By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt.
|Kristina Wong onstage, with a backdrop of face-masks and a map showing |
the second wave of Covid-19 infections. (Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)
Can a single woman/performance artist really fill up a stage?
She can if she's Kristina Wong, currently wowing audiences in the self-titled Kristina Wong: Sweatshop Overlord at La Jolla Playhouse (LJP).
My husband and I came expecting plenty of fast, funny lines from the comedian/writer of things like Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but were surprised at how touching and thought-provoking the show was as well.
And we loved the set - Junghyun Georgia Lee's replica of Wong's sewing room at her home in Koreatown, L. A., with supersized sewing paraphernalia.
No surprise that the play Wong wrote and starred in - with the help of acclaimed director Chay Yew, who was at LJP in 2019 with Cambodian Rock Band - is a prize-winner, accumulating Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards after premiering at New York Theater Workshop last fall. Even more impressive: Kristina Wong was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.
Here's the story behind the show: At the start of the pandemic, Wong lost all her upcoming gigs. Stuck at home with only bad news and nothing to do, she found out that local hospitals were in desperate need of face masks. She was used to making weird costumes for some of her performances, so she sat down at her Hello Kitty sewing machine and started making masks from cut-up old bedsheets and bra straps and mailing them out.
When she posted what she was doing on Facebook, requests began pouring in, and she realized she needed help, lots of help. Starting with several of her own acquaintances, she put together what she called the Auntie Sewing Squad, a work-from-home maskmaking collaborative that ended up with over 800 volunteers nation-wide, including Wong's mom and young children volunteered by pandemic-maddened mothers.
In the process, Wong discovered her own generosity, got closer to her mother, and managed to turn hundreds of remotely-connected strangers into a family. Onstage at LJP's Potiker Theatre, she reaches out to her audience in unexpected ways, and makes all of us strangers feel like a family too.
|Overlord Wong, wielding her scissors, astride her sewing machine. |
(Courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse)
Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord will be at La Jolla Playhouse's Potiker Theatre through October 16.
For tickets and information, visit LaJollaPlayhouse.org
Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has been writing about arts and lifestyles in San Diego County for over a dozen years. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.