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Ghost Festival 5

Friday, November 11, 2005
8:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Event Type:
First Voice
Location Details:
Jewis Community Center - Kanbar Hall
3200 California Street
San Francisco, CA

November 11th & 12th - Ghost Festival V


Featuring Kuan-Yin: Our Lady of Compassion

Mermaid Meat, Black Hair, The Bell of Dojoji

Stories written and performed by Brenda Wong Aoki

In concert with Asian Jazz Pioneer Mark Izu & Taiko Soloist Janet Koike & Kai Kane Aoki Izu

Directed by OBIE Award Winner Jael Weisman

Friday and Saturday, November 11-12, 2005 @ 8 pm

Kanbar Hall, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

*Includes mature themes and erotic content, not recommended for children under 10

Obsessive greed, crimes of passion, and the abuse of power – the stories found on the front pages of newspapers today, are the foundation of ghost stories. Supernatural tales in antique settings and contemporary ghost stories in Chinatown are the stuff that showcases Brenda Wong Aoki's remarkable talents as a performer and storyteller.

In the words of Aoki, "In Noh theater, the dead are more important than the living because the actions of the dead are what make up the present. If you know the past, you can change your future. Japanese ghosts are female. Specifically dissatisfied females. They are pure passion. Women with a mission, so filled with love, jealousy or rage, they won't go peacefully to eternal rest until their story is told. They are more goddess than ghost."

Since the beginning of time storytellers have connected the people to the gods, imparted strategies for living, and soothed the soul. Mermaid Meat - The Secret to Immortality will center on four unique and powerful tales that explore the dilemmas of life people around the world have grappled with for thousands of years. Woven through the stories is a musical score performed live by musician/composer, Mark Izu, Taiko soloist Janet Koike and movement & percussion by eleven-year-old Kai Kane Aoki Izu.

Black Hair is an adaptation of a Lafcadio Hearn classic Japanese ghost story made familiar in the West by Kobayashi's 1964 movie, Kwaidan, in which a submissive wife's abuse by her swaggering samurai husband leads to its fatal incorporeal conclusion.

In The Bell of Dojoji, Brenda Wong Aoki applies her Noh training to a story, made famous in the Kabuki, of a simple maiden who is slowly transformed by her ungovernable lust for a young monk.

Mermaid Meat is an original story written by Brenda Wong Aoki based on the Japanese proverb "Eating the flesh of a mermaid is the secret to eternal youth." Originally commissioned by Kent Nagano, conductor of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, the piece speaks to our collective fascination with youth and beauty, and poses the question, ‘what would it really be like to live forever?’

The second half of Mermaid Meat - The Secret to Immortality is the remounting of Kuan-Yin: Our Lady of Compassion (2002). This critically acclaimed performance work, commissioned by the Hong Kong Cultural Center and recently performed at the Esplanade in Singapore, is the story of a young boy in San Francisco who takes a bus to Chinatown to visit his dying grandmother. She gives him the legend of Kuan-yin for a birthday present and he learns that when your soul is pure, even death can't kill you. Shizue Siegel in the Hokubei Mainichi writes, "Kuan-yin: Our Lady of Compassion" is an artful juxtaposition of folk tale and current events, of traditional music and hip-hop, of old age and childhood. Viewed through a child’s eyes in a confusing urban jungle of garbage trucks and TV news, of chemotherapy and multicultural friendships, of terrorists and Monopoly games, the empowering message is universal, timeless and wrenchingly relevant. Izu’s music complements the journey, moving us from the child’s hip-hop to the mysterious and timeless power of music that makes you feel everything."

Since 1979, Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu have together and separately garnered national and international acclaim for their multi-disciplinary work that adapts and combines non-Western theatrical performance, jazz, and spoken word traditions. Through First Voice, Brenda and Mark create musical stories about people whose lives cross over cultural or spiritual worlds. Critics have lauded First Voice’s productions as being "stunningly crafted work" (Hokubei Mainichi), and "incredible" (Los Angeles Times).

This year is significant as it marks several milestones for First Voice. Brenda Wong Aoki is celebrating her 20th year as a performer. Ghost Festival V: Mermaid Meat - The Secret to Immortality will be held in a new venue - the elegant Kanbar Hall in the brand new Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. And a new book and recording of the stories by Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu will be released at the performance.

Mermaid Meat - The Secret to Immortality is the 5th concert in the Ghost Festival series. First staged by First Voice in the wake of 9/11, the Ghost Festival is based on the premise that there are spirits all around us, the dead impact the living and that finally we are all equal in death. First Voice's intent is that Ghost Festival audiences will eventually become a small community of friends who gather annually to be nourished by stories like vitamins for the soul. In the words of Brenda Wong Aoki, "After work, over a cup of coffee, we share stories. In Hawaii they call it talk story. It's simple, we've been doing it since the beginning of time." In celebration of its 5th anniversary, Mermaid Meat - The Secret to Immortality, continues the Ghost Festival tradition of presenting a highly entertaining tour de force that illuminates the human condition through the power of story.

Added to the calendar on Fri, Sep 23, 2005 2:33PM
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