Promising and adventurous Twin Cities playwright Katie Ka Vang, who was at the eye of a noisy controversy last year when a director cast a non-Hmong actor as the lead in her Hmong-themed play, “WTF,” is hoping for a miraculous ending to unexpected news.
Vang, 32, has been diagnosed with lymphoma and is getting emergency care at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul, according to noted actor Sun Mee Chomet, who has been keeping vigil at the hospital. Chomet starred in “WTF,” directed by Randy Reyes.
“Katie is being very brave and patient even though she’s in a lot of pain now,” said Chomet. “She is determined to beat it because she has many, many stories to tell.”
Vang is one of the members of the “limbo generation” of younger Hmong-Americans caught between their family traditions and their new American dispensation. That intergenerational tension was one of the themes in “WTF,” which Mu Performing Arts produced at Mixed Blood Theatre in January 2011.
The decision to cast the highly regarded Korean-American performer Chomet, who played Antigone recently in the Guthrie Theater’s “Burial at Thebes,” was blessed by Vang but drew vociferous criticism from a corner of the Hmong community. The controversy, which was fanned online, led to panel discussions and spirited dialogues.
“Katie has been a dynamic leading artist in the Hmong, Asian-American and spoken word communities,” said Rick Shiomi, founder of Mu Performing Arts. “As an artist, she has a way with language and an insight into deeper issues to that her characters resonate with all people.”
Born in Santa Ana, Calif., Vang moved to the Twin Cities in 1999. She studied marketing at Concordia University and quickly made a name in the underground spoken word scene.
She has won grants and awards from the State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation and Mu Performing Arts, among others.
As part of a national initiative to foster new artists, she works part-time at the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent in St. Paul.
For recreation, Vang plays community volleyball.
Benefits are being planned for her by members of the theater, Hmong and volleyball communities.
A CaringBridge site also has been set up for her.
"I'm feeling truly blessed for all of the support from all of the great friends, community members and family," Vang said Thursday. "Right now I'm focusing on what I do have to get me through to the next moment."