An overwhelming aural and visual cornucopia
A silky tapestry of movement, beauty and passion
An experience you’re not likely to get anywhere else
NO UPCOMING SHOWS SCHEDULED
Show Information Below
SHADOWBOX LIVE : October 7th - 25th, 2015
High School Student Matinee Performances
Columbus Public Schools’ Unified Arts Program will participate in six student matinee performances. Teachers and students will be encouraged to use on-line resources prior to the show for providing context about the creative process, and will receive materials for processing the experience. Performances will include talk back sessions, with a focus on cross-cultural collaboration.
Columbus College of Art and Design
David Mack, New York Times Best Selling author of KABUKI Graphic Novels, and Tenshu’s make-up and marquee designer will be coming into town for the final weekend of performances. During his stay he will work with CCAD students majoring in illustration, talk to classes about the ‘art’ business and his experiences and will provide feedback on select student portfolios. Additionally he will work with students ages 12-17 enrolled in CCAD’s Saturday Schools.
OSU Lecture Series
The East Asian Studies Center (EASC) and the Institute of Japanese Studies (IJS) at The Ohio State University (OSU) exist to promote cross-cultural understanding and education in the community and in the State of Ohio. They will be collaborating with Shadowbox Live in fall 2015 to promote The Tenshu with their students and the community. EASC and IJS hope to host several lectures and/or workshops on the theme of kabuki or Japanese performance tradition this fall.
OSU Japanese Performance Course
Offered as an iteration of an existing course on Japanese performance, Professor Shelley Quinn will offer an OSU course in the Fall or 2015 based on the creative process of Shadowbox Live’s The Tenshu. Students will participate in guest lectures/workshops from the creative forces of the production. Also, Professor Kerim Yasar will devote a class segment on Izumi Kyoka and The Tenshu from the perspective of film, to complement Professor Quinn’s course and the Shadowbox Live production.
International Internship Opportunity
The College of Arts of Kindai University in Osaka, Japan, will provide its students with a unique learning opportunity, whereby select students (ages 18-22) will travel to Columbus, August 24, 2015 – September 5, 2015. This internship opportunity is directly related to The Tenshu, the artistic collaboration between Shadowbox Live and Dr. Hiromi Sakamoto. The students will be coming to America to participate in Shadowbox Live’s daily theatre operations as well as the artistic preparation of The Tenshu. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to audit some OSU Japanese studies classes.
About the Project
The Tenshu is a story of love between a beautiful, powerful spirit and a Samurai falconer; a story of honor for a loyal and conflicted warrior; a story of magic, tradition and the supernatural; a story of an unassuming artisan who holds the key to happiness. Shadowbox Live and Hiromi Sakamoto are offering a unique opportunity to experience all of these things through a high energy, rock and roll performance combining two cultures oceans apart.
One goal of this collaboration is to promote cultural understanding through theatre, music, and media arts. This production will serve to radically reimagine traditional Japanese art and culture, by introducing the rock genre into ancient art forms. American and Japanese audiences will experience a new twist on a traditional Japanese artform. Ohio is home to over 9,000 Japanese nationals, with steady annual increases in the population. Conservative estimates demonstrate that more than 30% of this population lives in Central Ohio, due in large part to Honda and its suppliers located in Central Ohio. Artistic collaborations are highly effective for strengthening relationships between cultures and for broadening and deepening arts participation through new genres. Receiving a National Endowment for the Arts Grant as well as a PNC Arts Alive Grant, the project is proving to be a high-profile event garnering wide support and deepening community engagement.
Double Album Now Available
Sound Editing & Mixing by Brian Kozicki & Brian Rau
Mastering by Brian Rau
Live recording Produced by Gabriel Guyer
Physical copies are professionally duplicated and printed by Discmakers and include a small, full-color booklet featuring credits from the Premiere Performance. Produced and Distributed in-house by ShadoArt Productions, Inc.
