AJIJAAK ON TURTLE ISLAND Family Musical to Open at Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College This Month

Reflecting our connectedness with all of creation, Ajijaak on Turtle Island bears witness to the birth and first year of flight of a whooping crane in North America.

By: Feb. 07, 2023
AJIJAAK ON TURTLE ISLAND Family Musical to Open at Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College This Month

Ajijaak on Turtle Island, a new family musical, will premiere at Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College (524 W. 59th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues) as part of its second national tour, it was announced by Heather Henson and Green Feather Foundation (formerly IBEX Puppetry). Ajijaak on Turtle Island will run for one performance in NYC on February 28 at 7:00PM. Ajijaak on Turtle Island has a book by Ty Defoe, Lyrics by Ty Defoe and Dawn Avery, and music by Dawn Avery and Larry Mitchell, Kevin Tarrant, and Ty Defoe. The musical is based on the original storyboards written and drawn by Heather Henson.

Reflecting our connectedness with all of creation, Ajijaak on Turtle Island bears witness to the birth and first year of flight of a whooping crane in North America. Separated from her family, young whooping crane Ajijaak undertakes her first migration from Canada to coastal Texas alone. Her journey is disrupted by environmental, industrial, and mythical chaos, elements of the Mishibizhiw. Ajijaak must follow her intuition to fly onward, learning from the contemporary indigenous communities she encounters along the way. Bringing together an ensemble of Native American performers with puppets from Jim Henson's Creature Shop™, indigenous songs and dances, and video projections Ajijaak on Turtle Island honors contemporary Native American cultures and illustrates harmonious relationships between humans, animals, and the environment.

The original production was co-directed by visionary puppet artist Heather Henson, daughter of legendary puppeteers Jane and Jim Henson (The Muppets, Sesame Street) and Ty Defoe (Oneida and Ojibwe Nations) and the second national tour is being remounted by Jen Olivares (Acjachemen - Juaneno Band of Mission Indians) with Daniel Leeman Smith (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma).

The puppets in Ajijaak on Turtle Island were designed and fabricated by Jim Henson's Creature Shop™. The character of Ajijaak is played by 5 different crane puppets and the production uses a total of 17 puppets, 5 kites, and 12 flags.

The ensemble includes Vicki Oceguera (Qawalangin Tribe), Bradley Lewis (Acoma Pueblo), Emily Preis (Citizen of the Osage Nation), Kimberly JaJuan (Haliwa-Saponi), Sheldon Raymore (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe), and Matt Cross (Kiowa). The swings are Emmeline Briggs (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe), and Opalanietet (Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape).

Ajijaak on Turtle Island has scenic design by Christopher Swader and Justin Swader, lighting design by Marika Kent, costume design by Lux Haac, sound design by Emma Wilk, projection design by Katherine Freer, Aerial design by Curtiss Lee Mitchell, and Costume Design for Crane: On Earth, In Sky by Donna Zakowska. General Management is by Brierpatch Productions and Ajijaak on Turtle Island is a Qualified Parity Production.

The production is the result of years-long collaboration between Henson and Ty Defoe exploring the resiliency of both endangered Whooping Cranes and the indigenous communities that, like the cranes, have lived in harmony with this continent since time immemorial. As a former trustee for the International Crane Foundation (ICF) based in Baraboo, WI, much of Henson's work with cranes is inspired by ICF's mission to conserve cranes and their landscapes.

"Originally conceived and performed as part of LaMama Theatre's 2015 Puppet Series as ​Crane: on earth, in sky, Ajijaak on Turtle Island​ is a spectacle of environmental theatre, music, kite flying and dance," said Heather Henson. "The story of our hero, Ajjijaak, the young whooping crane, incorporates Native American traditions and contemporary ceremony that reflect our connectedness with creation. This work was made with members of the Indigenous Community of NYC. Our goal is for audiences to be transformed, moved, and educated."

"A reflection on life's energy and how it connects all aspects of our world, Ajijaak on Turtle Island brings communities together through puppetry, music, traditional dances, animations, and kites," said Ty Defoe. "Ajijaak's story puts forward visions from Indigenous communities, celebrating the symbiotic relationship between cranes and Native American/Indigenous peoples, and inspiring the next generation of storytellers, change-makers, and eco-champions."

For tickets, priced at $25-$35 and information, please visit: www.Ajijaak.com.




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