La MaMa Presents Witness Relocation In FIVE DAYS IN MARCH 5/6-23
Witness Relocation, "a dance theater anarchist's Utopia" (Performing Arts Journal), returns to La MaMa from May 6 to 23 with the English language premiere of "Five Days in March," an award-winning play by Japanese playwright Toshiki Okada. Director Dan Safer and his Witness Relocation ensemble will apply their unique, pop-culture dance/theater style in adapting the revolutionary Japanese work for American audiences. The English translation is by Aya Ogawa, who has to-date rendered five of Okada's works for the English-speaking stage.
WHERE AND WHEN
May 6 to 23, 2010
La Mama E.T.C. (Ellen Stewart Theater), 74A East Fourth Street
Presented by La Mama E.T.C.
SCHEDULE: May 6-8 @ 7:30; May 9 @ 2:30. May 13-15 @ 7:30. No show May 16. May 20-21 @ 7:30. May 22 @2:30 and 7:30. May 23 @ 7:30.
$25 general admission; $20 students/seniors; box office (212) 475-7710, www.lamama.org
"Five Days in March" by Toshiki Okada is set in the days before the U.S. began its war against Iraq in March 2003. Minobe meets Yukki at a rock show. Their awkward conversation leads to five days of wild sex in a love hotel. Azuma sells Miffy a ticket to a bad movie. Miffy thinks Azuma doesn't return her feelings, so she decides to move to Mars. Yasui and Ishihara go on an anti-war protest. The police escort's uniforms elicit more comment than the war itself. Oblivious to the imminent invasion of Iraq, these hipsters obsess over the details of their lives, perfectly capturing the irony and impotency of Generation Y in Japan today. The story unfolds through actors who slip in and out of character while also narrating and playing out scenes. The play, a winner of the prestigious Kishida Kunio Drama Award, is at once funny, sad, anticlimactic and devastating.
Productions of Witness Relocation combine dance and theater with the energy of a rock show, exploding contemporary culture into intensely physical, outrageous, poetic, and sometimes brutal performances in order to question the assumptions of the modern day experience. This unique fusion of forms connects Witness Relocation to Okada and his chelfitsch company of Japan: both are known for crossing and combining disciplines and for being equally adept at theater and dance. The New York Times wrote that Witness Relocation's work "aggressively blurs genres and makes high-low culture distinctions obsolete." This production of "Five Days In March" will be no exception.
Witness Relocation, formed in 2000, is led by director/choreographer Dan Safer. The company has created over a dozen original productions, engaged in a two year residency in Bangkok, and performed in theaters, nightclubs, rock videos and a Thai TV Soap Opera. The troupe is based in New York City, where it frequently performs. It also tours domestically and internationally; most recently in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Poland, Russia, France and The Bronx. Recent productions include "The Panic Show" (DNA, Bumbershoot Festival, in France at Le Quartz), "Haggadah" (La Mama), Mikuni Yanahaira's "The Blue Bird " (English language premiere), "Vicious Dogs On Premises" (which has toured across the US and Eastern Europe and will be presented at Theater de Chaillot in Paris next year), "Dancing Vs. the Rat Experiment" (three 2007 NY Innovative Theater Awards, Best Production, Sound, Choreography) and Thomas Lehmen's "Schriebstuck." Upcoming productions will include "Heaven On Earth," an all new show written by Charles L. Mee and performed in collaboration with French company Ildi! Eldi (developed at Les Subsistances in Lyon, France).
In 2006, La MaMa presented Witness Relocation in "Dancing vs. The Rat Experiment." It was an original dance/theater based in part on the 1960's Scientific American article "Population Density & Social Pathology" by John Calhoun, concerning overpopulation in rats; "Survivor"-style competition reality TV shows; and drinking games. The work was controversial and polarizing, but it won three Innovative Theater Awards and gathered its share of powerfully affirming reviews.
