DAY JOBS, OPERA DREAMS
a Chinese Theatre Works Production
Conceived and directed by Kuang-Yu Fong
Performed by members of the Chinese Theatre Works Ensemble
Assistant Director & Dramaturgy: Stephen Kaplin
Video Design: Yang Yang
Lighting design & dramaturgical assistance by Sabrina Hamilton
Performed in English and Chinese.
Running time: Approx. TBA. For ages 12 and up.
Day Jobs, Opera Dreams tells the moving stories of immigrant Peking Opera artists’ Westward journeys-exploring issues of cultural migration across geographic and linguistic boundaries through the process of developing a piece whose form as well as its content bridges Chinese and Western cultural experiences. We approach this theme through the personal narratives of Chinese opera artists’ migration to America. These personal stories are told through a blend of Peking Opera, storytelling and contemporary theater techniques. Day Jobs, Opera Dreams is directed and conceived by Kuang-Yu Fong, Executive and Co-Artistic Director for Chinese Theatre Works.
In the face of shrinking audiences and cuts in government arts funding, many top opera performers and musicians, trained in the sophisticated techniques of Peking opera, have elected to leave mainland China to try their luck in the U.S. Their views of life in the west are quite unrealistic and distorted by images from Hollywood and media of abundance and prosperity.
On arriving in New York, the truth they face is stark. They soon realize that it’s not possible to support themselves through their art, the only employment they had known. So, like many others, they entered the grey zone of the U.S. economy: nail salons, dumpling factories, take-out restaurants, livery cabs, and curbside painting stalls.
In Day Jobs, Opera Dreams, these talented Chinese American artists turn their performance skills towards themselves for the first time, in English as well as Chinese. They tell of the bitterness and hope of immigrant life in New York as the 21st century begins, of the tension between the day jobs that feed them and the art they have studied from childhood, which they now struggle to carry forward. Even in this new environment, in which their extraordinary skills and training have no economic value, they have maintained contact with their art, and turned it into a powerful lens with which to examine their new lives.
About the Artists
CHINESE THEATRE WORKS
Kuang-Yu Fong founded Chinese Theatre Workshop in 1990 to support her work of bringing together Chinese and Western performance styles and techniques. The company provided educational programming and informative lecture/performances in English, and also produced both traditional and original shows on Chinese cultural themes. Its original productions mixed Chinese Opera and shadow puppetry with modern dance, downtown performance art, European folk tales, toy theater, and object theater, drawing on Chinese folk tales and literary classics as well as aspects of the contemporary Chinese experience from slowly changing gender roles to immigration to the U.S.
In 1998, Ms Fong, who had previously been a performer and teaching artist with Gold Mountain Institute, became Executive Director of that company. Three years later, she merged GMI with Chinese Theatre Workshop to create Chinese Theatre Works. Since 2001, Ms. Fong and Stephen Kaplin have served as CTW’s Co-artistic Directors, carrying on both its predecessors’ missions, as well as their commitments to education as a key component. Chinese Theatre Works’ programs cut across ethnic and cultural boundaries, and aim at sparking interest in Chinese cultural traditions among the wider public as well as in Chinese Americans who have not had access to this part of their heritage.
Chinese Theatre Works has won the highest honor in U.S. puppetry, a Citation of Excellence from UNIMA-USA, for their show Toy Theater Peony Pavilion. The company has also been featured at many festivals and conferences across the world- the Puppeteers of America’s National Festival; Puppet Power in Calgary, Canada; the DALA Festival (Seoul, South Korea); Taipei Children’s Theater Association’s Festival (Taiwan); and the Puppeteers of America’s Northeast Regional Festival. The Seattle International Children’s Theatre Festival, The First International Tanghan Shadow Festival and The Shanghai First International Puppet Festival
About THE COLLABORATORS:
Kuang-Yu Fong (director/performer) is the founder, Executive Director, Co-Artistic Director of Chinese Theatre Works. She is also an Opera Performer, Puppeteer, Teaching Artist.
