing. What kind of work will we be making? Skits? Drama? Public Service Announcements?
The workshops are a mix of improv and sketch writing in this workshop. I also have training in Theater of the Oppressed, movement and writing autobiographical work. Our guest teaching artists are themselves undocumented and will teach poetry and personal narrative. I don’t dictate what the final show will look like, but I am responsible for guiding us there. Last year’s show was a combination of comedy sketches, poetry, movement work, first person testimonials and a cover of Vanilla’s Ice Ice Baby called “Abolish Ice Ice Baby.”
Is it ok if I’ve never performed before? What if I’m terrified of being in public?
This workshop is completely for folks who’ve never performed before and just want to learn. I find that folks who have no experience but the willingness to try new things are the most compelling performers. But also, seasoned performers and writers can join us. Come as you are and take what you will.
If someone is not “out” about being undocumented, is it safe for them to join?
Yes. Just let us know if you don’t want your name published on materials or if there are limits as to what you want to share with the group or publicly. We establish community rules at the top of each meeting so that everyone is on the same page about how to work together.
UndocuStories: Journeys of Justice and Freedom is held September 3 – November 19. Click Here for info and to sign up.
Kristina Wong is a performance artist, comedian, writer, and elected representative of
Koreatown. She facilitated previous Artist-in-Residence projects at the UCLA Labor Center, Los Angeles Community Action Network, and the Bus Riders Union. Her solo shows and plays have been presented across the US and internationally. Center Theatre Group honored her as the 2019 Sherwood Award recipient for her exceptional contribution to the Los Angeles theatre landscape and her work as an innovative and adventurous artist. www.kristinawong.com