MINNEAPOLIS — Pangea World Theater is proud to present Hmong Bollywood, an original one-woman performance created and performed by poet, performer and activist Katie Ka Vang, at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis, March 14 – 24.
The Vang family escaped war. Now, the “1.5-generation” Hmong American Katie Ka Vang finds herself trying to escape as well — leaving the realities of the American struggle, painful memories, fear and cancer behind her and dancing instead into the fantastical world of Bollywood — a place where everything wraps up with a happy, musical ending.
“A voice inside me thinks I can do anything through Bollywood,” Vang says. “The Hmong are indigenous people from China. We’re known for our survival skills — from fleeing wars and living in the jungles of Laos to enduring racism in small town Wisconsin. People ask me what it is to be Hmong. And often, I can’t explain because the Hmong seem not to have anything of their own. I used to see it as a bad thing, but I’ve shifted my thinking. It is not that nothing is ours, rather, everything we touch is ours. Our identity lies in adapting. My creative vision is to embody diasporic practices, borrowing from different cultures as well as my own, to create something new for me and the communities I belong to.”
Growing up in the California and Minnesota, Vang and her family spent hours watching the popular Indian Bollywood films with their extravagant plots, brilliant costumes, music and star crossed lovers. Hmong Bollywood explores how Bollywood gives Hmong Americans a way of engaging with forms of tradition different from their own. The performance blends creative non-fiction, broken prose, monologues, video installation, media art, Bollywood dance numbers and choreography based on Vang’s life’s movements.
Hmong Bollywood is directed and dramaturged by Meena Natarajan, Pangea World Theater’s Executive/Literary Director. It was commissioned by Pangea in 2008, and Vang performed the first full-length iteration as a work-in-progress as part of Pangea’s Alternate Visions Festival in 2010. Hmong Bollywood will be performed at OutNorth in Alaska in April and New Orleans later this year.
“As a South Asian who grew up in India and with Bollywood, I have been fascinated by why so many cultures here choose to engage with Bollywood, recreating the songs and dances in a language they do not understand,” says Natarajan. “Hmong Bollywood is a dynamic performance at the intersection of cultures. Like hip hop that has become transnational, Bollywood movies have a huge socio-economic impact on global culture, its various narratives and global beat echoes in multiple communities (Hmong, Somali etc.) here at home and globally. This powerful dichotomy between common threads and cultural specificity provides the tension in which Hmong Bollywood is performed. ”
Hmong Bollywood will run Thursdays – Sundays, March 14 – 24, 2013 at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave S., Minneapolis. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15, $12 (Students/Seniors/Groups 10+), Pay-What-You-Can on Thursdays. Purchase online at www.pangeaworldtheater.org or by calling 1-800-838-3006. The performances will be in English and Hmong.
Hmong Bollywood is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Pangea World Theater in partnership with OutNorth, Artspot and NPN. The Creation Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). More information: www.npnweb.org.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Legacy Amendment’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
Alternate Visions is a year-round program that gives playwrights of color an extended period of time writing and developing new plays, with the dramaturgical resources and support of Pangea World Theater. Alternate Visions provides participating artists with dramaturgy, workshops, and public readings to prepare their performances for main stage productions. Alternate Visions was funded by the Jerome Foundation.
Katie Ka Vang is a Hmong American interdisciplinary artist who is a performer, actor, poet, playwright, director and activist. She has performed for different theaters around the Twin Cities and co-wrote and directed the youth play Myth of Xee. She performed with Pangea World Theater in From The Ashes in New York City at the National Asian American Theater Festival. Katie created her first solo performance art piece 5:1 Meaning of Freedom; 6:2 Use of Sharpening for the Naked Stages program at Intermedia Arts. She has been awarded an Artist Initiative grant through the Minnesota State Arts Board to produce her first chapbook. Katie teaches creative drama to Hmong youth through ART SAVES US. She has read her work at The Loft Literary Center, at various public schools in the Twin Cities and regularly performs at Open Mic nights in the area.
Meena Natarajan has guided the artistic and administrative growth of Pangea World Theater as it Executive/Literary Director since 1995. Her scripts have been professionally produced both in India and the U.S. Natarajan has directedAmerican As Curry Pie at the History Theater and dramaturged and directedDraw Two Circles which was part of Naked Stages at Intermedia Arts and at Fresh Ink at the Illusion Theater and
The Body Project with Exposed Brick Theater Company. Her scripts have been professionally produced both in India and the U.S. Natarajan is on the board of the national National Performance Network and Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists. She has been the President of Women Playwrights International between 2000-2003 and is now on the advisory council. She has been awarded various Minnesota State Arts Board Career Opportunity grants, an Observership grant for Theater Communications Group, two Playwrights’ Center Cultural Collaboration Grant as well as the Many Voices grant. She was awarded the International Citizens Award by the Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in 2000. She has received a Special Recognition Award from the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights in 2005.
Pangea World Theater illuminates the human condition, celebrates cultural differences, and promotes human rights by creating and presenting international, multi-disciplinary theater. Since 1995, Pangea has worked to create and present new possibilities and new aesthetic realities for an increasingly diverse audience. The artistic direction evolves out of relevant shifts in the social, cultural, and political pulse of the communities in which we live and work. More at www.pangeaworldtheater.org.