June 1, 2023
World Premiere of Soul of The City
First Voice and Presidio Theatre present the world premiere of Brenda Wong Aoki’s “Soul of The City”
STORYTELLING, LIVE ORIGINAL MUSIC, POETRY AND DIGITAL MEDIA WEAVE A POIGNANT TALE OF LOSS, REDEMPTION, LONGING AND BELONGING
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Internationally acclaimed playwright, storyteller and performer Brenda Wong Aoki returns to the stage with the world premiere of a new multimedia work, Soul of The City, in two performances at the Presidio Theatre September 30 and October 1. The evening-length performance features Aoki and collaborators telling a profound tale of the importance of story, the wisdom of ancestors and the soul of a place. Directed by David Furumoto, Soul of The City features original music by Mark Izu, Masaru Koga and Derek Nakamoto, multimedia by Andi Wong and Olivia Ting, and costumes designed by Lydia Tanji. Performances will be Saturday, September 30, at 4 pm and Sunday, October 1, at 4 pm. Performances open in the theater’s plaza with a purification blessing by a Japanese Shinto priest. A reception follows each show.
“Soul of The City, is presented to you with some of my dearest friends–masters of their crafts with nothing to prove but lots to share,” says Brenda Wong Aoki. “We are warriors – but not soldiers. We are Soulgiers. We know why we are here, on this planet, at this moment in time, and we know what we must do. We will do it until we die. And even after because like all of us, our bodies return to the earth, our souls go back to Source and the actions we put into motion continue.”
About Soul of The City
Soul of The City follows a storyteller who has no more stories to tell. Her husband is sick, her boy has moved away, and no one is listening to her stories. Pursued by demons and haunted by ghosts, the storyteller embarks on a journey to find the Soul of The City. This multimedia music drama is a ritual performance. Rooted in traditional Japanese theater and music and infused with contemporary spoken word and Asian American Jazz, The Soul of he City reveals the divine in us all.
Audience members are encouraged to arrive dressed in their personal regalia and gather in the Presidio Theatre plaza to put prayers, photographs or talisman on the Soul of The City sacred tree. A Shinto priest will bless the event with a purification ceremony and willing participants will be given temple bells to call the ancestors. Once inside the theatre, the audience will experience a ritual performance of jazz, storytelling and poetry that is accompanied by photographs and images of Aoki’s family in San Francisco since the 1800’s. At the conclusion of the performance, audience and cast will return to the plaza for refreshments and rejoicing.
Soul of The City Cast and Creative Team
Brenda Wong Aoki – Storyteller
devorah major – First Mother
Masaru Koga – Sound of Source, Shakuhachi, Flutes & Saxophone
Jimi Nakagawa – Sound of Source, taiko & traps
Caroline Cabading – Sound of Source, voice and percussion
Derek Nakamoto – Sound of Source, keyboards
Kenneth Nash – Sound of Source, voice & percussion
Brenda Wong Aoki – Playwright
David Furumoto – Director
Masaru Koga – Music Director
Lydia Tangi – Costume Designer
Patty Ann Farrell – Lighting Designer
Andi Wong – Media Artist
Olivia Ting – Media Artist
Mark Shigenaga – Photographer
Soul of The City is supported by The Hewlett-50 Award & The Hewlett Foundation, The Rainin Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, San Francisco Arts Commission, Grants for the Arts, and MAP Fund and individual donors.
About Brenda Wong Aoki
Brenda Wong Aoki is a playwright, an artistic director, and America’s first nationally recognized Asian Pacific storyteller. She creates works for theater, symphony, contemporary dance, world music, taiko, jazz, live performance with film & museum installations. A descendant of Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and Scottish ancestors, her work speaks to the essential hybridity of American culture. Brenda has deep roots in San Francisco. Her grandfather, Reverend Chojiro Aoki, in the 1800’s was a founder of the nation’s first Japantown, San Francisco. One of the world’s first fully ordained Japanese Christian priests, he was forced out of Grace Cathedral because he supported his younger brother’s marriage to a white woman and died in Salt Lake City Utah where Brenda was born. She wrote an award winning play, Uncle Gunjiro’s Girlfriend, about this story and the children resulting from the marriage, the first documented bi-racial Japanese children in the
U.S. Brenda’s grandmother, Alice Wong, a bi-racial Chinese woman was a founder of the first Chinatown Garment Union in the nation’s first Chinatown also here in San Francisco.
Aoki has been awarded Hollywood-Dramalogue, Critics Circle, Dramatist Guild Awards, two NEA Theater Fellowships, the first Wattis Artist Residency and a Japan- US Creative Artist Fellowship. Past presenters include the Kennedy Center, New Victory Theater on Broadway, Hong Kong Performing Arts Center, the Adelaide International Festival in Australia, the Esplanade in Singapore, San Diego Rep, Dallas Theater Center and the Apollo Theater. In 2023, she will premiere a new work about her family’s 126-year history in San Francisco commissioned by a Hewlett 50 Playwright Award. Since 1976, Brenda and her partner, composer Mark Izu, have created original performance works by people of color representing the authentic story of America. (BrendaWongAoki.com)