Sweatshop Overlord by Kristina Wong

March 29 Event Report from Claudia Alick

Playwright and performer Kristina Wong invited me to see their one person show Sweatshop Overlord at ACT Theater. I’m disabled and have to be very cautious for my health. I was disappointed to find out the theater didn’t offer a mask mandated evening but Kristina invited me to attend during the dress rehearsal. Alice Wong attended the same evening for similar reasons.

I had a positive exchange with the theaters marketing staff that wrote to help arrange the ticket. They wrote “Masking is not required for attendance at this performance, but please know that everyone is always welcome to mask as desired for their own comfort.” Their box office staff repeated the phrase.

I shared that this felt like a microaggression, because it starts with what feels like a celebration of not having to mask and suggests folks are doing it for their personal comfort, not safety. Also everyone being able to mask is not a benefit. Sharing it as a positive perk suggests it’s opposite, which is threatening. Obviously this was not their intention and I was happy they took the feedback so well. I offered this alternative phrasing “We encourage masking at our venue for the safety of everyone but masking is not required for attendance at this production.”

It was brilliant to be able to attend the show in person. I’m glad accommodations could be made for me personally. It was great to see theater friends like director Chay Yew, Andy Chan Donald, Pam MacKinnon, and Joy Meads. It was a lot of enthuastic ducking of hugs and complimenting the production.

Kristina’s hand sewn set is such a charming and perfect aesthetic for this play. The story of mutual aid and community power at the beginning of the pandemic is an inspiring story. Her performance was dynamic, hilarious, and sometimes so touching. Be warned- there is some audience participation! We left the play and the lobby had a lovely surprise that connected us all to the play.

In Day 3 of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kristina Wong began sewing masks out of old bedsheets and bra straps on her Hello Kitty sewing machine. Before long, she was leading the Auntie Sewing Squad, a work-from-home sweatshop of hundreds of volunteers—including children and her own mother—to fix the U.S. public health care system while in quarantine. It was a feminist care utopia forming in the midst of crisis. Or was it a mutual aid doomsday cult? The answer to that question is something you’ll have to decide for yourself as Kristina takes you through this capital-H-Hilarious journey in this Pulitzer finalist play.

“One of the biggest compliments I get is when people see my work and tell me “You rep for the Bay.” San Francisco has cradled three generations of my family, it’s the city where we forged our American Dreams. This is a homecoming in so many ways. San Francisco is where my mother rounded up her base of friends to sew masks remotely for the Auntie Sewing Squad. It’s a large hub of where our Aunties who were strangers to each other in the early pandemic realized our mutual aid efforts and later became good friends. I can’t wait to be sharing this story with the Aunties who lived it, with the people who benefited from it, with all of us who survived this moment of history. I can’t wait to share this community of Aunties I accidentally brought together who represent a greater hope that is possible. I came of age in San Francisco. Living a characteristically Chinese American double life—aspiring to be a super high achieving straight laced good girl while so many other multiverse temptations sputtered around me. One of those temptations which I would eventually succumb to was a life of making performance as my living. As a high school theater kid, A.C.T. was that gold standard of theater, and to play this stage now, sharing this story, feels nothing short of a miracle.” —Kristina Wong

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