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Japanese artist Kiku Sakai dramatizes the ancient Hawaiian tale of Pele and Kamapua’a with Kuruma Ningyo and Hula Ki’I at La MaMa.

Kiku Sakai (L) with musician/composer Yukio Tsuji. Photo by Jinyoul Lim.

Melding ancient Kuruma Ningyo puppetry from Japan with Hula Ki’I, the indigenous puppet folklore of Hawaii, Japanese artist Kiku Sakai will perform the Hawaiian tale of Pele and Kamapua’a at La MaMa Experimental Theatre August 27, 2015 for one night only. This workshop is a light-hearted prequel to her much-anticipated opus, “Pele and Hi’iaka,” and demonstrates the cultural pluralism of this unique artist.

The tale of Kamapua'a ("hog child") is associated with the island of Maui. A hog-man fertility superhuman and kupua (trickster), Kamapua?a is best known for his romantic pursuit of the fire goddess Pele, with whom he shared a turbulent relationship. Despite Pele's power, Kamapua'a's persistence allows him to turn her lava rock into fertile soil.

Hula Ki`i is a form of hula dance that is done with or as an image. It is one in which dancers either utilize an actual physical image or use their own body to represent the likeness of one. It can employ finger puppets, hand puppets, marionette-type ki`i, larger more life-size representations, and everything in between. In latter versions, dancers attempt to assume the form of the image by posturing their bodies in such a way as to give the impression they are the ki`i. 

Kiku Sakai is a proud member of the Pua Ali’I ‘Ilima o Nuioka, a school of Hawaiian dance, which is led by the prominent hula master, Vicky Holt Takamine.

Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo is a form of puppet theater created in Japan around the end of the Edo period (the middle of the 19th century). It is called Kuruma Ningyo because the puppeteer sits on a small wooden seat with wheels (rokuro-kuruma) and operates a puppet (ningyo). 

La MaMa E.T.C. Artistic Director, Mia Yoo, glowed in speaking about this production, saying “Kiku Sakai is an artist that exemplifies the mission and tradition of inclusion here at La MaMa by combining her original Japanese artistic sensibilities with authentic Hawaiian puppet culture to bring forth a collaboration of art and artist unlike any other. We are proud to present such a unique and talented creator of World Theater.”

Sakai has an impressive team of collaborators in this project, including the prodigiously accomplished musician/composer Yukio Tsuji (who appeared in "Macbeth" "Salome" and "M. Butterfly" on Broadway) and the multidisciplinary dancer and puppet- theater artist Yoko Myoi ("CBS Presents: A New York Christmas to Remember" at St. Paul the Apostle). Overall project supervisor is Tom Lee, who appeared in "War Horse" on Broadway and "Madam Butterfly" at the Met and has been Artistic Director of the renowned St. Ann's Puppet Workshop in Brooklyn.

“Pele and Kamapua’a” by Kiku Sakai, presented by La MaMa E.T.C.
Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 7:00 pm
La MaMa 74A East 4th Street, NY, NY 10003
Tickets: $10, www.lamama.org, (646) 430-5374

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