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Ma-Yi Theater Uses Puppetry to Explore Anti-Asian Aggression in the Experimental Vancouver

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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 experiment in art and creativity from 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 from an alternate plane, etched in worry and concentration. Once brought to life by the grip and guidance of a number of talented puppeteers, these solid and intricately built characters find emotional engagement that rival live actors on a stage, transforming ideas and detachment with a simple gesture as the walls float away with symbolic ease. “Sometimes I think of father, he kept order in the house.” The disorder within fractures the damaged sub-structure, leaving the complications of love and familial connection fully exposed, as the surrender and the leaving happen regardless of any desire withheld, but not because of bad news or a dismissal of ideals. 

Observing all of the strict COVID-19 protocols that a controlled environment can facilitate, a strong group of artists in September 2020, pulled together by Ma-Yi, assembled in a barn in Wisconsin with these cocooned wooden creations in order to find a way to emotionally create an inventive and meaningful puppet play staging. The result of this collaborative experiment is Vancouver, an impressively touching story centered, most intimately, on a mixed-race family struggling intensely and internally with the anti-Asian hate that has been ignited within current America. Violence and intolerance is thrown in this family’s face, quite literally, after relocating from Japan to the Pacific Northwest. They came with the hope of finding more stability within themselves and their community, only to face further heightened tensions and conflicts inside and out. Clashing hard inside every moment of interaction, the dashed hopes of acceptance and peace give way to utter disconnection and dissatisfaction. It’s a lot to take in and process, all that intense anger being lashed out at one another, with the larger more personal questions remaining fully intact. Swirling around their very existence, they ask one another: Where is the loyalty, the love, and the idea of home at the end of the day when darkness brings isolation, drunkenness, and unrelenting disappointment? And will they find the connections within to survive and thrive together? 

It’s compelling and utterly thoughtful, creating symbolic vistas and metaphoric scenarios that are well executed, intense, and complex. Written and directed by Ma-Yi Producing Artistic Director Ralph B. Peña with a strong collaboration with puppetry director Tom Lee, Vancouver explores themes of engagement and anti-Asian aggressions with subtle hand-to-hand movements and structural management, that dig in while we watch a family falling apart. It truly is a work of precision, craftsmanship, and art, finding a way gingerly across a difficult terrain. The creations, especially the father, Hiro, and his faithful dog, Lucky, find intimacy within their sadness, especially when Hiro dutifully carries his angry wife to bed after one too many glasses of disappointment. A number of threads are meticulously unspooled, almost too many for a 30-minute show to entangle and explore. They engage us in thoughtful contemplation, but also leave us a bit hungry wanting more to see through and unpack. But in that contemplation, they do manage to tell us a lot about the artistry of these creators. We watch with wonder as the puppet people find their way into our heart and our blood stream with such clarity, leaving their indentations on our emotional soul as we watch them struggle, in some very human ways, to find autonomy and connectivity within a family unit on the brink of collapse.

Featuring a crew of puppeteers that include Lee, Mark Blashford, and K.T. 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 daughter’s pain engulfs us, and the wife’s hurt dissatisfaction intoxicates us with a sad poison. “You didn’t come with instructions,” she says with bitterness and helplessness to her daughter, forever finding disappointment in the fractured connection that is completely beyond her comprehension. But it is something in the face of Hiro and his best friend, Lucky, that we can’t live without. Their bond delivers truth, much like Vancouver‘s creative team thatincludes Alec Styborski (editor), Francisco Aliwalas (director of photography), Fabian Obispo (composer), Jaerin Son (lead scenic design), Chicago Puppet Studio (production design), K.T. Shivak (puppet design), Blair Thomas (puppetry consultant), Aaron Herschlag (grip), Eric Roediger (motion graphics), Jesse Jae Hoon (titles), Paul Lieber (sound design) and Three Crown Studios (sound mastering). The puppetry piece, although not entirely perfect in its tense, disjointed storytelling script and untethered emotional arc, delivers a sincerity and clarity that is commendable. One look into those doggy eyes tells us everything we need to know about this almost heartbreaking story of attachment. It truly lingers on, long after the plane takes off, leaving us unsettled, albeit somewhat unfulfilled, compellingly engaged, and forever curious. Like so many of the puppet strings and structural threads, that deep sense of loss and sadness in that final shot is one I thoroughly embrace, a desire to connect while unpacking that telling look far more than the time allotted.

