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Thread: Martial Arts in Live Theater

  1. #1
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    Martial Arts in Live Theater

    I've always thought martial arts have a great place in live theater. I'm hoping this thread will document an upcoming trend. Some productions, like KA and Jump are worthy of their own independent thread, and I'm looking more at shows that are more than just a martial arts demo like the Shaolin shows and Kung Fu Femmes. Here's example number one:

    Shakespeare, martial-arts style
    It doesn't always work but actors stand out
    By TRAVIS NICHOLS


    There is a crackpot wing of Shakespeare studies that says the Bard never meant for his plays to be staged. The language is too rich and the allusions too manifold for anything but close textual study. Anything else -- live action, sets, costumes, etc. -- would simply be a distraction from the masterful language.

    I first heard this theory from a University of Georgia professor, Charles Doyle, who delivered it nearly with a straight face. It's a preposterous idea, but its extreme point of view throws into relief the near impossibility of staging Shakespeare in a way that allows the man's brilliance on the page to come through with a minimum of interference from the stage.

    For the Seattle Shakespeare Company, this is the perennial challenge, and the company regularly and admirably meets it. Through Jan. 27 at Center House Theatre, it has taken on Shakespeare's grand political drama of the Roman Empire's fall, "Julius Caesar." For anyone who can't get enough chicanery from presidential primary season, or who feels unfulfilled by HBO's decadence-by-the-numbers series, "Rome," this seems like just the thing.

    Adapted and directed by Gregg Loughridge, the company's "Caesar" in this "chamber" production doesn't lord over the togas and sandals of ancient Rome. Instead he stalks a kind of dojo removed from any specific time or place.

    Most of the action takes place on an elevated center stage, entry to which requires the pious removal of slippers. Antony and Caesar both have shaved heads, while Cassius has a vaguely Eastern braid, and all the characters wear quasi-samurai uniforms, carry swords and bow to one another in greeting. Brutus performs some early-morning tai chi and slaps his pants out of the way before squatting samurai style. The idea, according to the director's note, is to show Caesar imposing not a historical tyranny but "a garden variety tyranny: a boss, a minister or priest, martial arts instructor, editor, chef or theater director who, basking under the trust and willingness of their respective congregations, took advantage and went awry."

    It's a fascinating concept -- Caesar as leader of the Moonies -- but it doesn't quite come through. A hippy-dippy cult aura is hinted at by chambered nautiluses projected onto the stage's screens, "Voodoo Chile" blaring between scenes, and Calpurnia employing tarot cards to interpret her dream of Caesar's demise.

    However, such hints aren't enough to override the text's continual reference to Rome, Romans, the Tiber, etc. Instead of being a fresh take on a fusty classic, the staging seems a muddle, a problem exacerbated by the occasionally stale recitations of the Bard's words by some of the cast. How David Quicksall's Brutus can muster the courage to kill Caesar is a miracle since he seems mostly to have just gotten out of bed.

    Still, Hana Lass shines as Cassius, projecting the fervency of a true believer willing to kill for her cause, and Kelly Kitchens' muffled hysteria makes Portia into a contemporary and wholly sympathetic wife. She steals nearly as many scenes as Brandon Simmons does as Casca, a role to which he brings a joyful and hammy flamboyance. These actors pull off a delicate trick: They make time-tested characters their own on the stage, without diluting the beauty of what's on the page.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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  2. #2
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    Would Cirque Du Solei be appropriate for this thread Gene? They had done a MA related theme in the past.
    Cordially yours,
    冠木侍 (KS)
    _____________________________________________


    "Jiu mo gwai gwaai faai dei zau" (妖魔鬼怪快哋走) -- The venerable Uncle Chan

    "A fool with a sword is more dangerous than any weapon..."

    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”--John Quincy Adams

    "If you have an unconquerable calmness, you can overcome the enemy without force" -Bushi Matsumura

  3. #3
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    KA is Cirque Du Soleil

    I mentioned it above, with a hyperlink no less.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    I mentioned it above, with a hyperlink no less.

    Saw it in Vegas last year...awesome!
    "The true meaning of a given movement in a form is not its application, but rather the unlimited potential of the mind to provide muscular and skeletal support for that movement." Gregory Fong

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    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    I mentioned it above, with a hyperlink no less.
    Thanks for letting me know.

    I was not familiar with the name of the specific production. Therefore I thought it would be appropriate for your criteria (not knowing that it was already mentioned by you).