DOUBLE ALBUM NOW AVAILABLE
Physical copies of the Double CD Available Now at the Shadowbox Live Boutique
visit the Boutique any time during our normal performance hours
The Premiere Performance Players
All music composed and performed by the members of Light
Executive Producer, Percussion, Keys : Stev Guyer
Guitar : Matthew Hahn
Bass : Gabriel Guyer
Keys : Kevin Patrick Sweeney
Drums : Brandon Smith
Woodwinds : Kris Keith
Tomihime – Stacie Boord
Zusho – JT Walker III
Kamehime – Leah Haviland
Shunobanbo – Billy Depetro / David Whitehouse
ShitanagA Uba – Julie Klein
Lord Harima – Jimmy Mak
Ōminojou Tōroku – Tom Cardinal
Shuri – Robbie Nance
Kuhei – Andy Ankrom
Taro – Nicholas Wilson
Other Samurai : Billy Depetro, Guillermo Jemmott, Bryan Kao, Jonathan Rivera, Chad Whitaker, David Whitehouse
Susuki – Nikki Fagin
Kikyo – Noelle Grandison
Hagi – Michelle Daniels
Kuzu – Katy Psenicka
Ominaeshi – Ashley Pearce
Nadeshiko – Anita Mcfarren Rhynes
Additional Vocals – Stephanie Shull
Dancers – Amy Lay, Nicholas Wilson, and Katie Crisafulli
Additional Composer Credit : Dante Wehe
Based on the Play “Tenshu Monogatari” Written by Kyoka Izumi
English Translation by Hiromi Sakamoto
Translation Consultant : Dr. Nina Cornyetz
Adapted for stage by Jimmy Mak
Lyrics by Stev Guyer & Jimmy Mak
Choreography by Katy Psenicka
Cover Art and Makeup Design by David Mack
Costume Design by Linda Mullin
Stage Design by Britton Mauk
Lighting Design by Aaron Pelzek
Sound Design by Scott Aldridge
Puppet Design by Beth Kattleman, Lukas Tomasacci, and Nikki Fagin
Martial Arts Choreography by Bryan Kao
Performance Shots from October 2015
Hiromi visits Shadowbox Live for pre-production in late 2014
Hiromi Sakamoto is a recognized director/producer whose work has been beneficial to the U.S.-Japan relationship especially in the fields of media and performing arts. He served as a drama director of NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation, the public broadcasting network of Japan) for several years, where he worked with many talented writers, composers and actors of Japan. After leaving NHK, he came back to New York where he had previously studied performing arts, and created Tempo I Corporation, an educational nonprofit organization which produced TV programs and performing arts projects to enhance cultural understandings between the people in the US and Japan.
As Director of Tempo I, Sakamoto produced more than 30 television programs with American topics for NHK, TV Tokyo, Mainichi Broadcasting Systems, Fuji Television and TV Asahi, and brought many talented performing artists to and from both the U.S. and Japan, and sometimes to Europe. The theatrical productions Sakamoto produced and/or directed includes an award-winning Gaijin with Ping Chong (Tokyo Theater Fair ’95), Linda Twine’s musical retrospective Harlem Symphony with Broadway cast and staff (Osaka ’90), and a New York-Tokyo Sister City 30th Anniversary production of Ballet Capsule with the New York City Ballet dancers. He was also one of the core persons who created the Performing Arts Japan of the Japan Foundation (an international cultural agency & foundation of the Japanese Government), a fund created to enhance US-Japan professional artists’ exchange projects.
Since Sakamoto had a strong interest in education, he decided to attend a graduate school after working more than ten years, and received an MA in Dance &Dance Education from the Department of Arts and Humanities Education, Teachers College, Columbia University. During his years at Columbia, he studied under Maxine Greene, Professor Emeritus of educational philosophy, and her ideas influenced him much. Soon after he finished his MA program, Sakamoto was offered an Associated Professor position at Kyoto University of Art and Design to create Kodomo Geijyutsu Daigaku (“Family Learning Center”) for children, parents and University students to learn together. There he produced variety of pilot arts education programs to nurture democracy. He was soon promoted to be a Deputy Director of Research Center for Arts and Arts Education, and created more than 20 documentary programs introducing progressive forms of arts education with professional artists and scholars.
