Sherwood Award-winning Kristina Wong Brings 'UndocuStories' Through LA Department of Cultural Affairs Grants

Actress, Comedian, and local Politician, Kristina Wong, will be presenting a “UndocuStories: Journeys of Justice and Freedom” workshop series at the Dream Resource Center in MacArthur Park, beginning September 3, 2019.

Sponsored by UCLA Dream Resource Center, Wong, and the UCLA Labor Center, the workshop is funded by an Artist-in-Residence grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

In the eighth year as recipient of this grant as Artist-in-Residence, Wong, who refers to her work as “mind-blowing social commentary with a little humor,” on a picture of her 2020 Census Form posted on her Facebook page, facilitated a similar workshop last year where DACA recipients, undocumented individuals, permanent residents, mixed-status families, and allies participated with a similar grant, which was increased this year from $8,000 to $12,000.

Participants in the "UndocuStories" workshops in 2018 in an exercise involving karaoke. (Photo courtesy of Kristina Wong/UCLA Dream Resource Center)

“Last year’s show was a combination of comedy sketches, poetry, movement work, first-person testimonials and a cover of Vanilla’s Ice Ice Baby called “ABOLISH Ice, Ice Baby,” she said. “This year's workshop will specifically center on experiences of undocumented immigrants.”

Wong, who is a newly elected Representative for Sub-District 5 Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council, recently received the Center Theatre Group’s Dorothy and Richard E. Sherwood Award for her work as a “Boundary-Pushing Artist,” which was presented to her at the LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards ceremony at this year.

"UndocuStories: Journeys of Justice and Freedom" is a twelve-week theater workshop facilitated by Wong, that will feature guest artists Yosimar Reyes (2nd Verse: The Rebirth of Poetry) and Kat Evasco (Working in the Theater) who will teach skills in comedy writing, Theater of the Oppressed (TO), movement, and performance, where participants will engage on issues that “impact the undocumented immigrant community, transforming those stories into an original theater piece for the public,” said Wong on the LAFPI site.

According to the Mandala Center for Change, TO is a form of community-based education that “uses theater as a tool for social change" that was developed by Augusto Boal.  Theater of the Oppressed "is now used all over the world for social and political activism, conflict resolution, community building, therapy, and government legislation. It is also practiced on a grassroots level by community organizers, activists, teachers, social workers, cultural animators, and more."

Per Wong, as a public elected official in Koreatown in “a small, unpaid position, but very mighty,” a lot of her constituency and neighborhood is undocumented. In her first 100 days in office, and while still working as an actress, comedian, and writer, she wrote a community impact statement about supporting the abolishment of ICE (Integrations and Customs Enforcement), and that process may make it into a future show. Since then she has made it her goal to work and educate toward achieving social justice through her comedy, where she discusses social issues affecting people of color—especially women of color—, white privilege, and how to be an armchair social justice warrior (or a better one on foot). A great example of her approach is one of her earlier productions titled the “Wong Street Journal.”

“Last year, our allies were really great about stepping up to support the storytelling of our undocumented participants and de-centering themselves when necessary to keep the focus of storytelling on the experiences of undocumented participants,” said Wong in her blog.

Each week, for twelve weeks, with information provided by the Dream Resource Center, participants will explore a new topic that specifically affects the undocumented community, such as “Know your Rights” or healthcare options for undocumented communities and unaccompanied minors crossing the border, along with theater games, a mix of improv and sketch writing exercises, and performance work.

For some individuals who might be concerned about giving their identities with regard to the workshop and performances, they will establish community rules at the top of each meeting so that “everyone is on the same page about how to work together,” according to the LAFPI article, so participants may not be required to give full names if they are undocumented.

“Just let us know if you don’t want your name published on materials or if there are limits as to what you want to share with the group or publicly,” Wong wrote on the LAFPI site.

With regard to any fears about ICE roundups, Wong said, “they would have to have a warrant” [for an individual] and that there are staff members present who are “super trained on how to address ICE” if they were to show. But she feels confident that would not happen or be an issue.

“To those who are not undocumented, it seems scary, but the "Know Your Rights" training in the workshop prepares the undocumented as well as the allies so that we are all ready to put the knowledge to the task," Wong said. “But also they have to ring a doorbell to come in, so we'd at least be able to confront them at the door.”