Vancouver was a gut-level response to the pandemic and the shuttering of live theater,” says Peña. “We had to find a way to work safely, so I thought of puppets, and knew immediately that I wanted to work with Tom Lee. From there, my mind quickly moved to tell the story of a mixed-race Asian American family dealing with racial aggressions.”

“When Ralph approached me about telling a contemporary Asian American story with puppetry, I leaped at the chance to collaborate with him,” said Lee. “Throughout the process, we were dealing with the pandemic and also the painful and ongoing reckoning in the country about racism. We saw elected leaders openly espouse racist rhetoric and split the country into us and them. Vancouver is not only about trying to make a beautiful piece of art in challenging times. It is about portraying a story of a mixed-race Asian American family navigating the fraught environment of our country. Telling this story is especially crucial at this moment.”

Following the 2020 opening of Ma-Yi Studios, a digital streaming center and live capture studio, Ma-Yi Theater Company, in association with The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, is proud to present the online premiere of Vancouver, a puppet play centered on a mixed-race family who relocate from Japan to the Pacific Northwest. 

Vancouver will debut on April 30 at 7 PM ET at https://ma-yistudios.com/, the streaming platform for Ma-Yi’s 2020-2021 season. While the production is available at no cost, audiences are encouraged to consider a donation by following the directions at 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 audiences 13 and older.

Since its founding in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company has distinguished itself as one of the country’s leading incubators of new work shaping the national discourse about what it means to be Asian American today.

Please visit www.ma-yistudios.com for more information.

For more from Ross click here

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

Book Reviews

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Four Award-Winning Musical Theatre Writers Who Turned to Writing Books

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“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents”, is  filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience.

In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Douglas J Cohen, Stephen Cole ,Alison Louise Hubbard and David Spencer, musical theatre writers, who all have books out.

We are so proud because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.

I am so grateful to my guests Douglas J Cohen How To Survive A Killer Musical: Agony and Ecstasy on the Road to Broadway, Stephen Cole Mary & Ethel… and Mikey Who?, Alison Louise Hubbard The Kelsey Outrage, The Crime of the Century A historical true crime novel and David Spencer The Novelizers: An Affectionate History of Media Adaptations and Originals, Their Astonishing Authors—and the Art of the Craft

Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, the audience who showed up to support us, Rommel Gopez and The Hotel Edison for their kindness and hospitality.

You can catch us on the following platforms:

Pandora:

https://www.pandora.com/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/PC:1001084740

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/show/1084740

Spotify:

Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e3ac5922-ada8-4868-b531-12d06e0576d3

Apple Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/id1731059092

We hope to see you there on April 24th. We will be announcing our guests tomorrow.

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Events

Jackie Siegel’s New Premium Brand, Queen Of Versailles Coffee Is A Luxurious Coffee Delight

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Jackie Siegel, American heiress and businesswoman AJ Catsimatidis, Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe and brand partner Michael Glovaski

I was invited to an intimate tasting of a fabulous new premium brand coffee co-hosted alongside Queen of Versailles Coffee’s Brand Partner, Michael Glovaski. I headed to 8 East 48th Street to Benny John’s where socialite, actress, model and philanthropist turned entrepreneur, Jackie Siegel — AKA, ‘The Real Queen of Versailles’ brought her new venture Queen of Versailles Coffee to New York’s influencers.

Jackie Siegel

The ground coffee and espresso beans are picked, sorted, and specially blended on-site in the volcanic mountaintops in Acatenango, Guatemala. The flavor has a rich taste of sweet honey, warm vanilla, and smooth bourbon notes. It was truly the best coffee I have ever tasted.