    That's all.
    Cordially yours,
    冠木侍 (KS)
    _____________________________________________


    "Jiu mo gwai gwaai faai dei zau" (妖魔鬼怪快哋走) -- The venerable Uncle Chan

    "A fool with a sword is more dangerous than any weapon..."

    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”--John Quincy Adams

    "If you have an unconquerable calmness, you can overcome the enemy without force" -Bushi Matsumura

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    Ka

    Quote Originally Posted by TaichiMantis View Post
    Saw it in Vegas last year...awesome!
    Might be a while before I go to Vegas. I'll have to catch the performance on cable...
    Cordially yours,
    冠木侍 (KS)
    _____________________________________________


    "Jiu mo gwai gwaai faai dei zau" (妖魔鬼怪快哋走) -- The venerable Uncle Chan

    "A fool with a sword is more dangerous than any weapon..."

    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”--John Quincy Adams

    "If you have an unconquerable calmness, you can overcome the enemy without force" -Bushi Matsumura

  7. #7
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    No worries 冠木侍

    We were actually very involved with the production of KA. See the following articles:

    Kungfu Under the Big Top: Cirque Du Soleil's Hot New Show, Dralion - 2000 October

    Treasure Hunt at Treasure Island - Cirque du Soleil Auditions Wushu Champs in Las Vegas - 2003 July/August

    The Gala Premiere of Cirque Du Soliel’s New Show, KA - 2005 May/June

    The Wushu Warriors of KA: Cirque Du Soleil’s New Vegas Show - 2005 July/August

    Shaolin Trips: Episode 4 - A Hero Watching the Formation: Epilogue: My Master's Pilgrimage to Gold Mountain and the Bu Hao Mao - e-zine

    Many of the martial arts stars of Cirque came through our contacts, including the two lead performers, Cheri and Jennifer Haight. Cirque still contacts us when they're doing calls - if they're general calls I post them here on the forum.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

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    Thank you Gene

    Quote Originally Posted by GeneChing View Post
    We were actually very involved with the production of KA. See the following articles:

    Kungfu Under the Big Top: Cirque Du Soleil's Hot New Show, Dralion - 2000 October

    Treasure Hunt at Treasure Island - Cirque du Soleil Auditions Wushu Champs in Las Vegas - 2003 July/August

    The Gala Premiere of Cirque Du Soliel’s New Show, KA - 2005 May/June

    The Wushu Warriors of KA: Cirque Du Soleil’s New Vegas Show - 2005 July/August

    Shaolin Trips: Episode 4 - A Hero Watching the Formation: Epilogue: My Master's Pilgrimage to Gold Mountain and the Bu Hao Mao - e-zine

    Many of the martial arts stars of Cirque came through our contacts, including the two lead performers, Cheri and Jennifer Haight. Cirque still contacts us when they're doing calls - if they're general calls I post them here on the forum.
    I appreciate the info. Good stuff I must say.

    I was not aware that your magazine was affiliated with Cirque Du Solei. And as a matter of fact, I remember reading about the Haight sisters in an issue a while ago.

    It will be sometime before I will audition
    Cordially yours,
    冠木侍 (KS)
    _____________________________________________


    "Jiu mo gwai gwaai faai dei zau" (妖魔鬼怪快哋走) -- The venerable Uncle Chan

    "A fool with a sword is more dangerous than any weapon..."

    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”--John Quincy Adams

    "If you have an unconquerable calmness, you can overcome the enemy without force" -Bushi Matsumura

  9. #9
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    I almost started a new thread just on Bruce Lee in live theater

    Coming soon to NYC
    LEE/GENDARY at HERE Theater October 2008
    When Bruce Lee was born, his mother gave him a girl’s name to disguise him from evil spirits. When actor/performing artist Soomi Kim learned this, she felt destined to create a theatre performance inhabiting the incomparable martial arts superstar.

    Set in the inner landscape of Bruce Lee's mind the moment before he died in 1973, LEE/GENDARY is a theatrical deconstruction of an icon; a spiritual and psychological examination of Lee's life from birth to death.

    This unique gender bending theater performance fluidly integrates text, original music, video and an explosive hybrid of martial arts and dance.

