Our newest fellow, Christopher Betts, has recently finished his time in Bali, Indonesia and is now traveling through Africa for the purpose of studying theatrical traditions and practices through the exploration of performers and companies on the continent.
Check out these first couple snapshots from Bali and stay tuned for more updates soon!
The Water Wheel Puppet Theater and Fairy Tale Streets of Chiran
It’s a sweltering summer in Kagoshima, but I endure the heat so I can explore Chiran’s historic samurai village. The thoroughfare of immaculate zen gardens, private estates, and tea houses was once the property of Japanese warriors, or bushi, who provided protection to locals and grew green tea for profits.
The quiet streets, with their stone fences and Edo-era homes, lack telephone wires, electrical lights, or any fixtures from our modern age. The neighborhood is exquisitely preserved and remains like a doorway into the country's past.
Read more on Zach's blog: tjtwtfdorn.blogspot.jp/2017/09/the-water-wheel-puppet-theater-and.html
As part of his fellowship year, Héctor has begun a new ensemble company with indigenous actors, musicians, and artists he met during his time exploring different communities in Mexico. Check out a picture from a recent rehearsal for an original piece about the lives and myths of indigenous people:
Noh Theatre is one of the oldest forms of performance in Japan. It is a musical drama using dance, masks, live music, and chanting. It has been said to be one of the oldest forms of theatre dating back the the 14th century. Characterized by slow subtle movements, ornate costumes, and hand-carved wooden masks, this form is most appreciated by an older Japanese audience.
I personally became interested in Noh working on Ping Chong’s adaptation of Akira Kurowsawa’s stage adaptation of Throne of Blood. As Ping’s associate, I watched the film for hours and became entranced by the beautiful stillness in Lady Asaji. I learned that he used man elements of Noh theatre in this film, and this was the essential element for our production. For our production in at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Brooklyn Academy of Music, we trained our ensemble in this form and I became hooked. I knew that one day I would act on this obsession in a deeper way.
Keep Reading on Jesca's Blog: www.jescaprudencio.com/blog/fire-and-masks-of-kyoto-takigi-o-noh
Five years after the end of World War II, citizens in Osaka gathered at Japan's first America Fair, where visitors explored scaled-down recreations of the Statue of Liberty and Mt. Rushmore. In Tokyo, onlookers gawked as live bikini clad models posed in department store windows while the sounds of Thelonious Monk and Stan Getz made their way across the country's radio waves.
Against the sounds of modern jazz and the whirlwind of General MacArthur’s Japanese reconstruction, the country witnessed a decline in traditional performance, specifically those art forms that stemmed from Shinto ritual, such as ningyo joruri. In post-war Japan, many linked Shintoism to Japan's pre-war militarism, and, as a result, puppet shows and traditional festivals, such as Nagoya Matsuri, were discouraged or banned.
However, in 1951, during this new era of bikinis and home television sets, a small town in the mountains of Shikoku gathered together to rebuild a theater dedicated to a lost form of Japanese entertainment - fusuma karakuri.
Keep reading on Zach's blog: http://tjtwtfdorn.blogspot.jp/
Thailand is world-renowned for its festival culture. There are longstanding cultural events include Songkran Festival (National water splashing ritual to celebrate the new year), Phi Ta Khon (Mask ghost festival Isaan culture in the Northeast), and Yi Peng Festival (Lantern releasing even in Chiang Mai). The country does such a fabulous job at bringing crowds together to eat and share the beauty of the Thai culture, Chiang Mai Flower festival focuses on this natural beautiful through a showcase of the regions finest orchids. Thais and tourists to flock to "The Rose of the North" for a lush display of colorful floats, gardens, and cultural events showcasing the country’s most beautiful flowers. My sister Christina, a Hawaiian resident, joined my along for the ride up to this weekend of flower power. Here is quick look at my week in Chiang Mai:
The vibe felt very hometown. It wasn't overly former or commercialized. Tourists and locals lined up along the sidewalks, but we were able to walk into the middle of the street to take a good photo as the float went by. The dancers and participants were incredibly patient and stopped along their route to take pictures with peace-signing tourists. We were tempted to walk into the street and followed the trend during a full stop. Parents followed their kids, and partners followed their significant others wiping their sweat and feeding cold water to the beauty queens and kings frying in the Thailand sun. Floats are prepared in just days before the festival, since the fresh flowers need to be at their peek for performance.
Keep reading on Jesca's blog: http://www.jescaprudencio.com/blog/seduced-by-orchids-at-chiang-mai-flower-festival
A 350 Year Old Puppet Show, and Glover, Vermont
As I head to Kyoto Station from Otsu Matsuri, I have a deep suspicion I'm not going to make it to Takayama Matsuri. I’m certain I'm on the wrong platform, even as I watch the corresponding trains pull into the station. On the bus from Nagoya to Takayama, I convince myself I missed my stop and I'm actually headed to Hokkaido's most northern tip. What if I lose my wallet? Or the train never shows up? This anxiety was anticipated. I am headed to one of Japan's most legendary karakuri ningyo shows, and it's only performed on one day of the year. If I miss this - that's it. But I'm in Japan - where wallets are usually returned and a late train is a mythical legend. Of course, I arrive in Takayama right on time.
