Kristina Wong is the playwright behind ‘CAT LADY’ – a comedy directed by Paul Tei at the Light Box@Goldman Warehouse playing in January. I had the chance to ask her a couple of questions about her work and musings.
EA: What was the process to get to Cat Lady to where it is now?
KW: Since 2006, I’d been touring this show called “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, which really, I’d been working on since 2004. It’s a show about depression and suicide among Asian American women (who have some of the highest rates of depression and suicide in this country). So I’ve been living with this show for almost 8 years. For some horrific subject matter, it’s actually a pretty funny show and I’ve been fortunate to have toured a lot of the country to very diverse audiences doing this show and to have been able to make a good living as an artist. There were times in the first few years of touring that show that I felt like my life was finally realized, my purpose on this planet had been served, and I was able to do what I hadn’t imagined my whole life would be possible— to make a living as an artist on my own terms and to help other people who were depressed.
EA: Do you find yourself using comedy to interpret dark issues? Why or why not?
KW: It sort of just comes naturally. Both Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and CAT LADY were both going to be really “serious” pieces of “art” but I think in my frustration at trying to be a serious artist, came a lot of side cracking and diffusing moments of self-deprecation which I finally figured out how to embrace and just make parts of the show. It also makes it easier for me as a performer to not just re-enact the dark, but also find levity and release in it.
In these shows I never set out to write jokes and be funny, but the humor found itself in the process. I think this is what differentiates me from stand-ups, not only because my work tends to not be me and a mic— but it’s more than set-up- punch, set-up- punch. It’s a lot of superbly emotional ideas and heady concepts, filtered into some very visual and colorful performance.
EA: Why did you chose (the great!) Paul Tei to direct?
KW: Paul has become one of my best friends in the last few years (if you don’t believe me, check the WONG tattoo on his bicep!). His friendship really got me through 2010, which was one of the most depressing years of my life. I had just bought my home in LA, left a series of bad relationships and horrible non-relationships, and some really bad stuff went down. I was in this empty home that I had to suddenly get going on my own. It should have been an exciting chance for renewal, but instead, I found myself asking a lot of existential questions about what my future looked like alone, why do people turn so sour after the honeymoon phase of a relationship, and is it just better to have a series of affairs where you don’t get to know the ugliness of a person, so you never get hurt? And I felt totally isolated and overwhelmed trying to get a home going— something that my whole life I assumed I’d be doing with a partner. Doing tons of research on pick-up artists and cat hoarders was not helping.