Kristina Wong

Award-winning actor, playwright, performance artist, and activist Kristina Wong will deliver the keynote address at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture’s 2023 commencement on Saturday, June 17, at 4 p.m.

“My time as a world arts and culture major profoundly shaped how I think as an artist and activist today,” said Wong. “Those earliest provocations on art as a social action are still embedded in my work now. I’m so honored to be back where it all started and share these insights with the Class of 2023.”

Wong is a Doris Duke Artist Award winner, Guggenheim Fellow, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist in drama. Her work has been presented internationally across North America and Africa, and in the U.K. and Hong Kong.

Her solo show “Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord” is a New York Times Critic’s Pick that premiered off-Broadway at New York Theater Workshop and recently completed a run at Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. The show won the 2022 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Show and the 2022 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Solo Performance, and was nominated for the 2022 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Performance.

The show is inspired by Auntie Sewing Squad, a national all-volunteer mutual aid network Wong founded during the COVID-19 pandemic to sew cloth masks for vulnerable communities. Their book “The Auntie Sewing Squad Guide to Mask Making, Radical Care, and Racial Justice” was published by the University of California Press in 2021.

“I know that our students will be inspired by Kristina’s commitment to creating community and social change through her art – and will be especially moved by her doing so with ingenuity, bold humor, and heart through these especially challenging past several years,” said Brett Steele, dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. “Having her with us for commencement will empower our students as they embark on their own next chapters shaping the future through their creative expressions.” 

Her show “Kristina Wong for Public Office” is simultaneously a real-life stint as the elected Sub-district 5 representative of Wilshire Center-Koreatown Neighborhood Council and comedic campaign commentary. That show was filmed for Center Theatre Group’s Digital Stage, where she’s also a Creative Collective member.

Wong has created and directed original theater works with residents of L.A.’s Skid Row, the Bus Riders Union, undocumented immigrants, and the formerly incarcerated Asian Pacific Islanders members of API Rise.

She’s been awarded artist residencies from MacDowell, San Diego International Airport, and the Ojai Playwrights Conference and is concurrently the artist-in-residence at ASU Gammage and a social practice resident at the Kennedy Center.

Wong has made seven full-length solo shows that include “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “The Wong Street Journal,” and “Going Green the Wong Way.” She’s been a guest on late-night shows on NBC, Comedy Central, and FX. She starred in her own pilot presentation with Lionsgate for truTV.

Her work has been awarded with support from Creative Capital, The MAP Fund, Center for Cultural Innovation, National Performance Network, a COLA Master Artist Fellowship from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, nine Los Angeles Artist-in-Residence grants, Center Theatre Group’s Sherwood Award, the Art Matters Foundation, and the Joan D. Firestone Commissioning Fund from En Garde Arts. She is also this year’s recipient of the UCLA Alumni Award for Community Service.

The commencement will be held in Dickson Court North (Perloff Quad) on the UCLA campus. For more information, visit: http://commencement.arts.ucla.edu/

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