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home : arts : arts Friday, April 26, 2019

5/16/2017 12:04:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Hmong Lao Friendship Play Rerun

By Amy Doeun

The Hmong Lao Friendship Play by May Lee-Yang and Saymoukda Duanphouxay Vongsay (better known as Mooks) is getting a rerun courtesy of the University of Minnesota. Hmong Times spoke with Lee-Yang and Vongsay about their play.

Lee-Yang said the original inspiration came, not surprisingly from friendship, "Vongsay and I have been friends and artists for many years. About three years ago, it occurred to us that we had never collaborated together and thought this play would be a good opportunity to explore the relationship between ourselves, and our communities. Both Hmong and Lao people come from the country of Laos. We have some shared things - food, some language, and obviously the experiences of being a refugee - yet our communities rarely talked to each other."

Vongsay concurred saying, "For as long as we've been friends, we've shared stories about our families and our community's quirks like superstitions, outdated practices, and questionable traditions. We laugh about these things but also acknowledge that we've been shaped by it all. Like our communities, May and I have as much in common (writers, nerds, refugees) as we do in differences. We've talked about developing something (web series, poetry reading) together for years but nothing really stuck. We decided to go for it. Do or die, and got funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board to develop the play."

The premier of the play was in 2015. This rerun is part of the University of Minnesota's Power and Privilege Series. Vongsay added with a touch of humor, "For this particular version, we've inducted a few additional hot Asian men into our Hot Asian Man scene to make it hotter, moist-er, sexier."

The Hmong Lao Friendship Play was also performed at the 40 Year Southeast Asian Symposium in Merced and the Asian American Studies Conference in Miami, Florida. "We're always open to touring it at other sites," Lee-Yang said.

Vongsay said that this particular rerun began as a conversation, "I had a conversation with Anise McDowell (Office of Multicultural Engagement) last year, brainstorming guest speakers for the upcoming Power and Privilege series. I simply asked, 'Would you consider theater?' and she said, 'Yes.' So I followed with, 'Would you consider a play about the Hmong and Lao experience?' and she said 'Yes, go on,' and I finished with, 'I have a play called Hmong Lao Friendship Play.' After a week of pitching to her, she invited us to perform."

Lee-Yang said, "One of the great things about this re-run is that it is free courtesy of the University of Minnesota, so I'd encourage anyone who hasn't seen it to check it out."

Vongsay said, "I just hope my students won't disown me after seeing the show."

If you are interested in seeing the play Lee-Yang gave this synopsis, "Sometimes when I talk about the play and the inspiration for its creation, people think this is a serious piece about the refugee experience. In reality, the play is a comedy-turned accidental musical. There's comedy, rapping, Little House on the Prairie, and a Kung Fu fight scene. Basically, it is a compilation of who we are as people."

The play was held Wednesday April 19. An additional rerun will be June 3rd at the White Bear Center for the Arts.

St. Paul, MN



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