In the summer of 2006, he went back to the U.S. to line-produce a TV program on Michio Ito, a Japanese dancer/choreographer who was one of the pioneers of modern dance in the U.S. for NHK. After a year in the U.S., Sakamoto was accepted to a PhD program at Dance Studies, National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries, the University of Auckland, and moved to New Zealand. He started conducting a doctoral research under the topic of “Dance and Democracy: Dance Education as a Construct in Multicultural Democracy”, and have been specifically looking at Educational meanings of Kapa Haka, a form of Maori performing arts, in a broader socio-educational contexts in today’s Aotearoa/New Zealand. In the year 2012, Sakamoto transferred to the School of Critical Studies in Education, the Faculty of Education within the University of Auckland.
2008 Human Interest piece about Hiromi Sakamoto and his doctorate work in New Zealand
At the Century Guild Gallery, David Mack makes a drawing for a person who pre-ordered the book.
David Mack is the New York Times Best Selling author and artist of the KABUKI Graphic Novels, cover artist for FIGHT CLUB by Chuck Palahniuk, the writer and artist of Daredevil from Marvel Comics, including DAREDEVIL: End of Days which just debuted in hardcover as #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List (Co-written with Brian Michael Bendis), and the author and artist of his children’s book THE SHY CREATURES from MacMillan. For the #1 hit film Captain America The Winter Soldier, Mack created the art & concept for the credit sequence with Sarofsky Design. Mack’s work has garnered nominations for seven Eisner Awards, four International Eagle Awards, and both the Harvey and Kirby Awards in the category of Best New Talent, as well as many other national and international awards and nominations.
David Mack is one of the only creators to be listed in both the Top Ten Writers List, and the Top Ten Artists List in Wizard Magazine. Mack’s writing and art work on KABUKI, have earned him international acclaim for his innovative storytelling, sophisticated content, mixed media painting techniques, and page design. KABUKI is available internationally and has been translated in seven different languages, in addition to nearly two million copies of KABUKI Comics, Paperbacks, and Hard cover graphic novels in print in the U.S. alone. The series has spawned successful lines of action figures, toys, and sophisticated collectables and art objets (many of which were featured on Showtimes TV show DEXTER). Mack has toured and exhibited his work throughout Europe, Asia, and America with numerous gallery shows, and book signing tours at premier bookstores in over a dozen countries. He was the first American to be nominated for Germany’s most prestigious Max-Und-Moritz award in the category of Best Imported Comic.
Mack has illustrated and designed jazz and rock albums for both American and Japanese Labels (including work for Paul McCartney), Amanda Palmer, actor Thomas Jane, painted Tori Amos for her RAINN benefit calendars, acted as storyboard artist & asst. Director for Dead Can Dance music video, designed toys and packaging for companies in Hong Kong, animation art for MTV, ad campaigns for SAKURA art materials, written and designed video games for film director John Woo and Electronic Arts, wrote the interactive animated viral promo for Mission Impossible four, and contributed the artwork for Dr. Arun Ghandi’s essay on the “Culture of Non-Violence”.
Mack’s KABUKI books have been the subject of under-graduate and graduate university courses in Art and Literature, and listed as required reading. His work has been studied in graduate seminars at USC and hung in the Los Angeles Museum of Art. He’s lectured at universities and taught classes in writing, drawing, and painting all over the world, including a Masterclass at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, for Japan’s School of Communication Arts of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, and an invitation to speak at Harvard as the Guest of Honor at their annual Science Fiction Writing convention.
Besides working for Twentieth Century Fox as a writer of the treatment to the Kabuki motion picture, Mack’s film credits also include Visual Designer, Creative Consultant, and Co-Producer.
For more information about David Mack, please visit his Official Facebook Page
Britton Mauk is a free-lance set designer from Pittsburgh, PA. After obtaining a BFA from the California Institute of the Arts, he earned an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University. He has diverse and broad experience as a scenic designer and artist, as well as art production.
Video of Britton’s set work on “Angels In America”
Bryan Kao started training Wushu in 2006 with Ohio State University’s student run Dragon Phoenix Wushu Team, developing a passion for martial arts. Since then, he has trained with many coaches, ranging from US national team members to Shaolin masters in Taiwan. He has competed and won medals in numerous national and collegiate level competitions, and has also performed for a variety of venues, including the halftime show for the OSU basketball team and the Harlem Globe Trotters. He has been the head coach of the Dragon Phoenix Wushu Team since 2010 has been a member of the US National Traditional Wushu Team since July 2014.