The “UndocuStories: Journeys of Justice and Freedom” workshop is located at UCLA Downtown Labor Center at 675 S Park View St, Los Angeles, CA 90057, which will meet Tuesdays from September 3 - November 19, 2019, from 6 - 8 p.m., with the final performance on November 19th at 7 p.m. Participants do not need to be a UCLA student to attend, there are no age restrictions for the workshop, the workshop is free, and dinner will be provided at each session. For more information contact: [email protected].


2020 Sherwood Award now accepting applications!

Center Theatre Group's $10,000 Dorothy and Richard E. Sherwood Award for theatre artists is given annually to nurture innovative and adventurous theatre artists working in Los Angeles. Two additional finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium.

The Sherwood Award nurtures selected artists and invites them to engage in a professional relationship with Center Theatre Group. Competitive candidates demonstrate leadership qualities, push existing boundaries, and are dedicated to improving the future of their respective artistic fields. Artists are not limited by title, role, or genre, but they must have a relationship to contemporary performance rooted in theatre.

The deadline for the initial application consisting of an artist's statement and resume is June 10, 2019 at 11:59 PM.

Apply here!

After the first round, select candidates will be invited to submit full applications. Full applications, along with letters of recommendation and work sample material will be due no later than July 19, 2019 at 11:59 PM. The winner will be announced at the LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards.

The application and more information about the Sherwood Award can be found here.

If you have any additional questions about the Sherwood Award, please contact [email protected]


Steven Leigh Morris Resigns as Executive Director of LA Stage Alliance

Morris' resignation letter reflects on his three years as ED and of the successes and struggles along the way.
Though there was no official announcement from LA Stage Alliance, they posted the following on their facebook page early Tuesday morning.
Dear L.A. Theater Community,
Wanted to let you know that on Oct. 29, I tendered my resignation from LA STAGE Alliance, effective Nov. 11. My aim was to wait until after the Ovation Awards nominees had been announced before making this public. (Congratulations to all the nominees.)
Short version: After three years as Executive Director, I feel I've done what I can within the confines of a complicated administrative structure. For this, and for personal reasons, I feel it's time for me to move on and turn the organization over to new leadership.
In three years, I can point to three accomplishments that I'm proud of: First, upon taking the job, in a series of community meetings, I was told that the community needed greater visibility. With the help of LA City's Department of Cultural Affairs and Butcher Bird Studios, we produced a dozen public service announcements promoting local theater, and hosted by local theater makers with name recognition. These are currently being aired on public TV station KCET.
These PSAs refer the public to a new destination website for LA (onstage.la), conceived by LA STAGE Alliance and funded by The Ahmanson Foundation. This website has now launched, and its public facing side is gorgeous, guiding residents and visitors to performances across the region, as well as to arts journalism and local stage reviews. Most of the community interacts with the site's Ovation Awards functions, and developing that side has been far more challenging. For several months, IT Manager Mark Doerr lived somewhere near the seventh circle of hell, trying to resolve the onslaught of glitches. Mark's tenacity has elevated him to somewhere between the first and second circle, as problems continue to be fixed. And he continues to work, to repair, and to rise towards the land of the living. Thank you Mark.
Finally, with the help of The Ahmanson Foundation, NPO Solutions and the Non-Profit Sustainability Initiative (NSI), LA STAGE Alliance has been leading the effort to implement a discount ticketing program for teenagers, based on Teen Tix Seattle. Such a program is vital to bring a new generation of arts-goers to the sector.
I must express my gratitude to the Board of Directors, and for the generosity of Marco Gomez and Jose Luis Valenzuela, whose vision and combined efforts have sustained LASA. Thanks also to Cj, Miriam, Tomas, Mark Seldis, Cathy Carlton; and finally, to Eric Sims and Cricket Meyers, who have been instrumental in keeping the Ovation Awards program clipping along.
The ecology for arts service organizations is even more brittle than it is for arts organizations, and Los Angeles needs a pillar organization that represents the interests of the stage community. I hope you'll continue to support LA STAGE Alliance in that role, as I will.
In the meantime, I'll be turning my professional attentions back towards teaching and to journalism which is my home, via Stage Raw which is my now gangly, pre-teen child.
I'll say more on that from the Stage Raw platform.
Keep the faith,
Steven Leigh Morris