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Tian Wen: Heavenly Questions for Modern Times

            Inspired by a classic Chinese poem, Tian Wen is an experimental puppetry performance that uses living sculpture, stylized movement, and live music to depict universal human experiences that Hua Hua Zhang has observed since journeying to America in 1996. In the individual segments--or dreams--of the performance, Zhang explores themes of loneliness, competition, compassion and self-reflection, as well as the balance between love of self and love of other. The show is still a work in progress.



CREATIVE TEAM

Hua Hua Zhang - Creator, Artistic Director, Puppet & Set Design and Sculptor
Adam Danoff - Production Manager, Stage Manager
Michael Cocchiarale - Co-writer 
Cory Neale - Composer and Sound Designer
Federico Restrepo - Lighting Designer
Nai-Ni Chen - Guest dance artist for performance ‘Water’

Nan-Cheng Chen – Cello Performer

Performers: Hua Hua Zhang, David Regan, Travis Draper, Jeanne Lyons, Adam Danoff and XingXin Liu



World Premiere at the Ellen Stewart Theater, La MaMa NY - Nov 3 - 5, 2018  

Purchase Tickets


Read the 2018 FringeArts Festival Philadelphia Reviews

  

Quotes from previous productions


          “[Hua Hua] pulled a vulnerability out of me that I’m not used to experiencing. This is probably the biggest superpower that her puppetry has (and great puppetry in general) – we feel far more empathy for these constructed characters than we do for live bodies on stage.”      
- Bonaly review of White Nights

 

            “Theater, dance, pantomime, and visual art combine to offer a well-calibrated interdisciplinary experience.  Hua Hua Zhang tells the coming-of-age story  with honesty, openness, and candor indicative of great wisdom and maturity.  [Her] splendidly-crafted puppet characters/objects are physical abstractions of the life cycle.”      - Rhonda Moore for thINKingDANCE

          “Zhang's art is a modern interpretation of puppetry.  Her contemporary style blends the essence of East and West and gives every audience a unique feeling.”  

– Dan-Yu Tang for Metro Chinese Weekly


Director’s  Notes:


Tian Wen: Heavenly Questions for Modern Times is a commissioned piece for the International Puppet Festival by La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. In this production, I seek to honor the tradition of puppetry while at the same time pushing that tradition into the contemporary world. In other words, I want to give the ancient art of puppetry a new life for new generations and audiences, and to explore the possibilities of this art form through collaboration with other creative artists.


Inspired by a Chinese poem, Tian Wen uses dream imagery and stream of consciousness to convey my vision of life experiences I have observed since coming to America 22 years ago. I do not want to tell the audience what to believe. I want each person to become a kind of co-creator of the piece—shaping and interpreting the show according to their own individual experiences.


The dream motif was inspired by Zhuang Zi, an ancient Taoist philosopher, who dreamed he had become a butterfly and derived pleasure from flying. After he awakened, he asked whether he dreamed he was a butterfly, or the butterfly was dreaming that he was a man. This ambiguity is explored throughout the show through the continual blurring of the line between reality and dream. 


I am very grateful to have such a wonderful, collaborative team to work with. Exploring the new potentials of puppetry is so important to me, and I could not do it without a team that trust me and shares my vision. My thanks from the bottom of my heart to them all!


Finally, I want to special thanks to the Jim Henson Foundation for their years of supporting the creation of new puppet theater.  Also, I want to thank Asian Arts Initiative of Philadelphia for providing a wonderful space to let me to exploring, testing my works.                                       


- Hua Hua Zhang