‘Going Green the Wong Way’: Making Environmental Activism Fun

Performance artist Kristina Wong’s one-woman show combines her Asian heritage with her struggles as she attempts to live green in Los Angeles. Wong performed at the 5Cs on Tuesday, Oct. 2, sharing her personal struggles of living an eco-lifestyle with 5C students. 

Engaging the audience with her hyper storytelling style and environmentally friendly noisemakers, Wong rapped, conversed with Mother Nature and used a self-portrait-laden slideshow to detail her hilarious and often ill-fated adventures attempting to save the Earth.

Wong’s show, bolstered by her undying, upbeat fervor and sharp comedic timing, avoids the condemning nature contaminant of most environmentalist presentations. Instead, her brazen humor and unfiltered commentary subtly counteracts the convenience-driven mindset of the 21st century. She presents the concept of being green not as a radical lifestyle choice but rather something that is of personal obligation.

Many students’ own experiences with environmentalism drew parallels to those being illustrated on stage.

“She talks about how it is really hard to be environmentally friendly,” Katie Wang SC ’13 said. “It’s like you’re supposed to do all those things that are way harder. Something that I noticed as a parallel between this show and [Wong’s] last one is that in the last one she talked about how she had to take on this role of saving everyone from depression and this one was also like she had to take on this role of saving the planet. I think this is something that we all feel. When we take on a cause, we have this unrealistic perception that we need to do it all by ourselves. She lets us realize that we all relate to this.”

Wong began the show by introducing herself and working her way through a meticulously chronicled slide-show presentation about Harold, a hot pink 1981 Mercedes-Benz that had been converted to run purely on vegetable oil that ultimately racked up twice its worth in repair bills before bursting into flame on the 405 freeway.

With 172,000 miles on an odometer that no longer worked and an engine that consistently leaked filtered grease, Harold came with its own set of adventures. Wong recounted the challenges of finding vegetable oil for the car and likened the search to finding drugs in L.A., meeting suspicious characters with serial killer handwriting in back alleys for cheap oil.

The rest of the show featured the ominous presence of a gruff, male Mother Earth character whose booming voice transitioned the audience back in time to the origins of Wong’s eco-warrior missions. 

Memorable parts of her true-life stories, many of which are not fit for a dinner conversation, include her experiences navigating the dungeon-like city that is L.A. using public transportation and even her “SEXAYY” personal choices regarding feminine hygiene and the monthly cycle. She demonstrates the art of wearing and maintaining washable, reusable menstrual pads, proffering their benefits also to men suffering from incontinence and offering it to one very enthusiastic, estrogen-exuding audience member.

Wong received a very positive response from the audience, who cheered along with her raps and laughed at anecdotes throughout the 70 minute-long performance.

 “I was sitting there thinking, ‘Maybe I should be a vegetarian and then, wait, am I actually contemplating this change?’” audience member Shannon Lubetich PO ’15 said. “She didn’t make me feel guilty, but she just made me think about it more, which was really cool, but it’s a lot of things to think about.”

The performance was unique in its ability to approach such a serious issue as the environmental crisis, or the “raping of mother Earth,” as Wong phrased it, in such a light-hearted manner, while still staying true to its central theme of green living. 

“I guess the first seeds of the show were planted in 2009 since my car caught on fire in 2008,” Wong said about her inspiration for the show. “I had really thought that I was going to show the world how easy it was to be green. I had developed 12 digital pictures for this show into this slideshow about my car and it started out like me very naively telling people, ‘Well, I got this car!’ And then it got worse and worse and then my car caught on fire and that’s how I developed this show. It’s kind of like how stories get told on Facebook, just picture-caption, picture-caption.” 

In a show filled with so much absurdity, from humping plastic bags to mocking the L.A. public transportation system, Wong still has a soft spot for one particular scene. 

“The diva cup [scene] was pretty fun,” Wong said. “We didn’t know that that would be as funny as it was.”

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