American heiress and businesswoman AJ Catsimatidis, Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe, and Suzanna Bowling

Adam Weiss and Angela Gorman

On site was also American heiress and businesswoman AJ Catsimatidis, Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe, the writer of the new musical Queen of Versailles Lindsey Ferrentino, Gordon Winston, Italian restaurateur and master coffee blender Matteo and Pilar.

Jackie Siegel and Gordon Winston

Jackie Siegel, American heiress and businesswoman AJ Catsimatidis, Prince Mario-Max Schaumburg-Lippe

Siegel, alongside Miami-based Glovaski and the Italian-Guatemalan Droccos, are introducing an unmatched level of luxury to the coffee industry. Catering to the modern connoisseur, the brand provides not just a superior coffee experience, but an escape into the world of supreme elegance with every canister.

The event was well done, serving treats but most of all, a taste of this exquisite coffee, that you will be addicted to once you taste it.

Available at https://qvcoffee.com/

#jackiesiegel/ #qvcoffee/ # queenofVersaillescoffee

 

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Art

Bonnie Comley, ART TO WARE and ChaShaMa Present Nothing to Wear

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Until April 30th Bonnie Comley, ART TO WARE and ChaShaMa Present Nothing to Wear in Port Authority’s 41st Street building.

Bonnie Comley and Anita Durst

Bonnie is a three-time Tony Award-winning producer. She has, also, won an Olivier Award and two Drama Desk Awards for her stage productions. She is on the Board President of The Drama League as well as a full member of The Broadway League and the Audience Engagement and Education Committee.

Nothing to Wear

Comley has produced over 40 films, winning five Telly Awards and one W3 Award. She is the founder and CEO of BroadwayHD, the world’s premier online streaming platform delivering over 300 premium live productions to theatre fans globally. Now she is an artist presenting her work at ART TO WARE (A2W) a wearable Art Gallery that curates up-cycled, hand-made, one-of-a-kind statement pieces to be seen, loved and taken home!

Bonnie Comley and Lelie Ware

Founded in 2021 by Lesley Ware, this Black-owned and women-run small business carries small-batch, socially conscious, up-cycled, and locally-made wearables and gifts. A2W curates an environment of creativity, acceptance, and collaboration within a dynamic retail setting that showcases the work of artists, designers, and creative visionaries.

Making this all happen is ChaShaMa and Anita Durst who helps create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world by partnering with property owners to transform unused real estate. Currently, they present 150 events a year, have workspace for 120 artists, and have developed 80 workshops in under served communities. They award 11 million worth of real estate to artists, subsidizes 300 artist work spaces, provide over 215 free art classes, gives 200 artists free space to present and upport over 75 businesses with free space.

Nothing to Wear is a provocative look at our relationship with our clothing choices as it pertains to our self image, fast fashion and textile waste. It challenges the fashion industry to create an alternative to current business models and the global appetite for consumption and asks viewers to question dress codes like the current policing of women in political office.

Jose Febrillet from Port Authority

 

 

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Entertainment

Tribeca Festival Announces Thrilling Feature Film Lineup for 2024

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The 2024 Tribeca Festival, presented by OKX, today unveiled its features lineup, offering a diverse array of narrative, documentary, and animated films. Scheduled to run from June 5-16 in New York City, this year’s Festival promises a thoughtfully curated program and includes everything from timely documentaries addressing political and social concerns to independent narratives showcasing award-winning actors. Additionally, the opening night event, presented in partnership with OKX and City National Bank, was announced.

Tribeca kicks off on Wednesday, June 5 with the world premiere of Diane von Furstenberg: Woman in Charge, an intimate look at the life of the fashion designer and cultural luminary. The film captures Diane von Furstenberg’s impact as a creative icon, who challenged the status quo with the bold inquiry, “Why shouldn’t a woman do what a man can do?” Directed by Tribeca alumni Trish Dalton and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Woman in Charge opens the lineup of features.

