A Hmong family who fled Communist bullets and wild tigers through the jungle of Laos to a refugee camp in Thailand. A Sudanese man who was thrown into prison in Ethiopia for helping the Lost Boys and left gasping for air through a crack under the door. A Mexican woman who taught herself English by looking up the profane words that were hurled at her during her first job while working in a meat packing plant. A Dutch boy who put the flag of the Netherlands through the paper shredder and declared, “I am an American.”
These are some of the characters brought to life in Vang, a drama about recent immigrant farmers.
Vang is a collaboration between Swander and Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Deni Chamberlin. Swander and Chamberlin documented interviews with the immigrant farmers to create Vang (meaning “garden” or “farm” in Hmong). Swander then wound their words together to form a verbatim play that captures their struggles, survival skills, and journeys to the U.S. While their experiences are unique—some escaping violence, others fleeing poverty, and others embarking on agri-business ventures—all of these immigrants grew up on farms and wanted to once again assume the livelihood that they had known in the past, the work that had formed the foundation of their cultural roots.
Vang will be performed by actors Rip Russell and Amy Johnson Schaefer and feature Chamberlin’s photographs.