Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals opened this weekend and Little Laos on
the Prairie was on hand to see it! The new play by award-winning Lao
Minnesotan writer Saymoukda Vongsay opened in the middle of the
world’s largest zombie pub crawl and just before the season premiere
of the Walking Dead. Its first weekend sold out almost a week in
advance. So was it worth it?
It’s been a two year journey to bring this play to the stage, an
action-packed blend of hip hop, martial arts, Lao history, and
buddhism to explore issues the Lao community has never had much chance
to discuss all in one package. Is it bumpy? Is it rough in patches?
It’s the Laopocalypse on stage. That’s to be expected.
Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals doesn’t require a lot of prior
understanding or immersion in Lao culture to get an enjoyable
experience out of it. Between zombies on stage, cannibals and a
beheading, there’s enough to fascinate and terrify an audience.
For Lao Americans, it raises some interesting questions all too often
excluded from apocalypse stories: Where do buddhist principles we’ve
spent over 600 years preserving fit into the process. Everyone else is
stealing and looting, lying, killing, trying to drown their sorrows,
or hooking up just to survive and create some semblance of a normal
life in the aftermath of a crisis. What’s a Lao American to do? Does
it matter? Should we have a sense of guilt if we defend ourselves?
Kung Fu Zombies vs. Cannibals won’t let you have easy answers. But
it’s an amazing experience.
There’s a lot of imagery that many Lao might question. “That’s not how
Lao culture is…” or “The monks would never…” or “That’s not how
you say…” but bear in mind: This is a meditation on Lao American
culture that has spiraled way out of control in the future. One might
argue it’s optimistic in itself to think that by the time Kung Fu
Zombies vs. Cannibals takes place, Lao American youth would try so
hard to maintain their traditions and heritage. It’s also a
fascinating set of casting choices that suggests in the future, our
sense of who can be Lao has broadened and happily embraces our
diversity. It celebrates the many different ways to be Lao.
There’s going to be something that pushes just about everyone’s
buttons at least once. But the parts all lead up to a greater whole
that’s riveting on stage and will lead to many great discussions well
after the show is done. Lao Minnesotans can stand proudly behind this