March 6, 2016

Asia Society Presents New York Premiere of ‘Recycling: Washi Tales,’ March 24-25

 Four theatrical tales of paper making from Japanese history unfold in a world created by distinguished paper artist, Kyoko Ibe.

Designed by paper artist Kyoko Ibe
Written and directed by Elise Thoron
Lighting design by Nicole Pearce
With Karen Kandel (storyteller/writer); Shonosuke Okura (Noh otsuzumi drummer); Shisui Arai (biwa plucked lute musician); Makiko Sakurai (actor); Sonoko Soeda (actor).
Asia Society New York (725 Park Avenue at 70th Street)
March 24-25 at 8:00pm
$30 for non-members; $26 for students/seniors; $22 for members
Karen Kandel at work-in-progress presentation of Washi Tales at New York Theatre Workshop Residency in March 2011. (Isaac Bloom)
Tale 1: “Najio River,” a legend from the Edo period, tells of a papermaker and her daughter who embark on a journey from their village, Echizen, to find the papermaker’s disappeared husband. Mother and daughter travel to Najio, her husband’s native town, where the villagers are making paper just like in Echizen. Her husband has brought back secrets of the craft, but no one in the village will tell her where he is. She learns her husband already has a wife and child in Najio. The mother knows the village will never accept her, but that perhaps it will accept her daughter. Walking away from the village alone, she loses herself in the beautiful reflection of cherry trees by the river. Her drowned body is found, covered with petals and fine clay, which her daughter uses to make a sheet of paper. The new paper is so heavy with clay it does not burn. Thus, Najio’s “fireproof” paper is discovered. Based on a contemporary short story by Tsutomu Minakami.
Tale 2: “Sen no Rikyu” tells the tale of a 16th century tea master to the powerful Shogun Hideyoshi, who designs a tea house with recycled paper walls. The house is so perfect and humble it defies the Shogun’s power. The tea master is asked to die for his audacity. His legacy creates the simplicity of wabi sabi aesthetic and tea ceremony.
Tale 3: “Hogosho” (scrap paper) springs from Kyoko Ibe’s most recent work, a series of panels incorporating hand written documents from a 19th century village in Northern Japan including tax records, deeds, lists of wedding gifts, instructions for building a temple. The words are no longer legible, but the human hand is still present. As the Papermaker begins to recycle old documents she hears rustling, laughter, and voices from the Northern village whispering, singing about the land and the life gone by. Rice fields, wedding feasts, an illegal geisha… worlds coming loose from the fiber… she struggles to capture them before they are lost.
Tale 4: “Fujiwara Tamiko” is about the 9th century Emperor Seiwa’s beloved consort. Upon his death, she recycles love letters and poems he wrote her to make paper on which she writes sutras for his soul’s peace. She gives the sutras to his family and friends. This is the first recorded instance of recycling in Japanese chronicles—a woman transforming loss into prayer.
Washi Tales is held in conjunction with the exhibition “Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan,” on view at Asia Society Museum from February 9 to May 8, 2016.
Presented with support from The Japan Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council.
Major support for the performances at the Asia Society is provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Helen and Will Little Endowment for Performing Arts, and the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Inc.

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