Turning illusion into reality through Japanese storytelling, puppets and graphic novels
Tennessee Williams wrote over 30 full-length plays and more than 35 one-act plays that were published or performed by the time of his death in 1983. Since then, 36 of his plays have received posthumous premieres, 12 of them at the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown. This year is no exception. Produced by Spooky Action Theater and directed by Natsu Onoda Power, Williams' short play The Lady from the Village from Falling Flowers has its World Premiere at the festival between September 26-29. Beforehand, this one-act play, never been staged or even published before, will have three preview performances at Spooky Action on September 21.
"The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers shares with an audience that an illusion becomes real whenever and wherever a story is convincingly told, says David Kaplan, Curator, and co-founder of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. "How such illusions work preoccupied Williams for the next forty-five years. It’s helpful to see the magic (and charm) of story-telling set out so clearly, without the obscuring bravura of a sophisticated writer’s craft."
It seems that the play was written in the spring of 1935 when Williams was a student a the University of Missouri, but there is no record of The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers being submitted for class. The manuscript cover page states, “The title is suggested by the name of a character in Lad Murasaki’s ‘Tale of Genji.’” The source material, written by Murasaki around 1020 in archaic Japanese and popularized in the 1930s by Arthur Waley’s English version, prompted Williams’ imagination to soar. The story of the Lady is Williams' own, graced with quick-witted humor and a true flirt’s love for a dramatic reversal.
"When I read it for the first time, I tried to imagine what would frame the text as a folk play, thinking this would set off its silliness enough that a performance could pass on a serious idea: the illusion of beauty becomes a transient reality when a good story is told," remembers Kaplan. "The Japanese kamishibai, storytellers with pictures, seemed a good match for the material. When I mentioned this to our publicist, Hunter Styles, who had worked in Washington theater, he said 'I know THE person who can make this happen'. And he did: Natsu."
On Natsu's hands, The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers becomes an innovative event that mixes Japanese kamishibai style street theater with storytelling performers.
"This play is a playful study of, or homage to, Japanese Heian-era literature with William’s own added flavor," describes Natsu, who is working with Spooky Action after receiving two Helen Hayes Awards for The Lathe of Heaven. "We have created an intimate spectacle (designed for small audiences) borrowing vocabularies and conventions from kamishibai (Japanese street storytelling performance with illustrated placards), puppetry, and comics/graphic novels."
Definitely, an event not to be missed!
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