FAWK – the Funny Asian Women Kollective – is back onstage for the first time in over two years with The Super Show… Again. The much-beloved ensemble performance will feature May Lee-Yang, Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay, Naomi Ko, along with Patti Kameya, Jamie Schumacher, Houa Moua, Tsuab Yang, and joined onstage this year by nationally-renowned Robin Tran as well.
This will be their first in-person show since the start of the pandemic. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy, however – in fact, the women of FAWK were busier than ever during the lockdown trying to find ways to bring comedy to the people in responsible, socially-distanced ways, and make people laugh in a time when laughter is needed most.
The result was a highly-creative mix of virtual performances and outdoor shows – including a series performed from the back of a pickup truck – that more than filled their time.
Now – it is a life of rehearsals, rehearsals, rehearsals leading up to the show Saturday.
But while the upcoming show is certainly at the forefront of the FAWK mindset, they are also looking far beyond as they search for a permanent home. They have been raising funds to build out an arts center on St. Paul’s East Side, and hope for a boost from the bonding bill to be passed this year.
“We don’t want to try and retrofit an existing building,” May Lee-Yang says. “We want to build a space that is entirely our own.”
“It’s important that it has room for everything we’d like to accomplish,” Vongsay says. “This includes performance space, teaching space, office space…”
The center’s location is important as well – as Vongsay says, they are “stewards of the East Side” and there is a fierce pride in the neighborhood and surrounding community. Place is important. More than just getting these stories and performances out, and fostering local creatives as well along they way, it is about who has access to them – not everyone can get to, or feels comfortable in, grand downtown venues. Ensuring the arts center is located firmly on the East Side allows for a give-and-take approach to the neighborhood they call home.
And – perhaps most pressingly – it will help grow their platform from which to address the continued (sadly, still on-the-rise) anti-Asian sentiment in the United States; when attention is only paid to the lives of Asian Americans, and specifically Asian American women, after tragedy strikes –
“I feel we only hear their stories after they’re dead,” Vongsay says. “After tragedy has already struck. I want to tell these stories while people are still alive. Before the violence. We need to fight the dehumanization and invisibility of Asian women in society…”
“Can we do that with our show? Maybe.”
Comedy has long been a vehicle for hot button, topical issues to be discussed; things that might otherwise be considered taboo or controversial (often, in the United States, what might make a white cultural majority uncomfortable at the dinner table). Comedy offers a way for people who might otherwise feel insecure or ignorant on specific topics can get a new perspective. Comedians have been called, with more than simple Jester’s Privilege, modern-day philosophers, prophets, truth-tellers –
“Sure.” Lee-Yang says. “Because comedy makes hard topics accessible. It’s more like everyday conversations. No pressure. Just show up as yourself.”
“There are plenty of problems to address,” she continues. “And these problems should not, will not, be ignored. But – if we’re any good at what we do – we are first and foremost going to make you laugh. What we want, ultimately, is for you to have fun.”
Expect a “no-holds-barred” approach to comedy; dance numbers, costumes, and creative takes on current events, classic tropes, and pop culture alike before a packed crowd at the Ordway in downtown St. Paul.
“And buy your tickets now!” Yang laughs. “Don’t just show up Saturday night hoping for a spot. You might not get one.”