PASADENA — Actress, writer, musician and model Sumiko Braun is part of the cast of “Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo” at the Carrie Hamilton Theater at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Same cast — new and improved version of the show.
Remaining showtimes are 2 and 8 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 9.
“Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo”is a joyful, dance-filled romp through the bedrooms and classrooms of a group of girls growing up in the early 1990s. Chock full of repurposed pop songs, classic movie parodies and choreographed dance numbers, this full-length comedy sits at the intersection of memoir and social commentary.
A play on the title of the beloved Judy Blume novel “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing,” the play explores the subtle forms of homophobic bullying that so many of us — gay AND straight — experienced growing up.
“My primary character is named Seven, and I’m one of the three writers who write and rehearse the play within the play,” Braun told The Rafu Shimpo. “The vignettes of elementary school kids growing up in the early ’90s that take place throughout the show come from the minds and narratives of the three writers and interweave with the writers’ monologues as well as various ’90s dance sequences performed largely by a group of girls rehearsing for their school’s talent show.
“As Seven, I play a butch lesbian who shares about her experiences of growing up as a tomboy, dealing with a false slut rep in elementary school, and other things such as my obsession with Cindy Crawford. I also play Alan, one of the third grade boys, and am featured in dance sequences to Montell Jordan’s ‘This Is How We Do It’ and Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’
“’Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo’ is a series of vignettes, all true stories based on the writers’ elementary school experiences, that tie together throughout the progression of the play. Gina Young is the main writer as well as the director and one of the actors in the 12-person, all-woman cast. Amanda Faye-Jimenez provides additional writing.
“’Tales’ has the ability to reach a wide audience because it’s not about coming out as gay or lesbian; it’s about bullying, exploring confusion around sexuality, growing up as an outcast and having to conform to certain societal expectations of normativity to fit in.
“Our first run of ‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Lesbo’ was held this past summer at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica. We sold out both nights of that run. This is our second run … and we have also sold out all three performances.
“Interesting fact about the playhouse is that we were originally supposed to open there in August, but their artistic director, Sheldon Epps, expressed reservations about the use of the word ‘lesbo’ in the title, so we were essentially banned from performing. After a huge outcry and campaign waged by local arts supporters and activists in the LGBT community, the playhouse staff issued an apology and decided to allow us to perform there.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Braun grew up playing basketball in the South Bay Japanese American leagues and started acting as a teenager. Upon completing high school at the California Academy of Mathematics and Science, she explored other interests such as political organizing and returned to acting years later.
She has been featured in numerous indie films along with a handful of TV shows (Nickelodeon’s “Big Time Rush,” NHK World’s “Somewhere Street”), commercials (Sports Authority, Nestle’s Skinny Cow, Crazy Woman Water, Adam and Eve, Colosseum), print ads (Nike, Re:gettA), promos (MTV’s “Savage U,” Oxygen’s “All the Right Moves”), web series, and music videos (MC Frontalot, British Sea Power).
In addition to acting, she also performs spoken-word poetry, music, and hip-hop throughout the Los Angeles area. Currently, she produces, writes, and acts in her own comedy web series about a jaded group of superheroes called “The New Order” and lives in L.A. with her son to pursue her artistic career.
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