Ma-Yi Theater Uses Puppet To Explore Anti-Asian Aggression In Experimental Vancouver – Times Square Chronicles
It’s a truly surprising and engaging moment when the lid is lifted off the boxes that cradle the intricate puppets that will soon become the visual and emotional centerpieces of Vancouver, a theatrical experience of art and creativity by Ma-Yi Theater Company in association with the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. The curled up forms are striking and ultimately captivating, appearing to be something like sleeping beauties of an alternate plane, etched in worry and focus. Once animated by the input and guidance of a number of talented puppeteers, these strong and complex characters find an emotional engagement that rivals the actors on stage, transforming ideas and detachment with a simple gesture as walls float. with symbolic ease. “Sometimes I think of the father, he kept the house in order.“The mess within the structure fractures the damaged substructure, leaving the complications of love and family bonding fully exposed, as abandonment and departure occurs regardless of any held desire, but not because of bad ones. news or a rejection of ideals.
By observing all of the strict COVID-19 protocols that a controlled environment can facilitate, a strong group of artists in September 2020, assembled by Ma-Yi, assembled in a Wisconsin barn with these cocooned wood creations in order to find a way to emotionally create an inventive and meaningful puppet performance. The result of this collaborative experience is Vancouver, an awe-inspiring and touching story centered, more intimately, on a Métis family struggling intensely and internally against the anti-Asian hatred that has been inflamed in present-day America. Violence and intolerance are thrown in this family’s face, literally, after moving from Japan to the Pacific Northwest. They came with the hope of finding more stability in themselves and in their community, only to face new tensions and increased conflicts inside and out. Colliding hard with every moment of interaction, dashed hopes for acceptance and peace give way to utter disconnection and discontent. It’s a lot to take in and deal with, all of this intense anger raging against each other, the larger personal issues remaining totally untouched. Swirling around their very existence, they wonder: where is the loyalty, the love and the idea of home at the end of the day when the darkness brings isolation, drunkenness and relentless disappointment? And will they find the connections within to survive and thrive together?
It’s compelling and utterly thoughtful, creating symbolic perspectives and well-executed, intense and complex metaphorical scenarios. Written and directed by Ma-Yi Producing Artistic Director Ralph B. Peña with a strong collaboration with Puppet Director Tom Lee, Vancouver explores themes of anti-Asian engagement and aggression with subtle melee movements and structural management, which deepen as we watch a family fall apart. It is truly a work of precision, craftsmanship and artistry, carefully finding its way over difficult terrain. The creations, especially the father, Hiro, and his faithful dog, Lucky, find privacy in their sadness, especially when Hiro dutifully carries his angry wife to bed after too many disappointing drinks. A number of threads are meticulously unwound, almost too much for a 30-minute show to tangle and explore. They engage us in thoughtful thinking, but also leave us a little hungry, wanting to see through and unwrap more. But in this reflection, they manage to tell us a lot about the artistic talent of these creators. We watch in awe as puppet people find their way into our hearts and bloodstream with such clarity, leaving their indentations on our emotional soul as we watch them struggle, in a very human way, to find self-reliance and connectedness to the soul. within a family unit. on the verge of collapse.
With a team of puppeteers including Lee, Mark Blashford and KT Shivak alongside the vocal talents of Cindy Cheung as Amy, Daniel K. Isaac as Lucky, Shannon Tyo as Ashley and James Yaegashi as Hiro, Vancouver unearths layers of conflict and anger inside each of these family members. The pain of the daughter engulfs us and the wounded discontent of the wife intoxicates us with a sad poison. “You did not come with instructionsShe said bitterly and helplessly to her daughter, forever finding disappointment in the fractured connection that was completely beyond her comprehension. But it’s something about Hiro and his best friend, Lucky, that we just can’t live without. Their bond delivers the truth, much like Vancouverthe creative team of Alec Styborski (editor), Francisco Aliwalas (cinematographer), Fabian Obispo (composer), Jaerin Son (main stage design), Chicago Puppet Studio (production design), KT Shivak (puppet design) , Blair Thomas (puppet consultant), Aaron Herschlag (grip), Eric Roediger (motion graphics), Jesse Jae Hoon (titles), Paul Lieber (sound design) and Three Crown Studios (sound mastering). The puppet piece, while not entirely perfect in its tense, disjointed storyline and unattached emotional arc, offers commendable sincerity and clarity. A look in those doggy eyes tells us all we need to know about this almost heartbreaking attachment story. It really persists long after the plane takes off, leaving us unstable, albeit somewhat dissatisfied, resolutely engaged, and forever curious. Like so many puppet strings and structural threads, that deep sense of loss and sadness in this last shot is one that I embrace deeply, a desire to connect while unwrapping that revealing gaze far beyond the allotted time.
“Vancouver was a gut response to the pandemic and the shutdown of the live theater, ”Peña says. “We had to find a way to work safely, so I thought about the puppets and immediately knew I wanted to work with Tom Lee. From there, my mind quickly moved to tell the story of a mixed race Asian-American family struggling with racial assault.
“When Ralph approached me to tell a contemporary Asian American story with puppets, I jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with him,” Lee said. “Throughout the process, we have been confronted with the pandemic and also the painful and continuing accounts of racism in the country. We have seen elected leaders openly espouse racist rhetoric and divide the country between us and them. Vancouver It’s not just about trying to create a beautiful piece of art in difficult times. It is about telling the story of a mixed race family of Asian and American origin navigating in the tense environment of our country. Telling this story is especially crucial at this time. “
Following the 2020 opening of Ma-Yi Studios, a digital streaming center and a live capture studio, Ma-Yi Theater Company, in association with Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, is proud to present the first online of Vancouver, a puppet play centered on a Métis family who moved from Japan to the Pacific Northwest.
Vancouver will debut April 30 at 7 p.m. ET at https://ma-yistudios.com/, the streaming platform for the 2020-2021 season of Ma-Yi. Although the production is available free of charge, the public is encouraged to consider a donation following the instructions of the Vancouver website. The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival website, chicagopuppetfest.org, will also offer a free link to the production. Vancouver is intended for an audience of 13 years and over.
Since its creation in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company has stood out as one of the country’s leading incubators for new work, shaping the national discourse on what it means to be of Asian descent today.
Please visit www.ma-yistudios.com for more information.
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