As I make my way through the thousands of tourists to my ryokan near Hachiman shrine, the city puts me at ease. Despite the crowds, Takayama's beauty and charm is intoxicating. The city feels wonderfully timeless, combining Edo Period architecture with sprawling glass storefronts that reveal ultra-modern wooden furniture and stainless steel home goods. Glossy Post-War diners with Art Deco signage share the streets with 16th century sake breweries. Despite Takayama's blend of contemporary style and historic buildings, nothing feels out of place. If anything, Takayama reveals the ageless aesthetic of Japan's minimalism and its influence on modern design.
As night falls, the dashi, or yatai as they are called in Takayama, parade down Yasukowa Street. A coalition of fantastical lions leads the dazzling cavalcade. The mouths swing open and snap with electrifying cracks that complement their wiry hair and devious grins.
Llegada/Arrival: October 9, 2016
BEFORE WE LAND
There are as many Mexico's as there are Mexicans living in it.
The Mexico that I grew up in, before migrating to the US, involved ample gardens within walls, trendy video-gaming consoles, and a trilingual education. This was a sheltered and certainly privileged México. The world within the walls of my house was a very different world than the one outside. With a constant fear of what might happen outside those walls, I did not step outside my house on my own until I was thirteen. Stepping outside those walls meant exposing myself to a world that I'd long been told was dangerous, a Mexico which was, essentially, not my own.
The Mexico which I'm now exploring is a living contradiction, an opposition between the sacred and vulgar, past and present, tradition and innovation, chaos and serenity, man and universe, and so on. Not one city, town, village, or home is exactly like another. The richness and diversity of the country, and its theatrical spirit, is astounding. All in all, it is a Mexico that I've only glimpsed at from afar, and one that greater than anyone could ever fully comprehend. Nevertheless, I must seek to understand.
In exploring my country of origin, I must clarify that this is hardly a country that I (or anyone else) can claim in its entirety as "my own." Furthermore, this journey through Mexico is as much of a theatrical exploration of the country’s rich culture, as it is a personal, rediscovery of Mexico that I've known and how it has changed. Through this extraordinary opportunity granted by The Julie Taymor World Theatre Fellowship, I can only promise to empaparme (soak myself) with life, in all its forms, and with patience see those experiences seep into my sensibilities. And in the end, the journey will hopefully condense itself into something that can be shared on the stage.
Lastly, I hope that by sharing these brief, narrative, and impressionistic entries, I may be able to reveal not only some unsung wonders of Mexico, but some surprising part of myself as well.
Read the rest at: www.hectorfloreskomatsu.com/journal/2016/10/9/arrival
TAHARA MATSURI: SEPTEMBER 25, 2016
Tahara City sits at the head of Japan's Atsumi Peninsula. A two hour train ride from Nagoya Station, the city welcomes visitors with a landscape speckled with convenience stores, melon farms, and solar panels. On a typical Friday morning, traffic inches across Tahara Bay towards the second-largest Toyota manufacturing plant in Japan, as surfers head to the coast to tackle some of the most thrilling waves in the Pacific.
However, this weekend is different. This weekend, all roads lead to the Tahara Matsuri, one of the last major summer festival in Aichi prefecture.
Japanese festivals are distinguished by dashi, the multi-tiered floats that travel through city streets. Appearing as joyous thrones, these dashi sway above crowds of onlookers, marking the start of the weekend's festivities. Inside, musicians sit tightly packed with their instruments on the first floor, while mechanical puppets move six meters above their heads. These automated puppets, known as karakuri ningyo or "mechanical dolls," are what brings me to Tahara.
Read the rest at: http://tjtwtfdorn.blogspot.jp/2016/09/tahara-matsuri.html
Welcome to Fellows in the Field, the TJTWTF Blog! Check back here regularly for updates and musings from our current fellows during their year-long journeys:
ZACHARY DORN, from St. Petersburg, FL, is studying traditional Karakuri Ningyo and work with contemporary Japanese theater artists as a means to observe the ways in which experimental spectacle explores themes of dread.
HÉCTOR FLORES KOMATSU, from Ann Arbor, MI, is searching for Mexico’s hidden theatrical spirit through the exploration of the fiestas and traditions of its rural and indigenous communities.
JESCA PRUDENCIO, from Brooklyn, NY, is exploring traditional forms of puppetry and dance throughout Thailand, Japan, and the Philippines as she develops her interdisciplinary theatrical adaptation of Francisco Balagtas’ poem, Florante at Laura.