“Hi Lindsay, I’m on the bus. Sorry it’s really loud on here. Can you hear me OK?”
And so my conversation with Kristina Wong began, the LA-based carless solo performer, writer, actor, educator, filmmaker, and self-professed culture jammer. Her most recent project, “Going Green the Wong Way” is based on Kristina’s true-life adventures trying to do the right thing for the environment (and it sometimes backfiring on her).
Take her carbon-neutral car fiasco for example. In 2006 right after the war in Iraq, she decided to show people just how easy it is to get off our addiction to oil and go green, and she started driving a pink vegetable-oil-run Mercedes, which she named Harold, around LA. “It caught on fire on the freeway and nearly killed me,” said Kristina.
After Harold’s dramatic death, she decided to give up cars cold turkey to be an indentured servant to LA’s bus system; she shares her trials and tribulations in the show. Though she says bus riding is an adventure which isn’t at all easy, she enjoys carbon emission-free commuting and walks, bikes and mooches rides from friends in between.
Satirical in nature, “Going Green the Wong Way” was created to entertain and have a little fun at the green movement’s expense, not to discourage audiences. “It’s not about being critical. It’s just about how difficult I feel it is,” said Kristina. “It’s intended to get us to talk, put the pom-poms down for a minute, and share a sense of humor about the movement. The show tracks my life as a lifelong environmental martyr.”
Raised in San Francisco by Chinese-American parents, Kristina developed a passion for the environment as a young girl. “I thought: ‘I’m not popular. I’m not pretty. But I am smart. I’m going to know more about the environment than anyone else.’ Being a little environmentalist gave me a sense of identity. I was this odd-ball girl recycling every can.”
Kristina’s first job was, not surprisingly, with the Sierra Club. “I went door to door in San Francisco trying to raise funds for them. But you only get paid when you raise money, so I had been out there for a long time and wasn’t getting compensated,” said Wong.
Though she calls herself an environmental martyr, she is the poster child for low impact living and resourcefulness.
In 2007, she declared it the year of the “Buy Nothing Year.” That’s right, for one whole year Kristina avoided buying anything new such as clothes, shoes, accessories and gifts, and opted to repurpose and create instead.
Individual excess aside, the U.S. government’s gluttony frustrates Kristina. “I think we have everything but capitalism gets in the way. I’m not saying we have to all get naked and grow vegetables, but we’re not using what we have. Government will not let progress happen because of profit.”
Kristina has made a successful career exploring difficult topics with humor in a way that feels comfortable for her audiences. “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for example, toured for five years in over 40 live engagements, and dealt with the high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American Women. Now out on DVD, the show is used by mental health professionals, universities, community groups and social workers to help reduce the stigma around these issues.
Kristina’s very first major public project, www.bigbadchinesemama.com, a mock mail order bride website, was set up to deliberately rock the boat and tick people off. The project received lots of fan mail — a mix of hate and love letters, but it toughened her up.
Kristina has been working with members of the Bus Riders Union and community members on an ensemble theater project on Environmental Justice. The show is this Saturday June 16, and will take riders on a ride through the present and future of climate, food, transit and environmental justice. They’ll be a vegetarian reception to follow.
Whatever Kristina is performing, whether she’s in LA or Edinburgh, count on it being funny, thought-provoking and perhaps even slightly offensive. But sit back and enjoy; it’s all part of the Kristina Wong experience.
Tickets are now on sale for “Going Green the Wong Way‘s” four-week Los Angeles run. Gather Green is a proud sponsor of “Going Green the Wong Way” in LA and Edinburgh, as well as the Environmental Justice League Theater Project this Saturday, June 15th. Join us for Kristina’s opening night, June 28, and walk a green carpet and then enjoy a delicious meal.