Princeton Atelier Double Bill
Presenting an action-adventure martial arts musical fantasy and musical theater improv comedy
On April 18 the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Princeton Atelier and Program in Dance will present an unlikely pairing of performances that celebrate the music and theater opportunities of the Atelier’s unique program. At 6:30 p.m. students will perform the world premiere of The Journey Home - The Struggle for Heaven on Earth, Act IV of Fred Ho’s action-adventure, martial arts musical fantasy Journey Beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey. The performance will be followed by a talk-back with the cast, director and dance faculty member Rebecca Lazier, fight choreographer and guest faculty member Scott Parker, and the production’s designers. After a brief intermission, the musical theater improv comedy of Baby Wants Candy returns to Princeton at 8 p.m. The entire evening is free and open to the public and will conclude with a reception.
The Princeton Atelier, founded in 1994 by Nobel laureate and former faculty member Toni Morrison and currently directed by Professor Stacy Wolf, brings professional artists to the University for intensive collaborative work with students and faculty. Participating Atelier artists select a project they want to explore and experiment with in the company of students before developing it for the professional art world. During the current semester Princeton students have been studying with Lazier and Parker and developing their interpretation of Journey Beyond the West and choreography for the production. Al Samuels, co-founder of Baby Wants Candy and critically-acclaimed comedy writer, performer, and director is a guest faculty member this semester teaching an Atelier course on “Creating Musical Comedies.” Students are exploring and creating original short comedic musicals, which they plan to present in early May.
The Journey Home – The Struggle for Heaven on Earth is the final act of the late Fred Ho’s well-known martial arts opera Journey Beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey, based on a popular 16th-century Chinese novel, Journey to the West. The novel is one of China’s most famous literary classics, widely referenced in Chinese culture. The story has inspired films, television shows, comic books, board games, spin-off novels, and video games that are popular well beyond China’s borders. In Chinese opera, it has been staged with slapstick and martial-arts acrobatics.
Acts I through III of Ho’s version premiered in 1997 at the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In 2003 Lazier directed a new version of Acts I and II as part of the Guggenheim Works & Process series at The Guggenheim Museum. Princeton’s production marks the first staging of Act IV. The score is a synthesis of Chinese folk music and opera with Afro-diasporic influences and American popular culture. The band is composed of Asian, African and European instrumentation.
Ho recently passed away on April 12, 2014, following a lengthy battle with cancer.
The original material tells the story of a monk, a monkey, a pig and an ogre on a quest to find Buddhist scriptures in India and bring them back to China. Monkey, the novel's central character, is cunning and restless, representing the cravings of the mind; the pig, gluttonous and lustful, represents the desires of the body. They get into various predicaments as these disciples fend off attacks on the monk and rescue him from perilous situations aided by the merciful deity Guanyin. Ho’s reimagining of the story departs from the traditional ending, where the Pilgrims attain enlightenment. In this production the Monkey King returns to battle the Jade Emperor for control of Heaven and is victorious, a defiant, political statement upending cultural norms.
Photo by Olivia Gomez
Costumes for the production are being designed by Anita Yavich, recently nominated for a Lucille Lortell Award and designer of costumes for Princeton’s productions of The Toy Box and Krazy Kat. Her costumes for this production draw from traditional Peking Opera silhouettes with comic book-style colors. The production also features video design by current visiting faculty member Eamonn Farrell, set design by Jesse Poleschuck, and lighting by Aaron Copp. The Dance Program’s resident Music Director is conducting a group of professional musicians and featuring student soprano Erika Baikoff.
The student cast includes Shanna Chu ’14, Maddie Clayton ’17, Jaimie Fan ’17, Samantha Gebb ’14, Julianne Goff ’16, Nathaniel Lam ’17, Edward Leung ’16, Yifan Li ’14, Yun-Yun Li ’17, Jessica Liang ’15, Elaine Liew ’14, Ankur Rathee ’14, Christine Wang ’14, Monica Wei ’17, Katherine Zhao ’17, and Joy Zou ’17.
In a very different presentation of music and theater, Baby Wants Candy will return to Princeton with a performance of critically-acclaimed musical theater improv. The ensemble originated in Chicago, the home of improvisation in the U.S. Each show begins with the cast asking the audience for a suggestion of a musical title that has never before been performed. Accompanied by a piano, the first title that the ensemble hears becomes the title and theme for that evening’s show. Audiences experience off-the-cuff choreographed dance numbers, rhyming verses, and jaw-dropping comedy. Each hour-long performance is completely unique and its own opening and closing night.
Photo by Frank Wojciechowski
Baby Wants Candy has performed over 2,000 completely improvised musicals around the world. Among the group’s past featured performers are Stephnie Weir and Nicole Parker (MadTV), Rachel Dratch and Seth Meyers (Saturday Night Live), Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), Garry Tallent (Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band), and Mark Pender (Max Weinberg 7). A sample of past titles include, Sarah Palin The Musical!, How the Backstreet Boys Won the Civil War, Nobody Puts Baby Jesus in the Corner, Skanks on a Plane, and Barak Obama Baby Mama Drama.
The New York Times has described the group as a “Critics’ pick! Truly amazing.” The Chicago Sun Times calls Baby Wants Candy, “Consistently funny and crowd pleasing.” The Huffington Post writes, “It’s pretty damn brilliant, it’s pretty damn hilarious, and it was made up on the spot.”
Journey Beyond the West is being presented with support from Princeton’s David Gardner ’69 Magic Fund of the Council for the Humanities and the Lewis Center’s Arts Initiative Partnership. The Princeton Atelier was endowed in 2009 through the generosity of a donor who has chosen to remain anonymous and is additionally supported through The Newhouse Foundation, The Erik C. Blachford '89 Fund, The Schare-Pfaffenroth Endowment Fund, The Jordan Roth '97 Performance Fund and The Peter T. Joseph Foundation.
Audiences are invited to attend either or both performances. No tickets or reservations are required.
Link to photos: https://lca.sharefile.com/d/scc3db4d55dc48189
Photo caption 1: Members of the musical theater improv comedy ensemble Baby Wants Candy, pictured here during their performance last year at Princeton, return to teach an Atelier course and present their hilarious brand of musical comedy parody and improv.
Photo credit 1: Photo by Frank Wojciechowski
Photo caption 2 & 3: Students rehearse for a Princeton Atelier production of Act IV of Fred Ho’s Journey Beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey, an action-adventure martial arts musical fantasy that reimagines the popular Chinese story Journey to the West.
Photo credits 2 & 3: Photos by Olivia Gomez
Journey Beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey
Friday, April 18, 2014
Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center
Baby Wants Candy
Friday, April 18, 2014
Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center
Free and open to the public
No tickets required
The Princeton Atelier was endowed in 2009 through the generosity of a donor who has chosen to remain anonymous. The Atelier is additionally supported through The Newhouse Foundation, The Erik C. Blachford '89 Fund, The Schare-Pfaffenroth Endowment Fund, The Jordan Roth '97 Performance Fund and The Peter T. Joseph Foundation.