The 2024 selection of feature films includes Jazzy with Lily Gladstone; Daddio starring Dakota Johnson and Sean Penn; Firebrand starring Alicia Vikander and Jude Law; BRATS, directed by Andrew McCarthy, with Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, and Lea Thompson; Sacramento, directed by Michael Angarano, starring Michael Cera, Kristen Stewart, and Maya Erskine; Winter Spring Summer or Fall starring Jenna Ortega and Percy Hynes White; and Liza: A Truly Terrific Absolutely True Story with Liza Minnelli. Comedic stars are in Group Therapy, including Neil Patrick Harris, Mike Birbiglia, and Tig Notaro; All That We Love stars Margaret Cho and Jesse Tyler Ferguson; and Outstanding: A Comedy Revolution features Lily Tomlin, Wanda Sykes, Rosie O’Donnell, Hannah Gadsby, and Joel Kim Booster.

Music documentaries highlight the boldest voices of each generation with They All Came Out To Montreux with Prince, Sting, Carlos Santana, Aretha Franklin, and Keith Richards; Satisfied about Renée Elise Goldsberry; Linda Perry: Let It Die Here with Linda Perry, Dolly Parton, Brandi Carlile, and Christina Aguilera; and Avicii – I’m Tim with Tim “Avicii” Bergling, Chris Martin and David Guetta. Renée Elise Goldsberry and Linda Perry will be performing following the world premiere of their respective films.

“Each year, the Tribeca Festival reflects our culture, capturing the essence of the present moment. We’re thrilled to showcase our 23rd edition, delving into captivating explorations of artificial intelligence with Demis Hassabis, thought-provoking discussions on the future of democracy, and so much more,” Tribeca Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. “Storytelling possesses a remarkable ability to bring us together, offering hope in these challenging times. We eagerly anticipate engaging with audiences on difficult yet timely subjects.”

The 23rd edition of Tribeca reflects our activist roots, to showcase a slate of films that speak to today’s political moment and inform voters ahead of the upcoming election. Hacking Hate, directed by Simon Klose, questions the role of social media in amplifying hate speech and extremism. McVeigh, directed by Mike Ott, portrays right-wing extremism with chilling modern implications. America’s Burning, directed by David Smick and narrated by Michael Douglas, dives into the economic root of hate and division.

At the core of our mission is the belief that art can spark change, particularly in the aftermath of global conflicts. The Cranes Call, directed by Laura Warner, spotlights war crimes investigators for the Clooney Foundation for Justice, led by Amal and George Clooney, as they risk their lives traveling across Ukraine to build cases against Russian soldiers and commanders. Antidote, directed by James Jones, digs into the truth about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s deadly regime. Checkpoint Zoo, directed by Joshua Zeman, documents the daring rescue of thousands of animals trapped behind enemy lines in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As War continues to affect regions like the Middle East and Ukraine, art serves as a powerful reminder of our shared humanity.

“In a year of record high submissions, despite industry-wide challenges, and global tumult, our incredible filmmaking community delivered again with some of the most surprising, inspiring, hilarious, galvanizing, boundary-breaking, and downright entertaining work we’ve had the privilege to feature at the festival,” said Tribeca Festival Director and SVP of Programming Cara Cusumano. “Whether grappling with everything from the crisis of global democracy to the most intimate of human dramas, it was heartening to be reminded of the undeniable power of a great film to illuminate our world.”

For the first time, Tribeca’s signature Viewpoints section of bold original visions and innovative perspectives will be in competition. The interdisciplinary program encompasses U.S. and international films across narrative, documentary, and animation, including the animated feature Boys Go to Jupiter starring Elsie Fisher, Tavi Gevinson, Julio Torres, and Sarah Sherman, and the narrative thriller Darkest Miriam with Britt Lower. Documentaries include Champions of the Golden Valley, directed by Ben Sturgulewski, an inspiring sports fable and portrait of people in profound political and social transition, and Searching for Amani, directed by Debra Aroko, a 13-year-old’s dramatic quest to investigate his father’s mysterious murder in one of Kenya’s largest wildlife conservancies.

