Tag Archives: Storytelling

#FringeFemmes 2021 are Here! Meet M.J. Kang

By Constance Strickland

We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists from all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. This past year has reinforced what we have been doing at LAFPI – putting women of all kinds first! It is vital that we make space and open doors wider for women from all cultural backgrounds if we are to have a bold, forward thinking American Theatre that reflects America.

M.J. Kang s a five time Moth story slam queen who has built a career on turning her personal stories into performative works that remind us all what it means to be human. M.J. has had her work seen on PBS and Risk! Podcast. Her new solo show, THE WINNER,  is revealing, telling and reminds us all that facing our emotions will heal generations.

Constance: What do you hope audience members take away after experiencing your show?  

M.J.: I hope audiences come away with having felt a variety of emotions throughout the piece, have been fully engaged, entertained, laughed a great deal and,perhaps, even cried while watching this show. I am sharing who I am with the audiences and I hope they come away with understanding the experiences I’ve lived and can relate to them, identity with them, even if they look nothing like me. I hope they see the humanity of the experiences I’ve had that comes with always holding on to hope and seeing the positive in some tough situations when I don’t have the answers and I’m just trying my best.

Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?

M.J.:  My biggest challenge has been trusting myself that the process can be easy. The piece itself has been guided by structure and instinct – how the pieces fit together to create a show that is entertaining, funny, and deeply felt.

Constance: What are you enjoying most as you create your show?

M.J. Kang: How different people are affected by my words. I’ve been performing short pieces of my show in various story slams throughout the pandemic virtually, across the US, Canada and London, England. People are still having emotional responses to my words, which has been gratifying. I have enjoyed watching the Zoom boxes of people’s faces as they react and then vote for me to win and I have won quite a few slams:  5 Moth story slams, a Story Collider slam, National Storytellers Network slam and countless others this year. The whole year-long process of creating this piece has been rewarding in many ways – especially to see people’s reactions during a time when we weren’t able to have in-person performances.

Constance: And what has been the most surprising discovery?

M.J. Kang: The most surprising discovery is how easy it’s been to enlist my daughter to play the live music for The Winner. I truly appreciate her willingness to be part of the show and process. Her involvement adds so many wonderful elements to the production and live music creates an emotional ambiance that is irreplaceable.

Constance: The work will be given away soon – how does that feel?

M.J. Kang: I feel excited to be sharing my full piece to the Fringe audiences. Because I’ve been performing up to 40 minute versions of this piece in different iterations, I am very excited to see the response from a theater going audience. I am excited to be performing on an actual stage and not just in my bedroom against a wall. 

Constance: How long have you been sitting with this work? Why Fringe? Why this year?

M.J Kang: This piece is inspired by my life so I’ve been sitting with this work for my entire being. This piece is a huge reflection of the world I live in and my experiences, including what has happened to me this year. If I hadn’t lived this year, I would not be able to write this piece or perform it. It has immediacy and relevance through a lens of warm positivity. I find I need that in life – to remain positive and hopeful.

For more information on THE WINNER in #HFF21, visit  http://hff21.co/7052

Click Here For More “Women on the Fringe”

About a Chicana Falsa

by Zury Margarita Ruiz

I was introduced to her work in high school…

I’m not sure how it came about, but the folks at my high school decided that they wanted to have a cultural celebration of sorts. All 45 seniors and 20, or so, underclassmen at our little magnet high school were expected to participate in some capacity. While I was part of a Mexican folkloric dance group at that time, I had no intention of dancing in front of my entire school. As I’d mentioned in a previous post, there was very little fun I took from that endeavor. Additionally, I was still traumatized by the demands of peddling the “joy and skills you too can acquire” of accordion playing to my middle school classmates that I just wasn’t going to put myself out there like that anymore. Still, I was expected to participate.

Unsure of what to do, and with a day to go, my Spanish teacher (who was coordinating this whole ordeal) suggested that I read an excerpt of short story written by a Latin@ author. I hate to admit it but at the time I can’t say that I knew the work of very many Latin@ authors—call it a lack of awareness/exposure, ignorance, what have you, I was drawing blanks.  So my Spanish teacher handed me a few books from his desk and encouraged me to check them out, and from those few, I was immediately drawn to Michele Serros’ Chicana Falsa and Other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard.

Copy of Chicana Falsa

Chicana Falsa was a compact offering of non-fiction and poetry detailing Serros’ complex, comical grappling of her own identity. It was genuine, often times heartbreaking, and funny as hell. It was one of the first pieces of literature that I deeply connected to and made me feel seen. 

Michele Serros reading her work at Lollapalooza.

For our school celebration, I ended up selecting the story “Attention Shoppers”. It was a satirical piece that shows Serros being made aware of the notion that, even within supermarket aisles, discrimination was alive and well. This was proven to her by way of packaging styles for Malibu Style Vegetables vs. Latino Style Vegetables and the connotations each evokes.

“…. look at this, the Latino Style Vegetables are all spilling out of this wicker basket, all overflowing, messy like. Insinuating that we are overflowing, overcrowding what they think is their land. And what’s with this wicker basket?”  

Back in January I had the pleasure of visiting an exhibit at University Hall (Cal State University Chanel Islands) in honor of her life’s work.

I cried when I saw the exhibit.

Most everything that she’d been inspired by and written about was there— the desk her mother gifted her, journals, framed t-shirts, concert tickets, her skateboard…  it was overwhelming. Michele Serros’ work has meant so much to me for a very long time. I often think of her, her writing and the impact her artistic voice has had on me. She’s the writer whose work I most often go back and re-read. I love the familiarity. It feels like home.

I meant to post these photos a while back but it didn’t feel right then. I was writing about loss and it’s not what I wanted to do, especially in a week that already felt so sorrowful. I decided then that I would give it some time and wait until my next go-round on the blog to post them because surely the world would be in a different place from where it was at the time.

And we are, now, in a very different place.

But it feels right to remember the people, places and voices that bring us joy.

In fact, there’s no better time than now.

Ending and Beginning…

by Robin Byrd

A few weeks ago, I put some things on my “to do” list that I want to finish or start before the new year and took a look around at the space I am in (physical, mental, and creative). I have been here before at this crossroad but didn’t stay long enough to make tracks. This time I am already knee deep in the snow, climbing for the sake of sanity.

I see story in everything. It could be called a haunting but it’s what I live for. Unexpectantly, a coworker and I had a wonderful conversation about writing and how most everyone has at least one story in them. We talked about oral storytelling and the way it becomes theatrical if done right. ALAP (Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights) has an event called “In Our Own Voices” where the playwright must be the reader or one of the readers in 5 minutes of their work. I have participated twice and am always rejuvenated to the nth degree afterwards. This coworker is not a writer per se but stories are starting to peek out at him. I encouraged him to write them down.

I have work to do as well.

I have been torn between creating new work or tweaking old work but like reading my work aloud, creating new worlds and characters on the page is being reborn every time; it is flying high – up to meet the sun.

The end of this year finds me writing and reading and exploring new ways to hear my words out loud. How about you?

Have a happy and prosperous new year.