Hmong-Lao Friendship Play / Lao-Hmong Friendship Play

Lazy Hmong Woman Productions and Intermedia Arts present
Written and performed by May Lee-Yang and
Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay
Directed by Scotty Gunderson

Waiting list begins at 6:30PM**

Playwrights, performing artists, foodies, and real-life BFFs May Lee-Yang and Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay explore the connections between themselves and their people through stories, humor, hot Asian men, and popular culture in this new theatrical work.

The Hmong and Lao are Southeast Asian peoples who came to the U.S. as refugees in the 1970s following the Secret War in Laos. Both groups are from Laos. Both are refugees. There are even some shared things like language and music. Yet, Hmong and Lao people rarely talk and work with one another.

This dynamic inspired Hmong-American playwright May Lee-Yang and Lao-American playwright Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay to create a piece that builds cross-cultural understanding, connections, and friendships through humor, joy, and shared stories. Collaboratively researched, written, and performed, Hmong-Lao Friendship Play / Lao-Hmong Friendship Play explores cultural relativism between the Hmong and the Lao, both in Laos and in Minnesota. This show is a treasure trove of stories, such as the one about two fathers who were fighters – one a Captain in the CIA-trained Chao Fa (guerilla fighters), the other a buffalo-riding gangster, or the story of two patriarchs – one a provincial governor and the other a provincial governor of the Hmong version of Laos, or the story about what a Lao girl had to do to become an honorary Hmong.

Hmong-Lao Friendship Play / Lao-Hmong Friendship Play is a one-of-a-kind performance you won’t want to miss.


September 17 | Thursday
Grab some snacks and chat with the artists following Opening Night!

September 19 | Saturday
Want to dig deeper into the show? Stick around after the performance for a Q&A with the artists.
This evening will offer ASL interpretation for both the show and the Q&A.


The year 2015 is a significant milestone for the Hmong and Lao communities, marking 40 years of living in Minnesota. The Hmong and the Lao have differing systems of knowledge in everything from religion to beliefs and values, gender roles to politics, dress, and even agricultural practices. But in Laos, the Hmong and the Lao were amicable neighbors, often trading goods and services with each other and sharing similarities in language, food, and music. Since being displaced as refugees to become resettled as new Minnesotans, the most important similarity is their shared experience as diasporic peoples.

What caused this great exodus of the Hmong and Lao from Laos? The Vietnam conflict through the 1960s and 70s brought the American CIA to Laos. Despite the International Agreement on the Neutrality of Laos (signed in Geneva on July 23, 1962), the Hmong and Lao both found themselves fighting for the American CIA against Vietnamese communists.


May Lee-Yang is a playwright, poet, prose writer, and performance artist. She has been hailed by Twin Cities Metro Magazine as “on the way to becoming one of the most powerful and colorful voices in local theater.” Her theater-based works have been presented locally at organizations like at Mu Performing Arts, the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT), and Intermedia Arts as well as nationally at Out North Theater (Anchorage) and the National Asian American Theater Festivals in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Her plays include The Divorcee Diaries, Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman and Ten Reasons Why I’d Be a Bad Porn Star. In 2012, her company produced a Hmong-language version of Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman to create accessibility for people who spoke little or no English, were new Americans, or had never seen theater before. She is the author of the children’s book The Imaginary Day (MN Humanities Center) and has been published in Bamboo Among the Oaks: Contemporary Writing By Hmong Americans, Water~Stone Literary Journal, and others. She has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the National Performance Network, the Midwestern Voices and Visions Residency Award, Intermedia Arts’ Beyond the Pure Writing Fellowship, the Playwright Center, the Loft Literary Center, and is a winner of the 2011 Bush Leadership Fellowship. She also teaches creative writing and theater to teens and elders. In 2014, she launched Letters to Our Grandchildren, a theater/food/storytelling/video project with Hmong elders.

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is an award-winning Lao American poet, playwright, and cultural producer who lives for miscombinations. She brings over 10 years of experience working in the non-profit sector and at the state and national level within the Asian American community. She has worked as a programs coordinator and consultant on community-based projects, research analysis, grant writing, program planning and evaluation, and community assessment. Her artmaking and community work has been possible due to funding from organizations such as the Jerome Foundation, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, MN State Arts Board, and the Joyce Foundation. Her writings can be found in the Hmong Women Write Now! Anthology, Poetry City USA Vol. 4, Lao American Speculative Anthology, Lessons For Our Time, Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement, and The Asian American Literary Review. Her plays have been presented by Mu Performing Arts, The Unit Collective, Minnesota Fringe Festival, and the Consortium of Asian American Theater Artists. Her critically acclaimed play KUNG FU ZOMBIES VS CANNIBALS was named “Best Production of 2013” by L’Etoile Magazine and she is a recipient of a theater fellowship from Mu Performing Arts as well as a fellowship to study traditional Lao storytelling supported by the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Folk and Traditional Arts grant. She’s a recipient of the 2010 Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry (NY), and has been recognized as a Change Maker by Intermedia Arts and the office of Governor Dayton for her contributions and leadership in the state’s Lao arts movement. Vongsay is Chair of the Twin Cities World Refugee Day festival planning committee, is a COMPAS and East Side Arts Council teaching artist, and serves on the board of directors for Intermedia Arts, Saint Paul Almanac, and Ananya Dance Theatre. Vongsay believes in creating tools and spaces for amplification of refugee voices and continues to explore and share these narratives through poetry, theater, and storytelling. Check her out on Minnesota Public Radio News’ The Interpreters podcast and get to know her.


Lazy Hmong Woman Productions’ aim is to create change by providing space and tools to nurture Hmong women’s and girls’ voices through storytelling and theater and increase and diversify the number of Hmong Minnesotans who access the arts. Our work is grounded in giving marginalized voices the opportunities to tell their own story, in their words, on their own terms. Additionally, our projects are catalysts to create cross-cultural conversations. Each new production is an opportunity to think about: how do we make theater authentically inclusive? How do we make theater that is physically, financially, and culturally accessible?  How do we develop audiences within communities that have had little exposure to theater? How do we use theater as a vehicle to talk about hard issues within and beyond the play?

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation Minnesota