The final selections were chosen from a record-breaking number of submissions (13,016). This year’s program includes 103 feature films from 114 filmmakers across 48 countries. The lineup comprises 86 world premieres, two international premieres, six North American premieres, and eight New York premieres. Half of the films in competition are directed by women. Additionally, 35% (36) of feature films are directed by BIPOC filmmakers. There are 30 films directed by first-time filmmakers and 25 directors returning to Tribeca with their latest projects.

The Tribeca Festival is curated by Festival Director and SVP of Programming Cara Cusumano, Artistic Director Frédéric Boyer; VP of Shorts Programming Ben Thompson; Senior Programmers Liza Domnitz, Faridah Gbadamosi, Jarod Neece, José F. Rodriguez; Programmers Casey Baron, Jason Gutierrez, Jonathan Penner, and Madison Egan; VP of Games and Immersive Casey Baltes and Immersive Curator Ana Brzezińska; EVP of Artist Relations Nancy Lefkowitz and VP of Artist Relations Meredith Mohr; Curator of Audio Storytelling Davy Gardner; Music Programmer Vincent Cassous; along with a team of associate programmers; supported and inspired by the legendary Paula Weinstein.

The full feature film lineup is detailed below. For more updates on programming follow @Tribeca and #Tribeca2024 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. A Tribeca Membership or 2024 Tribeca Festival passes and ticket packages can be purchased at tribecafilm.com.

 

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Events

Team USA Olympic & Paralympic Athletes Light Up the Empire State Building for 100-Day Countdown

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Red, white and blue came together in the most thrilling way on April 17 when the Empire State Building hosted a lighting ceremony with Team USA Olympians and Paralympians including Evita Griskenas, Kaleo Kanahele Maclay, Jessica Long, Nick Mayhugh, Blake Haxton, Daniela Moroz, Hans Henken, Cheryl Reeve, and Matthew Stutzman.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 17: Evita Griskenas attends as U.S.A. Olympians and Paralympians Light the Empire State Building to Mark 100 Days Out from the Olympics at The Empire State Building on April 17, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Empire State Realty Trust)

The Empire State Building hosted a lighting ceremony with Team USA Olympians and Paralympians including Evita Griskenas, Kaleo Kanahele Maclay, Jessica Long, Nick Mayhugh, Blake Haxton, Daniela Moroz, Hans Henken, Cheryl Reeve, and Matthew Stutzman who flipped the famous light switch.

Tonight the grand landmark will shine in America’s colors and will sparkle to celebrate the 100-Day countdown to the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place in Paris.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 17: Matthew Stutzman attends as U.S.A. Olympians and Paralympians Light the Empire State Building to Mark 100 Days Out from the Olympics at The Empire State Building on April 17, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Empire State Realty Trust)

After the ceremony, the athletes toured the Observatory Experience – which was recently named the #1 attraction in the U.S. in Tripadvisor’s 2023 Travelers’ Choice “Best of the Best” for the second consecutive year – and posed for photos on the building’s 86th floor and 102nd floor Observatories.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – APRIL 17: (L-R) Hans Henken, Matthew Stutzman, Daniela Moroz, Evita Griskenas, Jessica Long, Kaleo Kanahele Maclay, Gene Sykes, Blake Haxton, Nick Mayhugh, and Cheryl Reeve attend as U.S.A. Olympians and Paralympians Light the Empire State Building to Mark 100 Days Out from the Olympics at The Empire State Building on April 17, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Empire State Realty Trust)

Founded in 1894, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee serves as both the National Olympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee for the United States. The USOPC is focused on protecting, supporting and empowering America’s athletes, and is responsible for fielding U.S. teams for the Olympic, Paralympic, Youth Olympic, Pan American and Parapan American Games, and serving as the steward of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in the U.S. For more information, visit TeamUSA.com.

 

 

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