Thursday, September 16, 2010

Place | Value, a TalkingImageConnection Reading.

Join writers Barrie Jean Borich, Tim Nolan, Lynette Reini-Grandell, Christian Villarroel, Saymoukda Vongsay and Lori Young-Williams read poems and stories about diverse notions of place inspired by A Theory of Values, at the 2010 Soap Factory Biennial, curated by Scott Stulen and Kris Douglas. It's a great line-up of Minnesota writers. Be sure to check it out! 

The show begins at 8 PM.

Free Admission.  The Soap Factory is located at 514 2nd Street SE Minneapolis.
For more information contact 612-623-9176 or

TalkingImageConnection is an organization that brings together writers, contemporary visual art and new audiences in art galleries around the Twin Cities.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Refugee Nation Coming to Minneapolis!

REFUGEE NATION: Co-presented with Pangea World Theater
October 8-17, 2010, Based on the stories of Laotian Refugess in the U.S.
Written and Performed by LEILANI CHAN & OVA SAOPENG
Intermedia Arts

A mother lives alone in the darkness. A father struggles to forget a lost war. A son battles in the streets of urban America. A daughter searches for answers in her community. Refugee Nation is about a young generation struggling to understand their history and the silence of an elder generation still healing from the traumas war. What can we learn from the wounds of a war over 30 years ago in the hope to find healing?

Refugee Nation tells the stories of a community created by a U.S. led secret war in Laos. Intricately connected to the Vietnam War, Laotian refugees struggle to create a future as their American descendants struggle to understand their past.

Since 2005, collaborators Leilani Chan and Ova Saopeng have been collecting oral histories from family and community members across the country to create an interdisciplinary theater performance that explores a growing part of the Asian American Diaspora that is yet to be included as part of the American experience.

Through theater and movement they re-construct the stories of families trying to rebuild a community that has been spread like ashes across the U.S. and the world.

More than just a telling of Laotian American history, the two-person performance eloquently touches upon issues relating to the refugee experience, assimilation, generation gap, and mental health using drama, film, music, and audience interaction, and personalizes these issues through a genuine Laotian American perspective.

The result is a product that not only brings to light the hidden stories of Laotian Americans around the U.S., but one that is able to unite people from all types of backgrounds, ethnicities, and histories by relaying the ideas of change, loss, struggle, healing, and the unrelenting strength of the human spirit.

Saymoukda Vongsay does the East Coast

The September "Family Style" Open Mic hosted by Yellow Rage in Philadelphia will feature Minnesota writer Saymoukda Vongsay at Asian Arts Initiative at 1219 Vine Street, Chinatown. Coming together on September 17th from 7:30pm - 9:30pm, the evening is headlined by Vietnamese American poet Bao Phi of Minnesota, and the theme of the evening is "Surviving the Translation." For this performance, proceeds go towards humanitarian aid in Pakistan for the flood victims.

Vongsay, the recent recipient of the Carey Prize in Spoken Word, will also be performing at the last Sulu Series in New York City at the famed Bowery Poetry Club at 308 Bowery on September 19th. This event is also a benefit for the 2011 APIA Spoken Word and Poetry Summit in Minnesota in 2011.

Other amazing poets who will be performing on stage with her include Koba, Jen Kwok, Vin Hua, SNRG, Kelly Tsai, YaliniDream, John-Flor Sisante, Adriel Luis, Elijah Kuan Wong, Ruby Veridiana, Justin Woo and Sham-E-Ali Al Jamil. It's a virtual who's who among East Coast Asian American voices and the end to a unique and distinguished poetry series.

Over five years, the series has showcased hundreds of Asian American poets, comedians, musicians, theater artists and
filmmakers. They held benefits and raised awareness for and alongside dozens of organizations and causes. The shows have served thousands of audience members, and it helped to cultivate a canon of Asian American culture.

Lao American writers and artists present in Elgin

On Saturday, August 21st, nationally acclaimed Lao American artists were recognized during the national Lao Artists Festival in Elgin, Illinois in an an event organized by the Laotian Professionals of Illinois.  The mission of the festival was “To showcase and advocate our talents, preserve our culture, and provide leadership for our future through art education and awareness.”

Among artists recognized include visual artist Mali Kouanchao for her work as a painter and Bryan Thao Worra for his work with literacy. Other writers represented include playwright and poet Saymoukda Vongsay and Catzie Vilayphonh, as well as Ova Saopeng and Leilani Chan. It was an evening to remember for everyone. Congratulations to all!

Lao American Writers Summit a success!

On August 13-15th, we reached well over 120 people throughout the first national Lao American Writers Summit.

Over 14 award-winning Lao American writers and activists from across many disciplines worked with both Lao and non-Lao community members including Hmong, European American, African American, Thai and Tongans to discuss the importance of art, community and the approaches Lao American culture uses to remember our history and traditions.

Of course, support from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council was a significant part of helping us to obtain support from many other organizations and foundations, including the Jerome Foundation, the national Association for Asian American Studies, the national Asian Pacific American Librarian's Association, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, the Center for Lao Studies, Asian American Press, and the Lao Student Association of the University of Minnesota.

We were able to energize and inspire our youth audience, who comprised a majority of the participants, as well as elders who'd never been to facilities such as the Loft Literary Center and the Open Book.

Many of our elders were excited at the opportunity to come forward and tell our stories and their journey, including one elder who'd lived in Minnesota for years, quietly working on a history of the Lao people and a dictionary. He hadn't realized there were so many writers and artists across the country and he was overjoyed that there was a young generation who wanted to continue the study of art and culture.

We learned many things from the process and have discovered many ways to improve our process. But most importantly, we had unfettered opportunities to speak our hearts and share our experience.

We're all looking forward to providing a full overview of the Summit, which was even selected as a literary event of the week by the Pioneer Press, and picked up by Asian American newspapers and bloggers in California, Tennessee, Georgia, Vermont, Philadelphia, Illinois, Washington D.C., New York and many others. But I feel the most important consequences of the Summit will bloom over the course of the next several decades within both our elders and the younger generation.

Thanks to everyone who came and I look forward to working with all of you again in the coming years ahead.