Kelina Gotman wrote in Performing Arts Journal, "Witness Relocation's 'Dancing vs. The Rat Experiment' was like going to your first punk rock concert in the 1980s. It was raw, it was racy. If it was hard to follow at times, it was too lively for that to matter. The company has been compared to Pina Bausch, Richard Foreman, and the Wooster Group, but Witness Relocation's mobilization of the element of uncertainty, the sheer physical vitality of the performers, and the mixture of genres puts them more in line with the Andrei Serban, Jan Fabre, Frank Castorf, and David Bowie."
Hilton Als wrote in The New Yorker, "Ellen Stewart of La MaMa has helped launch the careers of Sam Shepard, Tom O'Horgan, Andrei Serban, and Candy Darling. It is a pleasure to add a new company - Witness Relocation - to Stewart's roll call of magnificent acts.... While influences are clear - the genre-mixing works of Pina Bausch, Richard Foreman, and the Wooster Group are definitely in evidence - there is plenty of originality here, too, as well as youth, joy, vulgarity, and an ironic distance from the media saturated world that inspired the show."
In May, 2008, the company unveiled its "Vicious Dogs on Premises" at Ontological Theater, in association with the Ontological-Hysteric Incubator. Drawing on an animal metaphor, the piece riffed on the concept of Choice Overload. Five performers followed five separate lists of instructions, tasks, and options in a joyously blinding matrix of dances and improvisations guided by an offstage Dan Safer, who presided over the show with a buzzer and a stopwatch. Time Out (HeLen Shaw) labeled it "avant-vaudeville, conducted with brio and a cheery disregard for the fourth wall," declaring that "Everyone has a grand time (including the absurdly charming performers)" and that the troupe "feels so comfortable with radical techniques--borrowed from icons such as the Wooster Group and John Cage--that they can redirect them into pure frolic. It's liberating and silly, and their aesthetic forebears might even find it an awfully fun reunion."
Last season, the troupe performed "The Blue Bird" by Mikuni Yanaihara, translated by Aya Ogawa and Kameron Steele, at Clemente Soto Velez (CSV), 107 Suffolk Street. The play, directed and choreographed by Dan Safer, was a Japanese postmodern adaptation of Maurice Maeterlinck's "The Blue Bird" (1908), transformed into Witness Relocation's rough-and-tumble style of physical theater. Eva Yaa Asantewaa reported in her blog, InfiniteBody, "There's a thin line between zany and hysterical, and Witness Relocation -- award-winning physical theater of multi-genre collage and excess -- tramples that line with manic abandon....Consider this one an assignment. Go!" The New Yorker (Goings On About Town) called it "ultimately inspired and fun." Time Out (HeLen Shaw) wrote, "thank heavens for Witness Relocation, a bunch of nuts who think that expressionism should be a wahoo with beer and wigs, and actors cracking up during the dance breaks." That production was followed by "Haggaddah" at La MaMa, an explosive retelling of the Passover Seder. Culturebot declared, "Haggaddah rocks...Safer has created what will come to be seen as a seminal work in the history of Jewish theater."
Dan Safer (Director) originally hails from the wild suburbs of New Jersey, and has directed / choreographed / adapted every WR show. His work has been presented all over, including Off-Broadway, La MaMa, Dance Theater Workshop (four consecutive seasons), The Ontological Theater, Patravadi Theatre (Bangkok), Theater Krudttonden (Denmark), the CUNY Prelude Festival, Dixon Place, Danspace Project; he has choreographed operas, rock videos and fashion shows, and wrote a seven episode serial play with Pulitzer winner David Lindsay-Abaire. Performer with Ridge Theater, Jane Comfort, John Moran, Mabou Mines, the Blacklips Performance Cult, Hong Kong choreographer Dick Wong, and others. He founded and directed the Bangkok Performance Boot Camp, is faculty at NYU, and teaches workshops across the US and Internationally. He was a 2007- 9 recipient of the Six Points Fellowship (Performance) from the Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the winner of two NY Innovative Theater Awards. Artforum Magazine called him "pure expressionistic danger". He used to be a go-go dancer and once choreographed the Queen of Thailand's Birthday Party.