    LEE/GENDARY:
    Created and performed by Soomi Kim
    Written by Derek Nguyen
    Directed by Suzi Takahashi
    Music composed by Jen Shyu
    Additional sound and music recorded by Adam Rogers
    Video by Chris McClain

    With: Shing Ka, Walker Lewis, Constance Parng, Ariel Shepley and Pai Wang.
    Now Playing in L.A.
    East West Players TIM DANG, Producing Artistic Director in association with Cedar Grove OnStage presents BE LIKE WATER
    by DAN KWONG
    Directed by CHRIS TASHIMA
    Martial Arts Choreography by DIANA LEE INOSANTO & RON BALICKI
    Dance Choreography by BLYTHE MATSUI

    Featuring
    YURIE ANN CHO CESAR CIPRIANO JORDON DANG JONATHAN DECKER PAM HAYASHIDA SHAWN HUANG MICHAEL SUN LEE YVONNE LU STEPHEN OYOUNG
    SEAN PEAVY ARIEL RIVERA SAYA TOMIOKA

    Set Designer AKEIME MITTERLEHNER Costume Designer NAOMI YOSHIDA
    Lighting Designer JOSE LOPEZ Sound Designer DAVE IWATAKI
    Property Master KEN TAKEMOTO Hair & Makeup Designer ALYSSA RAVENWOOD
    Projections Designer ALEXANDER GAO Assoc. Production Manager IRMA ESCAMILLA
    Assistant Stage Manager LETITIA CHANG Stage Manager ONDINA V. DOMINGUEZ

    A humorous family drama with Bruce Lee spirit!

    Chicago, 1978. Disco rules. Five years since the tragic death of legendary martial artist Bruce Lee. Tracy Fong is a 13-year old ass-kicking, gung-fu fanatic tomboy, challenged by school bullies, airhead rivals, and a mother who just wants her to be a "normal" girl. When bad goes to worse, the Ghost of Bruce Lee appears to teach her the true meaning of strength and the true power of water.

    (This production contains adult language)

    PURCHASE TICKETS NOW! www.EastWestPlayers.org, or call 213.625.7000

    PERFORMANCE INFORMATION:
    Wednesday - Saturday at 8PM; Sunday at 2PM

    David Henry Hwang Theater
    120 Judge John Aiso St.
    Little Tokyo – Downtown
    Los Angeles, CA 90012

    Preview Performances: September 11-14, $20 all seats, $12 w/ valid student I.D.

    Opening Night: September 17, $60 all seats
    includes pre-show hosted bar & post-show reception with cast and crew

    Performance Run: September 18–October 12
    Wed - Sat at 8PM; Sun at 2PM
    $35 Orchestra, $30 Balcony

    Pay-What-You-Can Performance: Thursday, September 18 at 8PM

    Next Generation Community Night: Wed, September 24 at 7pm.
    Free Pizza, Soda & Live Music.
    $1 Opportunity Drawing Tickets. Prizes include Nintendo DS & Bruce Lee merchandise.

    American Sign Language-interpreted Performance: Sun, October 5 at 2PM
    $20 tickets for deaf & hard of hearing patrons.

    Wine Down Fridays: Join us on Fridays and enjoy complimentary glasses of white or red wine served before the production
    (Must be 21 years of age to drink)
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  10. #10
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    both shing ka and pai wang(this dude is 6'4 freaking giant) are friends of mine. pai wang has been training wushu with master gao xian four almost four years, but he has years of gymnastics training and is even a coach(man you should see this giant flipping away) shing ka, has been training in kung fu on and off for nearly two decades(guy is old all thou he looks like a kid) mostly with master tak wah eng, in traditional chinese kung fu and tai chi.

  11. #11
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    More on Soomi Kim and Lee/Gendary

    Nice to see Fred Ho's name dropped. We ran a piece on him in our Shaolin Special 2000 - ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINESE AMERICA: A Martial Arts Ballet: Shaolin Temple Burns in 5 Acts By Ruth Margraff and Jose Manuel Figueroa He was also mentioned in Urban Dragons: Black and Latino Masters of Chinese Martial Arts by Stephan Berwick

    Soomi Speaks
    An interview with NYC multidisciplinary performance artist Soomi Kim

    "I always felt I had the soul of a dancer and also really wanted to act.
    And music feeds my soul. I had to find a way where these things could
    co-exist through the medium of performance in order to feel as though
    I am truly expressing myself creatively and honestly."

    Soomi Kim

    There is need to know and want to know. Everything we need to know about
    Soomi Kim and her art can be found on her official website and her MySpace page.
    Here are questions about things we want to know.

