Performer Kristina Wong lives the dream, working on stages and campuses across the country. Or does she? The Los Angeles resident is most famous for portraying a depressed, suicidal actress in Wong Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, followed by another one-woman show about failed attempts at eco-friendly living, Going Green The Wong Way. Her latest work, Cat Lady, is an ensemble piece that is less political than her other shows but addresses the equally divisive topics of pick-up artistry and the show’s hair-covered and lonely namesakes. On the eve of the latter’s upcoming stint at the ODC Dance Theater in San Francisco (November 4-6), I decided to catch up with my distant cousin and Big Bad Chinese Mama.
Kristina Wong‘s Big Bad Chinese Mama was one of the raddest Asian/gender studies projects ever. The zine-flavored, post-Riot Grrrl website gave the Mad magazine treatment to LA Weekly‘s personal ads, and has proceeded to deflate the erections of countless Internet surfers around the world. Since then, Kristina has gone legit. Sort of. She receives grants, hogs stages, and wins awards as a one-woman show/wrecking crew. Wong Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is her best-known piece, covering the crowd-pleasing topics of depression and suicide (which are disproportionately popular with Asian women). The performance has been captured on film and will premiere at the Burbank International Film Festival on Thursday, September 15–the same day she returns from a solo backpacking trip though Southeast Asia. I intruded on her getaway with some quick questions about the event… MW: One of the best parts of doing a live show–especially a one-person one–is being able to fine-tune it to your audience. How did you set up an “ultimate” performance of Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to preserve in concert film format? KW: We filmed it in late 2008 during the middle of a three-week run I did in L.A. for a live audience. I had been touring it for about two years at that point. When I first started the show, it scared me and there were points when I wasn’t sure if I was going to get through it. Most of the jokes in the show were things that were refined over dozens of shows with a live audiences. By the time we got to shoot it, I really felt like a rodeo champ. As for “ultimate” performance, Mike Closson (the director) and I met over hundreds of hours trying to figure out if we should rewrite the show for camera, shoot on location, etc., but when it came down to it, the show was made for a theater and the content would change if we rewrote it as a screenplay. My patience was waning and we didn’t want to wait any longer for a perfect time. Perfect was now. And “now” was 2008! MW: Does having the movie bring any sense of closure? I know you still performances booked! KW: Into the fourth year of touring this show I realized all my friends were getting married, cranking out kids and buying houses while I was putting on the same costume and doing my depression show over and over again on the road, talking to strangers about the heavy topic of suicide, and then returning home to the same post- college apartment in West L.A. It wasn’t a great feeling; it was an existential crisis. I began to wonder if I’d still be touring this show 20 years from now because, perhaps, it was the only thing I was good at doing and the only thing people would pay to see. But now, it is great to have a DVD/film archive that can now go to places where my live show cannot. And...Continue reading