KENNEDY THEATRE: “THE HUMAN PAVILION”
In a gripping tale about Okinawan identity in a multi-ethnic Japan, Okinawan playwright Chinen Seishin’s “The Human Pavilion” will be streamed online from Friday, Nov. 26 through Sunday, Dec. 5.
Kennedy Theatre and the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa’s Department of Theatre + Dance are happy to present Late Night Theatre Company’s production of Chinen’s one-act play, which takes its story through the modernization of 20th century Japan, during the collapse of sugar prices, the Pacific War, followed by the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and ultimately escalating the tensions that resulted in the continuous presence of the U.S. military in Okinawa.
The play will be directed by Maggie Ivanova, a M.F.A. candidate in Asian performance-directing, with a cast of local UH Mänoa students: Robert Torigoe, Clarissa de Smet, and Ellison Akamine. Jason Tse, who’s pursuing a master of music degree in composition, will provide the production’s soundscape and Yukie Shiroma, a third-generation Okinawan American born in Hawai‘i who teaches Okinawan dance at UH Mänoa, will help choreograph the production’s navigation through self and place.
Originally presented in 1976, four years after the end of the U.S. occupation of Okinawa, “The Human Pavilion” dramatizes the 1903 Osaka Industrial Exposition called the Scientific Human Pavilion. The exhibit literally displayed human representatives from an Ainu community including individuals from Okinawa, Taiwan, Malaysia, and other soon-to-be Japanese colonies as part of an industrial expo. Though the cast is small, Torigoe, de Smet, and Akamine help the audience connect to the storyline by interweaving timelines and locations of the play.
A question Ivanova asked that helped create the team’s theme and exploration of the play included: “How long does it take after sovereignty for a colonial subject to become, or to be viewed as, something other than a mere colonial subject?” Ivanova believed this question has a larger implication not only for Okinawa but for communities in Hawai‘i, as well as the larger Asia-Pacific region, and any postcolonial or decolonized population.
“How can the creative and performing arts contribute to exposing, undermining, and resisting the dehumanizing effects of ‘subjects on display’ and the logic of oppression they feed on?” said Ivanova in the play’s press release. “This is perhaps a suitable occasion to recall the words of King Sho Tai, the last Ryükyü monarch before his kingdom was fully integrated in the Japanese state: ‘Nuchi du Takara’ — ‘Life is precious.’”
“The Human Pavilion” message in exploring human identity and breaking down barriers of oppression coincides with Late Night Theatre Company’s mission which is to “create relevant and innovative performance art-making by, for, and about U.H.M. students that dismantles oppression, fosters skills in a pre-professional environment, and empowers local, national, and global communities.” This online production is the second in Late Night Theatre’s 2021-2022 season, which opened on Oct. 8 with the production “We Emerge,” comprised of collected personal and imagined stories created by UH Mänoa students, and explored the themes of finding joy during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tickets cost: $10 for regular streaming; $8 for seniors, military, and UH faculty and staff; and $5 for UH Mänoa students with a valid fall 2021 UH Mänoa identification card.
For more information and the link to purchase tickets, go to manoa.hawaii.edu/liveonstage/pavilion/.