    Appropriately, the promotional material about you presents a powerful, larger-than-life image. But who is Soomi Kim the human being? Where and how did you grow up? What is your daily life like now?

    I grew up in a small town in Oregon, called Lebanon (population 10,000) from ages 5-14. We then moved to Beaverton, a suburb of Portland where I attended High School. We were the only Korean family in Lebanon. I always believe big dreams are cultivated in small towns. Right now my daily life consists of living in the East village in Manhattan, riding my bike to Chelsea Piers to work as a gymnastics/dance coach and choreographer to young competitive gymnasts. I am a freelance actor/performing artist and I work with a few companies and artists as well as create, produce and develop my own work.

    Were there any experiences or influences in your early life that pointed you in your current artistic direction?

    I started competitive gymnastics at age 7 and I suppose I grew accustomed to the attention and the feeling of being “special.” When you grow up in a small town where you feel like and outsider, being able to have special skills that are unusual is empowering and the attention also becomes acceptance. I loved music and dance when I was young and I think I pretty much was hypnotized when I watched the movie “Fame” and saw people dancing in the streets. That’s when I dreamt of living in NYC and realized there was an exciting life beyond the borders of my town’s cow pastures.

    “Multi-disciplinary performance artist” is not generally considered to be a traditional career path. How did you become aware of such a thing and what drew you to it?

    Good question. It has been a blessing and a curse to love different artistic disciplines. As I mentioned already, I did gymnastics most of my life, but also played the alto saxophone from 5th grade through college and fell in love with jazz. I always felt I had the soul of a dancer and also really wanted to act. So when I began my acting career in NYC, I tried and experienced everything; stage, film, industrials, voiceovers, some commercial work etc. Although I gained some useful experience doing these types of “gigs” I never felt like I was fulfilling my potential- being really physical is part of who I am. Fulfilling a role through text using my voice and body as an instrument as an actor feeds my intellectual side as well as dramatic (we Koreans love to be dramatic in case you didn’t know). And music feeds my soul. I had to find a way where these things could co-exist through the medium of performance in order to feel as though I am truly expressing myself creatively and honestly (as Bruce Lee would say). That’s when I began combining disciplines to find my own voice as an artist. Besides, the work I now see that really excites and floors me is mostly hybrid work of some kind; I love the work that is produced at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM): artists like Pina Bausch, William Forsythe, Robert Wilson, are visually and viscerally stunning. I also love well acted, written and directed straight ahead plays but I have been in a phase where I am more stimulated and excited by companies who create and choreograph original work that is outside the box. When I witness the imagination realized it is awe inspiring.

    You have obviously received a lot of training in many areas of the arts. Of that training, what has been the most beneficial to you?

    When I got cast for Fred Ho’s martial arts theater show “Voice of the Dragon” I had no concept of what Kung Fu was, had no awareness of any of it. I learned a bit about different styles of Kung Fu for my role, (Ng Mui, a hand to hand boxer/nun in the Shaolin Temple who ironically was the originator of Wing Chun, the style of martial arts that Bruce Lee is based in) a bit of tiger style (Hungar) mixed in with Wing Chun and Wu Shu. When we went on a 9 week tour across the U.S. of the show, I tried my best to learn from the really talented cast. There were many experts in their various styles of training and it was an opportunity to acquire martial arts to my vocabulary of movement. I now describe my movement style as a hybrid of martial arts, dance and gymnastics.

    Do you create projects based on skills you already possess –or do you challenge yourself to master something new for the sake of your vision?

    Like Bruce, I believe in utilizing what makes you (one) unique and try to really express that through the making of art. I use the skills and disciplines I have studied as well as my personal history as a human being. I will discover material or subject matter that inspires me. When this happens, it usually hits me without my realizing I have to create something out of this inspiration. Then I find that within that, there is always the task and exciting challenge of either learning something new or tackling/solving problems. For Lee/gendary I learned Wing Chun but this was a joy for me ; since I found it is just an extension of my love for movement. I am at the beginning stage for a new work that integrates dance/movement and poetry. This is pretty new territory for me but I wanted the challenge of discovering or uncovering my own process- I want to go through the uncomfortability and awkwardness of trying to choreograph to text.

    The sheer physicality of your art is stunning. How do you get into/stay in shape for these things?

