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Real people share stories on theater stage in Saint Paul

Five women are sharing stories of hardships and triumphs in a unique production called Face to Face: Hmong Women's Experiences.

ST PAUL, Minn. — No actors.  Just real people and their real stories.

Five women from the Twin Cities are performing a scripted show called 'Face to Face: Hmong Women's Experiences' at Park Square Theater in Saint Paul.

"Our real life story, experiences," said Pang Foua Xiong, one of the performing storytellers.  "It's really some pivotal moments in our life," she said.

Theater goers will hear about racism, sexual assault, bullying, adjusting to a new country, beauty standards, depression and more.

Laurine Chang is another performing storyteller for the production.

"My parents were in a domestically abusive relationship and that really was sort of an overlying part of our community," Chang said.  "A lot of time patriarchy norms allow these things to happen," she said.

Chang also talks about her journey after a traumatic brain injury. The women say these topics aren't easy to share.

"It's a lot of shame and a lot of you, know things, that are uncomfortable to talk about openly," Xiong said. She dives into her story about teenage pregnancy in the show.

Katie Ka Vang is the co-writer and director along with Sara Zatz.  She said the style is that of the Ping Chong + Company, a community-specific, interview-based theater.

"We don't really have an opportunity to share the nuances of our lives or our experiences so I feel like some of these stories really touch home for me," Vang said.  "It's also very empowering very inspiring," she said.

Vang is a Hmong American theater artist and playwright. Her work explores the complexities of identity.  Vang said they interviewed dozens of women, each for hours. They eventually picked five to share their stories in this unique style on stage.

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"It’s the depth of the stories and the fact that these are actual real people telling their stories versus writing a script and having actors come perform it and so I feel like that within itself is I think historical," Vang said.

"Now, it's a little easy the more I talk about it and the more that I share and to let others know that you don't have to hold onto that shame," Xiong said.

It's a show that takes you through the highs and lows of life, and one they hope anyone sitting in the theater seats can relate to.

"Especially in times of uncertainty here in our country that we're not that different," Chang said.  "We being Hmong people are not that different from everyone else," she said.

The show runs through March 15 at Park Square Theater in Saint Paul. Tickets are $16 to $30.

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