Seattle-based actor/writer Sara Porkalob makes it clear that she understands difficult choices in the generational triptych that makes up her acclaimed “Dragon Cycle” plays. In “Dragon Lady,” Porkalob explores her grandmother’s desperate decision to flee violence and poverty in the Philippines to come to an America that was openly hostile to immigrant women of color.
“Dragon Mama,” which had its premiere at the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) in 2019, recounts the tale of the writer’s queer mother, who left baby Sara behind in Washington state while she herself headed to Alaska for a fishery job and a chance to support her family. “Dragon Baby,” an A.R.T. commission, takes on Porkalob’s own story of facing down sexism and sexual violence, white supremacism, and the grinding poverty of minimum-wage jobs before achieving theatrical acclaim.
Although live theater has been halted by the pandemic, the A.R.T., under the leadership of Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director Diane Paulus and executive producer Diane Borger, is bringing Porkalob’s inspiring work to audiences. As part of its “Virtual Oberon” lineup, “Dragon Mama” will begin streaming Thursday, with a virtual premiere at 7:30 p.m. (The Elliott Norton Award-winning production will be available on demand through Dec. 10.) Porkalob will also kick off the A.R.T.’s “Behind the Scenes” discussion series on Monday. (Information about tickets, including a pay-what-you-can option, may be found at AmericanRepertoryTheater.org.) She recently spoke with the Gazette over Zoom about her work and theater during the pandemic.
GAZETTE: These plays recreate the stories of the women in your family, but they are artistic creations. How much is interpretation?
PORKALOB: It’s all 100 percent true. The “Dragon Cycle” was never meant to be my memoir alone. It was meant to be my family’s memoir, specifically my grandmother’s, my mother’s, and my memoir. And that requires me understanding that people can experience the same event in very, very different ways. Some people might call that creative license, but I’m not creating something out of nothing. I’m literally trying on my family’s different perspectives around a series of events.