Lao Science Fiction Theater? Ask Saymoukda Vongsay!
Can Lao Science Fiction Theater succeed? The early answers would seem to be yes, based on the response that the work of Lao American playwright Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay has been receiving first for her smash hit, Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals and now her recent presentations of the follow-up Kung Fu Zombies vs. Shaman Warrior.
Science Fiction Theater or Speculative Theater has been around for centuries if you include the mythic epics, of course, but we can also look at the works of playwrights such as Karel Capeck's R.U.R which coined the term "robot" for the world, or Elaine Lee's Starstruck. Productions of Evil Dead: The Musical, Little Shop of Horrors, The Last Starfighter musical, and Starlight Express, to name just a few, also give us reason to look at the possibilities with great interest.
Recently, the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center transformed the old Pearl River Mart in New York's Soho district into a dynamic space for express and the exchange of ideas. They welcomed over 10,000 people that weekend as they transformed two floors of the old store into a pop-up museum. An interactive gallery of diverse views on possible futures, it was entitled Ctrl+Alt: A Culture Lab on Imagined Futures.
Saymoukda Douangphouxay Vongsay was one of the 40+ artists presenting. She narrated excerpts from her forthcoming play, Kung Fu Zombies vs. Shaman Warrior. She gave her reading dressed in all white, along with a powerful animation created by New York-based artist Matty Huynh. She gave a brief Q&A session and baci blessings for those who attended. Her new play takes on questions of trauma, healing, and mental health through the lens of speculative theater.
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center's Culture Labs were made possible by a generous donation by the Ford Foundation.
Vongsay recently thanked the community and those involved. "This past week was tremendously healing for me, in large thanks to the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center for creating a space where I felt included, needed, and supported," she said in a post on Facebook
She was born in a refugee camp in Nongkhai, Thailand and immigrated to Minnesota in 1984 with her family.
Because of her background, her work centers on creating tools and spaces for the amplification of refugee voices through poetry, theater, and experimental cultural production. .
Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay's writings can be found in such publications as Saint Paul Almanac (Arcata Press), Lessons For Our Time (MN Center for Book Arts), Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement (Purdue University Press), and The Asian American Literary Review (Binghamton University).
Considering the success that Lao horror is experiencing in cinema thanks to the work of Mattie Do, it will be very interesting to see how Lao in Laos and other nations would respond to science fiction theater and where we might go next with it.