Cohesion and BAPAC Introduce TORNKID, A World Premiere Play
Cohesion Theatre Company is excited to be partnering with the newly created Baltimore Asian Pasifika Arts Collective (BAPAC) on a world premiere play for the second production of Cohesion's 2019 Season. Devised with members of Cohesion and BAPAC, and written by playwright Katelynn Kenney, Tornkid draws on the power of Southeast Asian and Pacific Indigenous creation stories to explore identity and belonging and to unearth how ancient female narratives can provide guidance towards healing our broken world.
The work follows the journey of Tornkid - a child of immigrants pulled between cultures - as they tear themselves in two and search for their other half in a land both familiar and unfamiliar. Under the direction of Cara Hinh, with puppetry created by Cohesion Artistic Director, Jess Rassp, and masks created by Tara Cariaso, Tornkid promises to be a feast for the senses, and an exploration into a world rarely seen on the American stage.
"As a mixed race person, a story about feeling torn between two cultures resonates with every fiber of my being. While the story is specific it's that specificity that allows folks to see how actually similar we are," says Director Cara Hinh.
Cariaso uses the masks as a method for presenting identity in Tornkid. "The play is a fascinating vehicle for the creative team to examine how we express identity," she says. "Tornkid wrestles with their identity. At the same time, actors in the piece pick up a new role every few minutes. That means the symbols that we use to express identity again and again are loaded metaphors: who are you playing and what is important about the way that is imparted to the audience through mask? That kind of consciousness about the symbolic act of wearing a mask is really fulfilling to me as a designer. "
Rassp's puppetry and design make heavy use of muslin in an organic way to create the world and characters.
Puppetry will illustrate the world building of the mystical place that Tornkid falls into after they've torn themselves in two - and everything will be touched, animated, and brought to life. Even the set itself," she says. "There is no distance in the puppeteering of this piece; I'm not incorporating control rods so items and characters go straight into the actors' hands."
On the inspiration behind centering Southeast Asian and Pacific Indigenous folklore, BAPAC Co-Executive Director, Cori Dioquino said, "As a Filipino, I have never seen a play produced in the DMV that actually shares a part of my heritage let alone the indigenous part of my Filipino heritage. A lot of our founding members identify as Southeast Asian or Pacific Indigenous and it was important to us that our inaugural production should make those cultures the central focus of its story."
Initially conceptualized in September 2018, a devising workshop was held in December in which Asian American and Pacific Indigenous (AAPI) artists shared myths and stories they were told growing up. In the workshop "a moving image was created of a person, bound, being pulled from side to side, while balancing books on their head. That image and the feeling of "not being enough" stayed with me, and from that came the name Tornkid," said playwright Katelynn Kenney.
Opening night for Tornkid is Thursday, May 23 at 8pm. Following opening night the show will run Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 4 pm from May 23 through June 9, 2019, with a special Industry Night performance on Monday June 3 at 8pm . Tickets are Pay What You Can and may be purchased online at www.cohesiontheatre.org
Founded in 2018, BAPAC is dedicated to advocating for and empowering AAPI artists by providing a platform for AAPI artists to create and showcase art that reflects their lives and experiences. Since its launch, BAPAC has partnered with Charm City Night Market, Baltimore Center Stage, The Motor House, Towson University's Asian Arts and Culture Center, and Cohesion Theatre Company.
Cohesion performs in "The Fallout Shelter" at United Evangelical Church (923 S. East Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224) at the corner of East Avenue and Dillon Street in Canton. Patrons should enter the space through the red doors on East Avenue. For more information about the Cohesion Theatre Company 2019 Season, visit www.cohesiontheatre.org