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Katie Ka Vang. (Photo by Noemí Gonzalez)

The Subtext: Katie Ka Vang Has Lived a Thousand Lives

This month Brian talks to the Minnesota playwright about her Hmong American roots, having cancer in graduate school, and learning to live in the moment.

Each month on The Subtext, Brian speaks with a playwright about life, writing, and whatever itches we are scratching. On this month’s episode, Brian heads to St. Paul, Minn., to speak with playwright and storyteller Katie Ka Vang.

Katie recalls her experience growing up as the youngest of seven children raised by Hmong refugee immigrants, with their church at the center of their lives. At 18 she followed her older sisters to Minnesota, where she has lived ever since. She discusses writing stories about her Hmong American community and recently finding herself grounded in these roots after having drifted apart from this community.

She received a cancer diagnosis around the same time as her acceptance to Brown’s Playwriting MFA program, and decided not to defer enrollment. Her cancer was in remission by the time school started, but relapsed a year and half into the program, so Katie completed the program remotely while receiving treatment in Minneapolis. Two bone marrow transplants and a long recovery process later, Katie is looking forward to what this next phase of her life has in store. She is currently a Constellations Fellow at the Center for Cultural Power, where tells stories in partnership with the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center.

Katie’s work explores the complexity of cultures and communities, diaspora, dis-ease, and transformation. Her writing includes AGAIN the musical, Fertile Grounds, WTF, Hmong Bollywood, 5:1 Meaning of Freedom; 6:2 Use of Sharpening, Fast FWD Motions, In Quarantine, FINAL ROUND, and Spirit Trust. Her plays have been developed and presented at East West Players, Mixed Blood Theater, Pangea World Theater, Pillsbury House Theatre, Theater Mu, Leviathan Lab, Bushwick Starr, and more. She received the 2022-23 McKnight and 2019-20 Many Voices fellowship at the Playwrights’ Center, and was a member of East West Players 21-23 Playwright’s Group.

This episode can also be found here.

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