Toshiki Okada (playwright) was born in Yokohama in 1973 and formed the theater company "chelfitsch" (always spelled with a small "c") in 1997. He has practiced a strange sort of methodology for creating plays. Even though he employs some, he nevertheless makes a point of "not getting too comfortable with any particular methodology or holding on to one style to the point where it holds him back." He has been using slangy Japanese, for which he has become famous, since March 2001. A unique choreography, which endows the actors with "noisy" corporeality, has been another hallmark of Okada's plays. In 2005, "Five Days in March" (2004) won the 49th Kishida Drama Award. The judges praised Okada's work for the powerful questions it posed to the discourses of theater and for the fresh ideas the playwright used when turning his sense of dissatisfaction into a work of art.
Okada has also been acclaimed for the skills he has displayed in carving out the elusive state of things in contemporary Japan. Through the manipulation of the actors' bodies, Okada creates a peculiar physicality which sometimes seems to - and at other times does not - exaggerate our everyday gestures. For this reason, his choreography has been compared to dance by some critics. In fact, Okada participated in "Toyota Choreography Award 2005: Discover the Choreographer for Next Generation" with a piece named "Air-Conditioner" (2005), making it to the finals. An original concept of the body that he eloquently articulated in the work defied the conventional idea of choreography, taking the contemporary dance scene by storm.
In September, 2005, Okada won Yokohama Cultural Award/Yokohama Award for Art and Cultural Encouragement. As the representative of his country, he took part in "Stuecke'06/International Literature project in the course of the Football World Cup 2006." In December of the same year, he produced "Enjoy" at New National Theatre, Tokyo. He has also served as the director for 2006-2007 "Summit", an annual drama festival hosted by the Komaba Agora Theater (General producer: Oriza Hirata). In February 2007, his collection of novels, "The End of the Special Time We Were Allowed," debuted and was awarded the Kenzaburo Oe Prize. He directed Beckett's "Cascando" for the Tokyo International Arts Festival - Beckett Centennial Memorial Festival, and Kobo Abe's salient work "Friends" at the Setagaya Public Theater. More recently, he directed a workshop production of "Strangeness" with local actors at the Itami Ai Hall in Hyogo prefecture and "Ghost Youth," a collaboration with students of Obirin University. He also wrote a new play, "Three Women," for director Naoto Takenaka.
Aya Ogawa (translator) previously collaborated with Witness Relocation on "The Blue Bird" by Mikuni Yanaihara. She is a writer, director, performer and translator. She has been commissioned to translate numerous Japanese plays into English, including works by Pappa TARAHUMARA's Hiroshi Koike; Yoji Sakate (Rinkogun Theater Company); Shirotama Hitsujiya/YUBIWA Hotel; Kobo Abe; and Takeshi Kawamura. She translated "Frozen Beach" by Keralino Sandorovich, which she directed, as a reading in 2008 at Japan Society. She has translated many plays by Toshiki Okada into English including "Five Days in March," "Air Conditioner," "Hot Pepper" and "Free Time"; she also translated "Enjoy" by Okada for its English language premiere to be produced by The Play Company in 2010. She is a Usual Suspect at NYTW and has been an Artist in Residence at HERE.
Dave Malloy (composer) is a composer/performer/sound designer/musical director/pianist. He is the winner of a 2009 Jonathan Larson Grant and a recipient of the 2009 NEA/TCG Career Development Program for Theatre Directors and Designers. His most recent large-scale work, "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage," commissioned and produced by Berkeley's Shotgun Players, enjoyed sold out runs in Berkeley and NYC, received the 2008 Glickman Award and appeared on the Best of 2008 lists of every major Bay Area paper. Mr. Malloy has written five full length musicals, including "Clown Bible," a gypsy-jazz infused telling of biblical stories from Genesis to Revelation told through clowns ("Best Play of the Year" and "Best Music of the Year," East Bay Express 2007), and "Banana Bag & Bodice's Sandwich," a Weillian mishmash about eating animals. Other notable shows include "(The 99-cent) Miss Saigon" for Ten Red Hen's, a shoe-string adaptation complete with a toy helicopter on a zip line, for which Mr. Malloy was musical director, pianist and a performer.
Costume design by Deb O. Sound Design is by Ryan Maeker. Set and Lighting design is by Jay Ryan. Projections are by Kaz Phillips.