April 8, 2023
Katie Ka Vang in her one-woman show “Final Round” about living with and fighting cancer. (Photo by Rich Ryan Photography)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Hmong American playwright Katie Ka Vang will perform in a new solo show, “Final Round,” where she tells her personal, heartfelt story of living with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The new work by the acclaimed Minnesota theater artist to be performed Oct. 13 – 23, 2016 (Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.) at Dreamland Arts, 677 Hamline Ave. N., St Paul, Minn.

Set in a boxing ring, Katie Ka Vang punches and kicks her way through cancer while living with her family, planning a Hmong wedding and dreaming of eating ramen noodles again.

The creative team includes direction and dramaturgy by Zaraawar Mistry along with support crew Mike Wangen, Kenny Lee, Evelyn Moucheupao and Thao Vang.

Final Round will be performed in the round, with audiences on all sides of the performance as Katie Va Vang battles her cancer in a series of boxing rounds. She closes in on the cancer, her wedding and 100 days post bone marrow transplant.

Katie Ka Vang developed Final Round as a two-part project. Part 1, the solo show at Dreamland Arts, will include an interactive art installation that invites audiences to contribute their own ideas and feelings about illness and the human body. Part 2 will be a performance installation with an ensemble cast to be performed in a site specific location in Saint Paul, Minn. The art installation from Part 1 will be used to inform the creation of Part 2.

“I’ve been wanting to share my experiences with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and my understanding of healing as a Hmong American woman,” Katie Ka Vang said. “The best thing about being an artist is exploring facets of my emotional truths and transforming these experiences into art that is contemplative, yet entertaining, while speaking to my diverse communities.”

In 2012 Katie Ka Vang was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was in remission for almost 2 and a half years. She then relapsed and had a bone marrow transplant.

In the fall of 2015 Katie’s oncologist recommended she start procedures for a second transplant, but she opted out and decided to try a naturopathic treatment. The mass grew. After many unsuccessful treatments she received a bone marrow donation from her sister in April 2016.

During the last several years of battling cancer, Katie started and finished grad school on the east coast, went to London (Royal Court Theatre) as a recipient of the International Writer’s Residency program, went to Los Angeles (for a friend’s wedding), got through some rocky relationships, lost some relationships (all for the better), strengthened some old ones, made some new relationships, learned to box, and got married.

Katie Ka Vang is a Hmong American playwright and theatre artist with an MFA in Playwriting from Brown University. She has been described as a “dynamic performer and relentless writer of truth.” She has performed for Pangea World Theater (as ensemble member), Theatre Mu, Pillsbury House Theatre, Exposed Brick Theatre, Ordway Center for Performing Arts, Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, and the Walker Art Center. She has self-released a collection of poetry and prose called Never Said.

Her work has been published in Saint Paul Almanac, Bakka Mag., Asian American Press, BlueFifth Magazine and Voices from the Asian American Experience. She is a recipient of a 2016 Knight Arts Challenge Award. She received an international playwright’s residency at The Royal Court Theatre in London. She’s received grants from the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and The National Performance Network’s Creation Fund and Forth Fund.

Her commissioned performances and plays include wtf and Hmong Bollywood. Her work has been developed and produced at Theatre Mu, Pangea World Theatre, Out North Contemporary Art House, The Bushwick Starr, and Bedlam Theatre. She was a Naked Stages Fellow and created the performance, 5:1 Meaning of Freedom; 6:2 Use of Sharpening. She also received The Woman of The Year Award from The Amherst Wilder Foundation’s HWAT’s program for her play wtf.

Tickets are $15 and are on sale now at dreamlandarts.com.

Final Round has been supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight Arts Challenge, the Jerome Foundation, and Asian Adult Day Care.

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