January 19, 2023
World Premiere of Sojourner ZY
An original play written by Eugenie Chan with shadow theater by ShadowLight Productions and live music by the Paul Dresher Ensemble. March 2–5.
The world premiere of Sojourner ZY: An Asian American Science Fiction Fantasy co-produced by ShadowLight Productions, New Performance Traditions/Paul Dresher Ensemble and the Presidio Theatre will be given March 2-5 at the Presidio Theatre. Sojourner ZY is an original play written by Eugenie Chan with new music composer Paul Dresher performed by ShadowLight Productions in its signature large-scale cinematic shadow theater style directed by Larry Reed. Performances will be Thursday, March 2, at 8 pm (preview), Friday, March 3, at 8 pm, Saturday, March 4, at 8 pm, and Sunday, March 5, at 2 pm. The Presidio Theatre is located at 99 Moraga Avenue on the Main Presidio Post in San Francisco. Tickets, priced $15-$25 may be purchased here.
About Sojourner ZY
In a not-so-distant future, the Earth Federation has sent out spaceships to scour the universe for the resources necessary to sustain an environmentally depleted and damaged Earth. We follow the mission of Sojourner ZY, who pilots the last surviving spacecraft, as he communicates with Earth Federation’s Mission Control and with his wife scientist and devoted children, who struggle to survive in Earth’s ever-more precarious environment. And as he desperately tries to sack strange new worlds of their resources, he confronts uncomfortable choices and unforeseen consequences.
Audiences will be surrounded in a primal, yet futuristic landscape of sound from composer Dresher’s invented instruments, cinematic-scale shadow puppet imagery and a fantastical story that follows the interplanetary journey of the space traveler Sojourner ZY. On his journey, he encounters a dizzying array of uniquely adapted and strange civilizations. The story is told via projected and live shadow sequences with dialogue and songs and seeks to address vital issues of all time—race, gender, identity and the environmental crisis.
In ZY’s galactic travel, he encounters an array of contrasting societies, from the uber-authoritarian to the uber-altruistic: in a liquid world where beings shapeshift among sexes, ethnic and sexual identities within miniature bubble-spheres in total anarchic paradise (until it’s not); a moonscape of mammal-headed creatures who find abundance by adopting the animal mind to live harmoniously with nature and who follow an authoritarian leader (until they do not); and a light-filled asteroid of intangible beings—all female—who thrive by turning themselves into pure light and sound. While each alternative offers a solution to mankind’s survival, each also yields a flaw that threatens ZY’s vision of humanity and mankind itself.
ZY seeks common cause with these mysterious entities. But in this pursuit, he is challenged to confront age-old beliefs about mankind’s place in the natural world and the cosmos itself. By dint of his own conception of being human, is he destined to keep replicating the actions that led to the Earth’s destruction in the first place? To confront this dilemma, he must journey deep into his own Being. His travel ends with the greatest challenge, in a journey to the ultimate planet—that of the sphere of the Self.
Soujourner ZY Creative Team
Eugenie Chan, writer; Larry Reed, director; I made Moja and Ya Wen Chien, co-lead designers and shadow performers; Sharon Shao, voice actor and shadow performer; Vivienne Truong, voice actor; Ruby Day, voice actor; Lydia Greer, shadow performer, light operator; Jessica Nguyen, Truong Nguyen, Lindsay Ordesta and Fred C. Riley III, shadow puppeteers; Jacquelyn Serrano, digital design and animation; Samara Lotri Tana, shadow puppeteer and animator; Paul Dresher, composer, performer; and Joel Davel, percussionist. The music will be performed live by the electro-acoustic duo featuring composer Dresher performing on the Hurdy Grande and Quadrachord (created and constructed in collaboration with Daniel Schmidt) and acclaimed percussionist Joel Davel performing on Don Buchla’s invented mallet instrument, the Marimba Lumina.
About New Performance Traditions and The Paul Dresher Ensemble
New Performance Traditions is a hub for incubating multi-disciplinary arts projects from conception and production through performance, recording, and broadcast. We are dedicated to the creation of risk-taking and challenging performing artworks and to supporting the artists that conceive them in order to engender a more equitable, inclusive, and creative community.
New Performance Traditions’ current projects include: The Paul Dresher Ensemble; In Studio Performances; West Oakland Sessions; the Dresher Ensemble, Artist Residency Program, Both Eyes Open, a chamber opera by Philip Kan Gotanda & Max Giteck Duykers ); The Electronic Lover, a podcast opera by Lisa Mezzacappa; MEKONG — The River Runs by Vân-Ánh Võ; The Rebirth of Apsara by Charya Burt Cambodian Dance; MIMI (Museum of Invented Musical Instruments and Interval Archive for Microtonal Research); Actors’ Reading Collective, and Lightfast.
About ShadowLight Productions
ShadowLight was founded in 1972 by filmmaker/theater director/shadow artist Larry Reed. The driving forces were Reed’s interests in and appreciation of shadow theater traditions, film and world cultures, and the passion to express them in an integrated fashion. He is one of the few Westerners to have trained in the traditional Balinese shadow theater and is a dalang or “shadow master.” After over 15 years of studying and performing in this tradition, Reed began expanding the scope of ShadowLight’s artistic activities in order to create a deeper connection with contemporary American audiences. Through much exploration and experimentation, he successfully integrated traditional shadow theater techniques with modern theater and film styles. The outcome was a “live animation film” – a completely original way of using shadows in theater that is not culture-bound. Performed behind and in front of a 15’x 30’ screen, these works orchestrate silhouettes of puppets, actors, and cutout sets illuminated by multiple electric light sources to create cinematic effects live on stage. Each show features live music and is created by a collaborating ensemble of writers, choreographers, composers, designers, actors, dancers, musicians and puppeteers from various cultural backgrounds, artistic disciplines and styles.