"Hiroshima Maiden" Review (continued)
. . . "This is huge, mammoth, intimidating," he says. Based on events that followed the A-bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, the piece uses 10 puppeteers who manipulate figures nearly four feet highvictims of the bombing, the pilot of the Enola Gay, bureaucrats, photographers. There are also three musicians and a narrator. Framing the story, set in the mid '50s, is a fictionalized autobiography in which a young man finds himself flipping TV channels between I Love Lucy and This Is Your Life.
Performed in the style of Japanese Bunraku, Hiroshima Maiden is nevertheless "an American story," says Hurlin. He's been wrapped up in the material for three years, raising money, building puppets and miniature scenic effects, lining up rehearsal space. The show's budget is almost four times that of his largest previous endeavor. Given the sheer quantity of stuff, the fact that St. Ann's gave him the use of the warehouse for more than a month, and that Sarah Lawrence College (from which he graduated in 1979, and where he's been teaching for more than a decade) let him use a theater free of charge for a couple of weeks, has been a blessing.
"What a thrill to see it, finally, outside of my head," he exclaims as we tour the miniature Eames furniture and screens, the "maidens" whose faces crumple at the delicate pull of a cord, and a crawling ant, which Hurlin swears is visible from high up in the raked, 300-seat theater. There are tiny renditions of Fat Man and Little Boy, the bombs that wreaked havoc on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
His cast includes several dancers, among them his companion, Kazu Nakamura, who proved useful as a translator during research trips to Japan. He felt it important to recruit a mix of Asians, Asian Americans, and Caucasians. Three of his performersLake Simons, Matt Acheson, and Chris Greenhave worked with puppeteer Basil Twist. "The dancers"Nami Yamamoto, Deana Headley, and Nakamura"had never held a puppet in their hands before. I actually think dance and puppetry are the same thingboth media use movement as a primary means of communication."
As much a visual artist as a man of the theater, Hurlin stayed with puppetry because he found that "anthropomorphizing objects became a convenient shorthand." Puppets allow Hurlin to conjure effects that would be impossible using human beings. "We did the bombing scene this morning," he says after a rehearsal. "Michiko [one of the 'maidens' brought to the U.S. for surgery to repair facial disfigurement after the attacks] is really brutalized by those puppeteers. You'd never be able to do it with live actors. The whole time she's trying to escape. It's much more interesting with a puppet. Your heart goes out to her because she's so small. The audience is so busy giving her life that we feel kind of protective of her. Puppets are a better mirror; they show us ourselves more clearly. The puppet doesn't change its facial expression. People fill in the blanks, meeting her halfway. She seems expressive, but it's all being done in the audience's mind."
Just wanted to let everyone know about the opening of an amazing production called HIROSHIMA MAIDEN at St. Ann's Warehouse in DUMBO, Brooklyn, and the special events that will be taking place during the opening week (next week).
The piece was created and directed by artist/choreographer Dan Hurlin, and it dramatizes the true story of the Hiroshima Maidens -- a group of disfigured Japanese women -- and their infamous visit to the U.S. in 1955 to undergo reconstructive surgery. The climax of their strange odyssey was a face-to-face meeting with the pilot of the Enola Gay on the TV show "This Is Your Life." HIROSHIMA MAIDEN is performed in the style of Japanese Bunraku puppetry, and includes live original music created by composer Robert Een.
There are several events scheduled to coincide with the opening week of the production:
* Former Hiroshima Maiden and peace activist Michiko Yamaoka will be flying in from Japan to join Dan Hurlin (creator of Hiroshima Maiden) and historian David Serlin (who has written on the history of plastic surgery) for question and answer sessions following the January 14, 16, and 18 performances at St. Ann's Warehouse (38 Water St. in DUMBO, Brooklyn).
* Ms. Yamaoka, Mr. Hurlin, and Mr. Serlin will also be participating in a special round table discussion moderated by Karen Michel (who produced a radio documentary on Hiroshima for National Public Radio) at the Asia Society on Sunday, January 18, at noon.
People interested in learning more about HIROSHIMA MAIDEN can look for David Rakoffs article in this Sundays New York Times Arts and Leisure section, or visit the St. Ann's Warehouse web site (www.stannswarehouse.org).
Individual tickets for HIROSHIMA MAIDEN are $25; Student tickets (with valid ID) and GROUP TICKETS (10 or more) are $20. CALL 718.254.8779 for more info, or go to Ticketweb.com.Individual tickets for the Asia Society round table are $7, Student tickets are $5. For more on this event, call the Asia Society at 212.517.ASIA.
Hope to see you there --
Hiroshima Maiden runs at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn through February 1.
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