    I never feel like I am in good enough shape! My job is coaching gymnastics and dance to competitive gymnasts, so that can be pretty physical; spotting. demonstrating, moving mats J But I also just go to the gym to workout, do yoga, condition, I dance, practice martial arts and usually train with a boxer named Gary Griffin who is a fantastic athlete and boxer, but also has a history with mixed martial arts. I wish I had more time to take

    Dance classes. Lately I have been running at Tompkins Square Park in the East village and jump roping with the rats.

    Have you been injured either in performance or in preparation for a show?

    I have been punched a few times in the mouth when rehearsing choreographed fighting, I was whacked in the head with a staff during a live industrial performance (it was 7am!) I think I was still tired and I was supposed to duck, instead I jumped.. (yeah, ouch!!) One time I was performing in a taping for a variety show in Beirut and couldn’t keep enough distance between from my fight partner because the t.v. camera man was in the way and got kicked pretty solidly on the side of my head. It was the same guy who whacked my head with a staff! (you know who you are..) LOL both were accidents of course.

    A bit about Lee/gendary (covered in detail elsewhere) – What inspired this work? Are you a big Bruce Lee fan?

    I was not actually a big Bruce Lee fan. I watched the famous interview between Lee and Pierre Berton recorded in Hong Kong 1971 and I was totally mesmerized. I knew then I had to create a piece about him and it didn’t even dawn on me that he was a man and I was a woman. I just felt so connected to him that I had to play him. I pretty much created my dream role.
    continued next post
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  12. #12
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    continued from previous

    From www.asiantalentonline.com.
    Your recreation of Lee’s movie fight scenes is said to be quite precise. Given that movies are shot in pieces – and stage performances are in real-time – how do you pull that off? Are you exhausted at the end of each show?

    Right now there are only 2 fight scenes; one from the Game of Death (between Lee and Kareem Abdul Jabaar) and a final fight scene between Lee and his dark alter ego (“Yang”, played by Shing Ka). In The Game of Death fight, I took some sections of the fight from the movie and blended my own choreography. I worked with my set of skills as well as the actor (Pai Sen Wang) who plays Kareem. I have done a lot of choreographed stage fighting through being a company member of a martial arts performance troupe the Art of War (a.k.a. Go!) and performing in Fred Ho’s aforementioned shows. In both companies, I performed a lot with the same martial artists who are amazing and taught me a great deal. And yes, it can be exhausting!

    When Lee/gendary concludes its run, what is next for you? What other projects are on the horizon?

    I am a member of an experimental theater international female company called Ex.p girl. We co-create original work. We will be performing a show called Paris Syndrome also at HERE for part of a new work series called Culturemart in January 2009. I am also going to continue to work on a new piece called Dictee, the aforementioned dance theater work. I am also in the process of bringing Lee/gendary to Oregon State University. I would love to perform this show on the west coast.

    Finally, what words of advice would you have for anyone considering a career like yours?

    I think you should follow your own heart and that will create a path that will be designed as your own. Be patient. It takes time for your desires to unfold; to discover who you are and what your purpose as an artist is. Don’t be concerned with material results; if you are looking to get rich then there are other careers that can guarantee that more than pursuing your dreams as an artist. Stay stimulated. Read, see shows! This keeps you inspired, motivated and informed. Stay grounded, focused and seek as much advice as possible from people who are doing what you aspire to do; study them, observe their habits, adopt them as your mentors. Surround yourself with productive, inspiring, positive people. Lastly, as Bruce so famously said “be formless, shapeless…. Like water! “

    I would like to add that this epic task of producing and creating a show is not easy. I have great collaborators (Derek Nguyen, Suzi Takahashi, Jen Shyu, Eric Lee, Adam Rogers and many others) who believe in the project and I am very lucky to have had a lot of very supportive people contribute to the ongoing process of finally attaining a run this show deserves. To all who have supported and work so hard and have been incredibly dedicated—I THANK YOU.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  13. #13
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    i met fred ho, his shows are extremely intresting his asian/afro jazz ensemble sounds amazing mixed with martial arts. when i first met him he gave me a card with him on it naked holding a sax and i thought this dude is weird as hell. he just recently won a bought with cancer so i'm glad to see him being talked about.

  14. #14
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    We ran that pic

    Fred Ho, nekkid with the sax, in our 2000 Shaolin Special. It was the lead shot. Man, did I hear it from the monks.
    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  15. #15
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    in was 19 when i got that card my mom found it doing laundry, and it took me a month to convince her i wasn't nor was i asked to do gay porn.

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