Kuang-Yu Fong majored in Chinese Opera at the Chinese Cultural University in Taiwan, specializing in the “Hau-san” female singing and dancing roles. She studied under famous masters from the Fu Lien Cheng Peking Opera School in Beijing including Sun Yuen Bing and Sun Yuen Pua, and with other masters such as Wong Jing Zhi (a disciple of Mei Lan Fang) and Kun Opera master Xu Yen Zhi. After receiving her B.A. from Chinese Cultural University, she taught Chinese Opera movement in the Chinese Theater Department there for four years. She completed her formal training with an M.A. in Educational Theater from N.Y.U. Ms. Fong has toured and taught all over the United States and in Asia and Europe. She has taught at Chinese Cultural University in Taiwan, Chinese Opera Academy in Beijing, University of Maryland and at Pace University in New York.
Ms. Fong has conceived and directed many original, innovative productions, including Zhang Boils the Ocean, Kasper as a Banana,Toy Theater Peony Pavilion (which won a 2001 UNIMA-USA Citation of Excellence in Puppetry), Kun/Shadow Whitesnake, Border of Womanhood, and Tiger Tales. Founder of Chinese Theatre Workshop (1990), she became co-Artistic Director of the Gold Mountain Institute´s Yueh Lung Shadow Theater in 1998, and became Executive Director and co-Artistic Director when the two companies merged to become Chinese Theatre Works in 2001. Since 2003, she has served on the Board of UNIMA-USA, the international puppetry organization’s U.S. branch. Ms Fong´s first book (with Stephen Kaplin), Tabletop Theater: Puppetry for Small Places, was published in 2003.
Stephen Kaplin (Assistant Director) studied puppetry at UCONN under Dr. Frank Ballard and graduated in 1979. He received an MA in Performance Studies from New York University in 1989. Since 1981, he has lived in New York
City, working in all aspects of puppet theater. His professional credits include: building shadow figures and puppet sequences for Julie Taymor’s Lion King, Juan Darien, Liberties Taken, The Transposed Heads and The Green Bird; designing and building giant puppets for TIMES SQUARE 2000 (Michael Curry, dir.); designing shadow sequences for Lee Breuer’s Peter and Wendy; co-design and construction of puppets for the Public Theater’s The Tempest and The Caucasian Chalk Circle (George Wolfe, dir.); shadow puppet designs for Band in Berlin (Susan Feldman & Pat Birch, dirs). In 2006, his puppet designs for Ping Chong’s Cathay: Three Tales of China. won a Henry Hewes Award for Notable Effects from the American Theatre Wing.
Kaplin has been the co-Artistic and Technical Director of Chinese Theatre Works since its founding in 2001– designing sets and puppets, as well as co-directing and performing all major CTW productions. Kaplin is also a co-founding member and co-artistic director of Great Small Works – a collective of theater artists dedicated to stretching the boundaries of live and puppet theater in New York City since 1995. His ongoing work with GSW include: production and performance for numerous monthly “Spaghetti Dinner Cabarets” (Obie Award Special Citation) and ten Toy Theater Festivals (UNIMA Citation of Excellence), giant puppet pageants, and puppet production and performance in large scale productions.
His articles in puppet theory and history appear regularly in Puppetry International. His book (written with Kuang-Yu Fong), Tabletop Theater: Puppetry for Small Places, was published in 2003. He was a guest instructor at the University of Maryland, College Park (occupying the Jim Henson Chair for puppetry together with Ms. Fong.) He has curated two major exhibitions of puppets at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and others at Flushing Town Hall and the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry (2012). He has also co-curated and designed Toy Theatre Exhibitions at the last three Great Small Works International Toy Theater Festivals.
Yang Yang (Video Design) is an Interactive multimedia & design artist who got his Masters Degree in Interactive Art from Pratt Institute. He uses digital ways to share the traditional art of shadow puppetry. His art works have been exhibited at many museums, including American Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn Academy of Music and Pratt Institute.
Sabrina Hamilton (Lighting Design) is the Artistic Director of the Ko Festival of Performance. Lighting credits include the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, the Cincinnati Playhouse and 7 years as the Route Lighting Designer for New York’s Village Halloween Parade under the direction of Ralph Lee. International lighting credits include work in: Bologna, Florence, Milan, London, Grenada, Geneva, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam, Brussels, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Bristol, Havana and Hong Kong. Her directing work, primarily original pieces, has been seen at the Ko Festival, as well as in New York, Berlin and throughout the US.