“Both Eyes Open” Chamber Opera: a Workshop Performance (SOLD OUT)

Performing Arts - Theater | November 15 | 7 p.m. | Morrison Hall, 125, Elkus Room

 Center for Japanese Studies (CJS), Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, Japanese American Studies Advisory Council

Both Eyes Open Project Full Description:
BOTH EYES OPEN is an experimental chamber opera currently in development by Brooklyn-based composer Max Giteck Duykers and Bay Area playwright Philip Kan Gotanda. This work explores the scarring that interned Japanese-Americans experienced during World War II and suggests paths toward healing. Combining physical theater, interactive audio and video, contemporary music and singing, extended vocal techniques, chanting, spoken word, and modern dance, BOTH EYES OPEN revisits a pivotal moment in U.S. history and ethnic tensions that still resonate today.

Set in Stockton, CA, the story focuses on a Japanese immigrant landowner named Jinzo Matsumoto, who, with his wife Catherine, was interned in a camp in Rohwer, Arkansas in 1942. Before leaving their farm, they bury a Zen Daruma Doll on their land. According to Japanese tradition, these papier-mâché idols are given to people when they embark on a challenging endeavor or make a serious promise. At that time, only one eye is painted on the doll's face to symbolize the person's initial commitment to the challenge. If success comes, then the doll receives its second eye and is burned ceremonially to release its spirit.

During his internment, Jinzo (baritone Kelvin Chan) not only loses his land, business, and his pride, but also his wife Catherine, who dies in camp while giving birth to their first child. As Jinzo's inner life begins unraveling, our story takes a hallucinatory, nonlinear turn when the Daruma Doll, played by tenor John Duykers, comes to life as a sardonic, one-eyed guardian angel. With irreverent song, wild dance, stark narration, and Zen Buddhist teachings, the Doll, joined by the ghost of Jinzo's deceased wife (soprano Kalean Ung) propels the piece forward. Together, in song, dance and visual images, they depict metaphorical flashbacks and dreams of Jinzo and Catherine’s earlier life. Reaching a fever pitch, the drama splits violently into two alternative conclusions. In one, Jinzo ends his life by lying down on nearby railroad tracks and dies; in the other, he is rescued from an oncoming train by the Daruma Doll, who invites him to fulfill a promise made to Catherine: to return to his land, to the center of his soul. With this promise, the Daruma earns his missing eye and fades away in a vortex of ashes. The audience must then decide which story line is “true,” and in the process, come to empathize and understand more deeply the existential conflicts that interned Japanese Americans faced after returning home from the camps.

Joining our three singers will be four members of the Paul Dresher Ensemble playing violin, clarinet, piano, and Buchla's Marimba Lumina, but they will also be deeply integrated into the action on stage. Director Melissa Weaver and video artist Kwame Braun will use projected images, simple scenic elements, and lighting to create the performance environment. Choreographer Katie Faulker will give physical embodiment to the Jinzo's struggle, through stylized dance and abstract movement. Conductor Ben Makino will lead the ensemble. In his libretto Philip Gotanda examines institutionalized vocabulary about race and ethnic difference, exposing scapegoating, fear of betrayal, and xenophobia. His story is not a naturalistic tale of social realism but instead uses abstraction and satire to embrace divergent perspectives.

BOTH EYES OPEN has had several workshops performances including one in January 2016 at U.C. Berkeley, sponsored by the Center for the Japanese Studies and the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies. In September 2016 the University of Nevada also produced a workshop performance through the N.E.O.N festival. A short residency and presentation at U.C. Berkeley is forthcoming in the fall of 2019. The project has also just been awarded a generous grant from the National Parks Service to give performances at confinement sites throughout the U.S, as well as grants from The Brooklyn Arts Council, New Music USA, and the JFunds Commission

Developmental workshop video clips:
Three minute clip of developmental workshop:
37 minute clip of developmental workshop:

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 cjs@berkeley.edu, 510-642-3415