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Journey to the West - Monkey King
The great Chinese epic, JOURNEY TO THE WEST by Internationally
celebrated storyteller and author Diane Wolkstein and Anita Ratnam
Directed by Richard Armstrong
Choreography by Sat Hon
October 29 & 30, 2009 Long Island City, NY, 8pm
First public showing of Work in Progress
presented by CelebrateStory and the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center
The sixteenth century epic of Monkey: Journey to the West
is known to every Chinese person, in Mainland China, Taiwan, and the
diaspora. Monkey, born from a 356 foot round stone, sets out in search
of immortality. Fourteen years of apprenticeship bring Monkey the skill
of cloud somersaulting and an impenetrable body. He then tries to take
over heaven but is defeated by Buddha. Five hundred years later, Kwan
Yin, the Goddess of Compassion releases Monkey from his captivity so he
might accompany a young monk to India to bring back the Buddhist
scriptures. En route in this great rollicking tale they have adventure
upon adventure, encounters with robbers, fiends, monsters, tigers,
brigands, and treacherous women who would steal their powers.
On the surface, the epic is a great adventure with the immortal
Monkey whose supernatural powers put him in a league with Superman, or
Batman. With the support of his compliant rod, he defeats tyrants,
liberates the oppressed, and helps the needy. He also loses his temper
at the slightest insult and has great difficulty obeying orders. His
companion, Monk is a pure soul, ignorant in worldly matters, trembling
before each tall mountain, tiger and brigand they meet.
Our presentation of Monkey offers the excitement of the journey
while also focusing on the inner adventures of the protagonists. Monkey
has gained immortal powers from studying with the Taoists; his first
instincts are to triumph, to prevail. However, in his role as the monk’s
protector, he runs into constant difficulties, for the Buddhist monk,
cannot see the difference between fiend and friend and his loving heart
would care for all, even those who would destroy them. Taoism -
enlightenment of the self, and Buddhism - care for others, struggle
toward integration during the journey. Equally relevant to our times is
the struggle and eventual integration of the magician and the “saint”.
The assertive, spontaneous magician Monkey, has great technical powers
and would happily take over the world, while the submissive, pure Monk
journeys with the intention of ending the suffering of all beings.
In our times, we have great technical knowledge, we know how to
split the atom and clone; we also want to care for the whole planet. How
do we integrate such matters?
"Monkey King is an epic, full of drama and magic,
but it is also a hugely entertaining story. There are gods and
goddesses, and ogres whose
dining habits are both reprehensible and spectacular. And then, there
is more: a deeply spiritual search for the Buddhist scriptures in the
course of which selfish desire and a naive yearning for enlightenment
often clash. Drama is blended with comic episodes as this sumptuous
story fills the stage. Without digital images, or projector, or any of
the usual trappings, the audience is offered the most vivid reality,
passes with amazing speed. The result is a rich and satisfying evening
at the theater."
- Olivier Bernier, Lecturer, Metropolitan Museum of Art
"I've seen Diane Wolkstein and Antia Ratnam perform part of
Monkey King and I had a glimpse of eternity. They were opening the doors
cosmos for her audience and allowing them to experience the healing
power of story."
- Tracy Cochran, Editor, Parabola Magazine
"Diane Wolkstein's solo performance of Monkey King is a
marvel. She is at the height of her career; every word, gesture and
pause is exquisite.
She is a consummate artist."
- Dr. Judith Pasamanick, Professor, Director, Folklore Institute, Bank St. College of Education
"... not only does Anita Ratnam astound with the variety of
her movement and performance vocabulary, but also convincingly locates
human experience, even the banal, within a spiritual context."
- Veenapani Chawla, ADISAKTHI Theatre, Pondicherry