Performance artist, comedian and writer Kristina Wong to speak at ASU March 15

Performance artist, comedian and writer Kristina Wong has a lot to say about society.

Through her work she has weighed in on many issues, including Asian American womens’ struggles with depression, the roles of artists and comedians, and women of color in the entertainment business.

She has created and performed in shows based on her life experiences, including “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” about the high rates of depression among Asian American women, and “The Wong Street Journal," about navigating white privilege as an Asian American “mzungu” in East Africa.

Her most recent play is “Sweatshop Overlord,” a dramatization of her activist work with the Auntie Sewing Squad, a national mutual-aid network of volunteers who sewed masks for vulnerable populations, at-risk people and front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on this work, Wong recently won a Doris Duke Artist Award, a prize worth $550,000 that she can use however she wants. Wong was a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her work on “Sweatshop Overlord.”

Wong is bringing her unique perspective to Arizona State University for a Barrett Honors Lecture Series event from 5 to 6 p.m., Wednesday, March 15, at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

This lecture, in room 128 at the Cronkite School, located at 555 N. Central Ave., will detail her experiences using theater to do the work of education, community-building, culture shifting and therapy to set the stage for legislative change.

The event is free and open to the ASU community. Registration for a seat at the event can be found here.

In addition, Wong is an artist-in-residence at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium and will perform her one-woman show “Kristina Wong for Public Office” on March 18.

According to Mathew Sandoval, Barrett Honors Faculty Fellow, Wong has a connection to the honors college dating back to 2018, when she included honors students as historic reenactors in New York City performances of an immersive play she wrote titled “Kristina Wong’s Discharges from American History,” which focused on political scandals that have happened in hotel rooms. The play was directed by Janessa Joffe, with assistance from Sandoval.

“Kristina provided a great opportunity for Barrett students to participate in a play based on interesting historical events and be exposed to her creative processes. To be in a play in the theater capital of the United States with an outstanding artist and social commentator like Kristina was an experience like no other for our students,” Sandoval said.

Also in 2018, Wong participated in a community dialogue co-sponsored by Barrett Honors College and ASU Gammage in which she discussed the role of artists and comedians in the age of U.S. President Donald Trump, the unique challenges women of color face in the entertainment business, new horizons in theater, the successes and struggles of being a self-sustaining artist and her projects.

Wong was featured in the New York Times’ Off Color series “highlighting artists of color who use humor to make smart social statements about the sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious ways that race plays out in America today.”

She has been a commentator for American Public Media’s Marketplace, PBS, VICE, Jezebel, xoJane and Huffington Post, and a guest on Comedy Central’s "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore," FXX’s “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” and "AM Tonight" on Fusion TV. 

She has had roles on "General Hospital," Nickelodeon’s “Nicky Ricky Dicky and Dawn” and Myx TV’s “I’m Asian American and Want Reparations for Yellow Fever," and she spent a month in Northern Uganda recording a hit rap album “Mzungu Price” with local rappers.

For her work, Wong has been awarded grants from Creative Capital, The MAP Fund, Center for Cultural Innovation, the Durfee Foundation, National Performance Network. She has received six artist-in-residence grants and a COLA Master Artist Fellowship from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

In 2017, she was named as one of the “YBCA 100″ celebrating the innovators, provocateurs and thought leaders who are using their platform to create cultural movement. She also received the FOCUS AWARD from Kearny Street Workshop for her unique contribution to amplifying the Asian Pacific American community’s collective voice within American culture.

Wong has been awarded residencies from the MacDowell Colony, New York Theater Workshop, Ojai Playwrights Festival, Montalvo Center for the Arts, Hermitage and Atlantic Center for the Arts. She also has taught at Cal Arts in the Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing program and has twice given the commencement speech at University of California Los Angeles, her alma mater.

Nicole Greason