We are at the point where art is being made about the recent trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic, and performance artist Kristina Wong has a one-woman piece about her unique experience that just had its San Francisco premiere at ACT's Strand Theater on Thursday.

Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord fits in to a body of work that includes previous one-woman shows Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Wong Street Journal, and Kristina Wong for Public Office, which delves into Wong's experience campaigning and getting elected to the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council in Los Angeles.

As a comedian and performer, Wong is witty but not always light-hearted. The East Bay Express once described Wong as "a woman who takes life's absurdities very seriously," and that is an apt description of how she approached the subject of the onset of the pandemic, and her immediate instinct to action to help save people's lives.

Through spending a perhaps unhealthy amount of time on Facebook, and perhaps through a need to stay busy in the early days of the pandemic, Wong answered the call to produce hand-sewn face masks for essential workers and vulnerable populations across the country.

Starting from scraps of fabric and elastic that she had in her Los Angeles apartment, and using her Hello Kitty sewing machine, she dashed off 50 masks in short order to send off to a fire department on the East Coast. Soon, via Facebook, she was recruiting "aunties" from her extended family and friends, and her mom's friends in San Francisco — where Wong grew up — to pitch in and sew masks of their own. Within a month or so, Wong was coordinating a whole network of aunties that became known as the Auntie Sewing Squad (A.S.S.), collecting donations and producing thousands of masks between them.

Thus her days as a "sweatshop overlord" began.

Wong's story takes several sobering turns, and while she uses humor to help process the trauma of the pandemic, she does not shy away from the very serious tragedies that came with it. There were deaths, even among the aunties, and Wong was also mourning the loss of about two years of income from performing live and the loss of live theater in general.

There was also an election, as you may recall, a horrific spate of violence against Asian Americans, and just shy of one year into the pandemic, there was January 6th and the very real threat to our democracy that it posed. Wong touches on all of this and more, and, quite powerfully, invites the entire audience to share in a requiem for the entire mess we collectively experienced.

Kristina Wongin her award–winning solo show, 'Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord,' performing at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater now through May 5, 2024.

Ample use of projections on the back wall of the stage give plenty of real-life context to Wong's storytelling, and put (often masked) faces to the names she mentions.

At the risk of giving a spoiler [SPOILER ALERT, you may stop reading here!], I have to mention that the single most powerful element of Wong's piece comes as a kind of surprise epilogue. She mentions in the final moments of the show that the aunties had secretly collaborated on a quilt for her, which she compares to the baby blankets that aunties the world over quilt or knit for children before they're even born. It was presented to her in 2021, when the Auntie Sewing Squad disbanded, just as factory-manufactured N95s and KN95s became widely available once again, and as some of the aunties left the Facebook Group and disappeared into the non-online world forever.

Each auntie created their own little thank you panel, dozens upon dozens of them, and they were sewn together into a very tangible memento of that brutal but productive time. And as audience members filed out of the theater Thursday night, there it was, this incredibly moving, sewn-together piece of fabric, for all of us to see, read, and touch. As you might imagine, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

'Kristina Wong, Sweatshop Overlord' plays through May 5 at ACT's Strand Theater. Find tickets here.