by Aiano Nakagawa
In the Bay Area there are multiple shows each night. Meaning, if you stay home, or even if you go to a show, you end up missing out on something. Well my friends, Hookers on Mars Eventually (H.O.M.E.) is the show I am so thankful I did not miss.
The night started like any other. I met up with a dear friend, one who recommended this show to me. We grabbed a bite to eat and began chatting it up - and we got right into the nitty gritty. We talked privilege, race, class, sexism, our experiences as Asian American femme women - all of the things we experience.
As we held our conversation I couldn’t help but feel and see the elderly white couple next to us eating their food and staring us down, as if we were their dinner entertainment. It was really fucking uncomfortable. Every time my friend or I would make eye contact with them they’d look away, but their bodies were angled directly toward us, so we were in their direct line of vision.
The old white man started talking to us and soon wouldn’t shut up. He kept telling us about how he and his wife go to the theater at least twice a week. They’re season ticket holders. Tonight they were going to see the national tour of Cabaret. And whenever they went to the theater, they always sat orchestra. He whipped out his ticket and stuck it in my face, “see” he said, pointing to words that read “Orchestra. Aisle 8.”
“And we usually eat around the corner at a restaurant where we usually pay $135.00 for our meal. But they were closed to tonight we’re here!”
I rolled my eyes.
Good for you, dude, I thought. Must feel good to be a rich white man, huh?
When my friend excused herself to use the restroom, this dude took that as an invitation to chat me up even more… Then he told me to pick a book from his bag. I was hesitant, but I’m still unlearning, so I did. He was walking around with a bag of books, written by him. Once his book was in my hands, he snached it out and said “oh, let me sign it for you.” Gross, I thought. Then he told me to read some poetry, (and while I now feel like I should have just said no - hey I’m still learning), I proceeded to read some terribly self indulgent, far removed poetry.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the reason I wasn’t connecting with this man’s words was the fact that, as a queer Asian American woman, I couldn’t connect with his experience - at all.
We left the restaurant and headed around the corner to the American Conservatory Theatre. Still a little peeved by the dinner situation, my friend and I began discussing our experience and other bizarre interactions we’ve had with the white-male population. We were really getting into it when three super delicious, sparkly, intergalactical, and queer as fuck looking dancers began gliding down the staircase.
Their energy was fire. They stood above us all, posing and slaying. Making eyes with everyone in the lobby. They were alluring and seductive in their movement and poise. They were black and brown, sparkly, and gender bending. Yes please.
They lured us into the intimate upstairs theater space where we took our seats among a simple white backdrop, set with two screens and a telescope. I looked around and saw a pretty typical SF crowd, some tech looking type cis men, some creative looking type, a few POC, but mostly white people.
As the lights dimmed, the three majestic sirens from the theater lobby entered the space, performed The Hooker Ballet and then escaped into the darkness.
Within a few minutes into the first scene, I knew this show was going to deliver.
From the start of the play we follow Chima, the protagonist, a Chicanx, Black, Muslim woman who is also sex worker from Oakland. Chima has fought to survive the suffocating hand of patriarchy and white supremacy throughout her life and is about to venture onto a new planet, Mars.
In H.O.M.E. the United States is being auctioned off state-by-state to the country with the highest bid. States are closing off their borders and those who are left in the state when it’s sold, are for the taking of whatever country now owns them.
On Mars, Google has invaded and began to build an empire. Chima’s type-A, overachieving sister is part of Google’s team and is living on Mars. In preparation for Chima’s departure we learn that life on Mars is sterile, cold, and non-human. All memories from time on Earth are stored in your Google glasses. These glasses are the key to your survival on Mars. Google has created codes for water, air, basic survival, and frivolous pleasures that are uploaded onto your glasses. The coders have access to all of the codes - all of the air, water, luxury - anything they could imagine because they’re the ones creating them. Those who work to sustain Mars and keep the Google empire going, earn air and water codes in exchange for their work. People are controlled on Mars by these codes. If you disobey orders, or break rules in any way, you do not receive your codes and you will die.
Back on Earth we witness Chima and her cousin, Fresca, a femme, Black, genderqueer sex worker, played by the wickedly talented and fierce, Davia Spain.
These two go there. In one of their scenes Chima tries to define the connection between herself as mother and the son her sister raised. Chima states having a child is what defines woman. Chima tells Fresca that to be a real woman one has to bleed… Fresca, claps back (as she should) and defends herself. Fresca lets Chima know that although she might not bleed between her legs, it does not mean she has not bled for her body. She has.
Star Finch, the writer, created an amazing sci-fi, dystopian world and delivers conversations I’ve been dying for upper-middle class, cis-het white people to hear. Conversations about blood, vaginas, Blackness, gender, womanness, systemic racism, law targeting, sexism, queerness, capitalism, police brutality, SO MUCH. Even with H.O.M.E. set in the distant future in a dystopian world on a different planet, Finch is able to address crucial issues that face our society today.
It was so satisfying to watch the body languages of the white cis-het bros as they squirmed in their seats and looked around anxiously when Chima described the pain of taking her first shit, post birth. All the blood, and shit, and pain. Listen.
This is the type of artistry I have been craving. H.O.M.E. was a breath of fresh air from the stuffy, pretentious, and less than relatable experiences I’ve had in the theater.
As a native San Franciscan and POC, Star Finch has seen, first hand, the devastating effects the tech boom has had in community. Her writing reflects actual experiences and conversations being had in these communities.
QTPOC storytelling is an essential key towards liberation and love. It’s time for these stories to be in the spotlight. My sincerest appreciation to Star Finch.