Loiter at SOMArts; photo credit to Scott Tsuchitani 

From left to right: (1)Loiter at SOMArts photo credit to Scott Tsuchitani (2)We are Survivors” from Alie Jones (3)Carson Ash Beker

This program aims to foster emerging and established Bay Area artists in creating new works to premiere at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.

Past artists-in-residence include Gamelan Sekar Jaya, Philip Huang, Nitya Venkateswaran, Kyoungil Ong, Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership (AYPAL), Karmacy, Word & Violin, the Shaolin Buddhist Temple & Education Foundation, Vidya, Kyoungil Ong, Rina Mehta, Jay Loyola, Judith Kajiwara, Seibi Lee, and Naina Shastri.

Bonnie Kwong: 2019 Artist in Residency

Intersectional Theater Project

What Makes Oakland Home?

With support from the California Arts Council, the Oakland Asian Cultural Center (OACC) partners with poet and playwright Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong (OACC’s 2019 Artist in Residence) in collaboration with playwright Cleavon Smith and director Michael Mansfield on the staging of an original play, a work in progress, around the question “What makes Oakland home? Whose voices are heard?”  Through a series of story circles, the artists will engage with active community members to inform the creation of a play, exhibit, and panel discussion.  The hope is for intersectional narratives to emerge around how Oakland residents hold space and cross paths in this changing city of racial, ethnic, generational, and sexuality differences.

If you are a current or former Oakland resident, worker, or community activist of any background, and the following questions resonate with you, come and share your story:

What brings you to Oakland?  How long have you been here?  How often have you moved?  Why have you chosen to stay?  Why did you leave?  Who owns Oakland?  Is there any other place you call home?  What is the relationship between or among your homes?  How is the city changing?  Who are the new communities joining us?  Do you feel welcome here?  Have you found community?  Is your community still here?  What is the relationship between Oakland past and present?  What would you like to see in Oakland’s future?

Story Circle

What makes Oakland home? Whose voices are heard? Come and share your story if you are a current or former Oakland resident, worker, or community activist of any background! Attendees are encouraged to bring photos of the interior and exterior of their homes and personal items as props or to add to the set, such as a stool, dishes, a lamp, an umbrella, or even a pet!

Saturday, Feb 2, 12:30-3:30 pm
Wednesday, Feb 6, 6:00-9:00 pm
Sunday, Feb 24, 12:30-3:30 pm
Monday, March 11, 6:00-9:00 pm

Table Read / Workshops

Monday, April 29, 6:00-9:00 pm

Performance / Staging

Monday, June 3, 2019, 5:00-10:00 pm

Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong is a poet, playwright, and performer whose work traverses seen and unseen geographies.  She has lived in nine states and two continents and creates in many languages: English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, ruby, and javascript.  Her work in poetry and fiction has garnered six Pushcart nominations.  Her first book of poetry, ravel, is a finalist for prizes by White Pine Press and New Rivers Press

Ravel delves into history through her family’s experiences, from the narrative poems describing her mother’s journey as an undocumented immigrant from mainland China to colonial Hong Kong to more abstract explorations, such as her Pushcart nominated poems on maps and motion, “Cartographies” and “A Portrait of Winds.”

The Oakland Asian Cultural Center has featured Bonnie in two poetry readings: the first with Janice Mirikitani, and again with Arlene Biala, for the first public delivery of Bonnie’s poem “Contraband” and the launch of OACC’s inaugural zine “I Am Here.”

Lately, Bonnie has been splitting her time between coding in Oakland for a progressive national political website and meeting collaborators in dance, theater, and music at Stanford for the outdoor staging of her theatrical adaptation of the Narcissus myth ‘Liriope’ in Spring 2018.    She is scheduled to deliver poetry performances at UC Berkeley in Spring and Fall 2018 as the recipient of a grant from the UC Critical Refugee Studies Collective.


Cleavon Smith is an Oakland Playwright and Professor in the English department of Berkeley City College. Cleavon Smith’s Vs. premiered in Berkeley, CA during the 2016-17 season at TheatreFirst. He won a PlayGround Emerging Playwright Award for his short play “You Eat What You Kill” in 2012 and has had new work featured in UC Berkeley’s New Play Reading Series and Ohlone Playwrights Festival. He has also published short stories and contributed to Nine Lives: Uncovering the Wealth of Life Stories Within Our Nursing Homes. Cleavon lives in Oakland and teaches English at Berkeley City College and is an artist mentor for Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Young Writers of Color Collective. His latest project, Just One Day a play inspired by the troubles stirred with the first national observation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in a small town in Mississippi, will run in February 2018 at Live Oak Theatre in Berkeley.

Michael Mansfield’s interest focuses specifically on the intersection point of theater, ritual, and education; from there, he seeks to make art that does justice. He brings 40 years of dance and theater training, performing, teaching, writing, choreographing, and directing experience to his work. He taught, administrated, and created civic celebrations full-time in Oakland colleges and universities from 1994-2008. He currently administrates and teaches in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of California Berkeley. His courses explore interactive theater, acting for social change, and Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed techniques and pedagogy. He directs Berkeley Interactive Theater, a team of actors/teaching artists, delivering countless dramatic programs to departments, colleges, libraries, medical schools, and conferences, addressing the complex arenas of race, class, sexuality, ability, status, and religion across the state. In the mornings, he teaches dance throughout the Bay Area as a guest artist in the schools with LEAP Arts in Education. In the evenings, he works with Aurora Theatre Company and The Marsh Theater with education programs and theater management. He has a kinesthetic bias.