Saymoukda Vongsay


An older woman turns a storage hut into a beauty parlor, offering hair washing, scalp massages, and haircuts to remind herself that there is still beauty in the world. An elder erects a martial arts gym and trains young Laotians how to regain their strength, confidence, and power. An ex-communist soldier tries to blend in, fearing violent retaliation from victims and their families if he is found out, yet hopeful that in a camp full of Buddhists, he will be forgiven. A young mother must decide on the length that she will go and the boundaries she will cross to reunite with her husband who is missing.

In the Camps takes place in a refugee camp and uses songs, dance, and humor to tell the story of Laotians who’ve escaped communist Laos. An exhibit with documents, photographs, and personal items from survivors and a popup cafe (refugee camp-style) will accompany the production to provide audiences a better understanding of refugees’ daily life in camps. This project fights cultural ventriloquism and erasure of Laotian-centered stories in American theater by non-Laotians—a giant middle finger to empire and trauma.

Saymoukda Vongsay is a Lao writer. She’s a recipient of a Sally Award for Initiative from the Ordway Center for Performing Arts which “recognizes bold new steps and strategic leadership undertaken by an individual…in creating projects or artistic programs never before seen in Minnesota that will have a significant impact on strengthening Minnesota’s artistic/cultural community.”