St. Paul, Minn. — Park Square Theatre resumes its 2019-2020 season with the world premiere production of “Face to Face: Hmong Women’s Experiences” from March 5-15 at Park Square Theatre, 20 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul, Minnesota.
The interview-based theater production is co-written and co-directed by Sara Zatz, who is the associate director of Ping Chong + Company, and Twin Cities theater artist Katie Ka Vang. The production features five local Hmong community members, all women, sharing their true stories on stage. The performers include Laurine Chang, Houa Moua, Pang Chai Xiong, Pang Foua Xiong and Cydi Ywj Siab Yang.
Told with humor, heart, and courage, the production addresses complex issues such as the history and arrival of the Hmong community in St. Paul, coming of age as a first-generation Hmong American, and finding your own voice and identity while balancing culture and family.
The project began in April 2019, followed by community info sessions, and an open call for participants started and continued through October. The script is created from extensive interviews conducted by Zatz and Vang with the five cast members, then woven together to tell performers’ individual experiences in a chronological narrative that connects the personal to the political, with final script approval maintained by the cast. Through their stories, the cast addresses topics including mental health and depression, bullying, domestic and sexual violence, gender identity, beauty standards and more.
The script is performed by the community interviewees themselves, not actors. The result is a highly theatrical and emotional story-telling experience; what Ping Chong + Company Artistic Director Ping Chong calls a “seated opera for the spoken word.”
FACE TO FACE is a partnership with the internationally renowned Ping Chong + Company, a New York leader in community-specific, interview-based theatre events. Written and directed by Sara Zatz and Katie Ka Vang, in collaboration with the performers, the project is part of Ping Chong + Company’s ongoing interview-based community–specific oral history theatre work, Undesirable Elements.
The Production team includes Sara Zatz (Co-writer/Co-director), Katie Ka Vang (Co-writer/Co-director) Maxwell Collyard (Video Designer) Shannon Elliott (Light Designer), Ashley Raper (Stage Manager) and Akiem Scott (Sound Designer).
The project received special funding from the Saint Paul Cultural STAR program, the Marbrook Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
ABOUT THE LEAD ARTISTS
Sara Zatz (Co-writer/Co-director) is the Associate Director of Ping Chong + Company where she oversees the company’s community engagement and training programs, and is the lead-artistic collaborator with Ping Chong on the interview-based Undesirable Elements series, exploring issues of culture and identity in the lives of individuals in specific communities. She is the writer and director of Secret Survivors, a work in a series which explores the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse. Recent productions include (Un)Conditional, with individuals living with chronic illness (Profile Theatre), Generation NYZ with NYC teens (New Victory Theater, La MaMa ETC), Undesirable Elements: Dearborn (Arab American National Museum), and Beyond Sacred: Voices of Muslim Identity (national touring). She has spoken and presented workshops on community-engaged theater at many conferences and universities. She lives in Jackson Heights, Queens with her family.
Katie Ka Vang (Co-writer/Co-director) is a Hmong American Theater Artist and Playwright. Her work explores the complexities of identity. Her plays include WTF, Hmong Bollywood, 5:1 Meaning of Freedom; 6:2 Use of Sharpening, Myth of Xee, Fast FWD Motions, In Quarantine, FINAL ROUND and Spirit Trust. Her work has been developed and produced at Theater Mu, Pillsbury House Theatre, CHAT, Bushwick Starr, Bedlam Theatre, Theatre Unbound, Walker Art Center, Out North Art House, Intermedia Arts, Northern Sparks, The Royal Court (London) and Brown University. She’s received support from The Jerome Foundation, Knight Foundation, National Performance Network, Metropolitan Region Arts Council, and Minnesota State Arts Board. She holds an MFA in Playwriting from Brown University.
ABOUT PING CHONG + COMPANY COMMUNITY PROJECTS
“Generating empathy, defying small-mindedness, this is an inherently political show that arrives at a time of fervently uncivil discourse [and] believes in the power of storytelling to create a stronger, kinder culture.” The New York Times
“…consistently powerful and eye-opening.” The Washington Post
Ping Chong + Company produces works addressing the important cultural and civic issues of our times, creating theater that crosses boundaries of identity, community, and form. Founded in 1975 by National Medal of Arts recipient Ping Chong, the company’s projects initiate dialogue about identity and the power of sharing individuals’ stories. This production is part of an ongoing series of community-specific oral history theater works known as the Undesirable Elements series. Created in 1992 by Ping Chong, each production is made in a specific community, with local participants testifying to their real lives and experiences. The script is based on interviews with the participants who then share their own true stories in the final production. Since 1992, over 60 productions have been made across the United States and abroad. Recent productions have explored themes as far ranging as the disability experience, Native American identity, the experiences of refugees in the U.S., and the experiences of survivors of sexual abuse. Ping Chong + Company has created documentaries, toolkits, and training workshops and arts education programs for communities who wish to use the arts to address social justice issues in their own work.
Ticket prices: $16-$30. Discounts are available for seniors, military personnel, those under age 30, and groups. Tickets are on sale at the Park Square Ticket Office, 20 W. Seventh Place, or by phone: 651.291.7005, (12 noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday), or online at parksquaretheatre.org. #pstFACETOFACE
Regular Run: Mar 5-15, 2020
Opening Night Reception: Mar 6
Post-show discussions: Mar 8 and 15
PARK SQUARE THEATRE, 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul
Ticket office: 651.291.7005 or parksquaretheatre.org
The Ticket Office is open from noon to 5:00 pm Wednesday through Friday. Call 651.291.7005.
SEASON TICKETS are on sale now. Subscription package prices begin at $66.
PARK SQUARE THEATRE. 20 W. Seventh Place, Saint Paul. Ticket Office: 651.291.7005. parksquaretheatre.org