Bryan Kao prepares the “Drunken Fist” for World’s in 2014
Himeji Castle (姫路城) : our story’s setting :
Himeji Castle (姫路城 Himeji-jō?) is a hilltop Japanese castle complex located in Himeji, in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. The castle is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture, comprising a network of 83 buildings with advanced defensive systems from the feudal period. The castle is frequently known as Hakuro-jō (“White Egret Castle”) or Shirasagi-jō (“White Heron Castle”) because of its brilliant white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight.
Himeji Castle’s construction dates to 1333, when a fort was constructed on Himeyama hill by Akamatsu Norimura, the ruler of the ancient Harima Province. In 1346, his son Sadonori demolished this fort and built Himeyama Castle in its place. In 1545, the Kuroda clan was stationed here by order of the Kodera clan, and feudal ruler Kuroda Shigetaka remodeled the castle into Himeji Castle, completing the work in 1561. In 1580, Kuroda Yoshitaka presented the castle to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and in 1581 Hideyoshi significantly remodeled the castle, building a three-story castle keep with an area of about 55 m2 (592 ft2).
Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu granted Himeji Castle to his son-in-law, Ikeda Terumasa, as a reward for his help in battle. Ikeda demolished the three-story keep that had been created by Hideyoshi, and completely rebuilt and expanded the castle from 1601 to 1609, adding three moats and transforming it into the castle complex that is seen today. The expenditure of labor involved in this expansion is believed to have totaled 25 million man-days. Ikeda died in 1613, passing the castle to his son, who also died three years later. In 1617, Honda Tadamasa and his family inherited the castle, and Honda added several buildings to the castle complex, including a special tower for his daughter-in-law, Princess Sen (千姫 Senhime?).
In the Meiji Period (1868 to 1912), many Japanese castles were destroyed. Himeji Castle was abandoned in 1871 and some of the castle corridors and gates were destroyed to make room for Japanese army barracks. The entirety of the castle complex was slated to be demolished by government policy, but it was spared by the efforts of Nakamura Shigeto, an Army colonel. A stone monument honoring Nakamura was placed in the castle complex within the first gate, the Diamond Gate (菱門 Hishimon?). Although Himeji Castle was spared, Japanese castles had become obsolete and their preservation was costly.
When the han feudal system was abolished in 1871, Himeji Castle was put up for auction. The castle was purchased by a Himeji resident for 23 Japanese yen (about 200,000 yen or US$2,258 today). The buyer wanted to demolish the castle complex and develop the land, but the cost of destroying the castle was estimated to be too great, and it was again spared.
Himeji was heavily bombed in 1945, at the end of World War II, and although most of the surrounding area was burned to the ground, the castle survived intact. One firebomb was dropped on the top floor of the castle but fortunately failed to explode. In order to preserve the castle complex, substantial repair work was undertaken starting in 1956, with a labor expenditure of 250,000 man-days and a cost of 550 million yen. In January 1995, the city of Himeji was substantially damaged by the Great Hanshin earthquake, but Himeji Castle again survived virtually undamaged, demonstrating remarkable earthquake resistance. Even the bottle of sake placed on the altar at the top floor of the keep remained in place.
Kyōka Izumi (泉 鏡花) : original Japanese author :
Kyōka Izumi (泉 鏡花 Izumi Kyōka?, 4 November 1873 – 7 September 1939), real name Kyōtarō Izumi (泉 鏡太郎 Izumi Kyōtarō?), is the pen name of a Japanese author of novels, short stories, and kabuki plays who was active during the prewar period.
He is best known for a characteristic brand of Romanticism preferring tales of the supernatural heavily influenced by works of the earlier Edo period in Japanese arts and letters, which he tempered with his own personal vision of aesthetics and art in the modern age.
He is also considered one of the supreme stylists in modern Japanese literature, and the difficulty and richness of his prose has been frequently noted by fellow authors and critics. Like Natsume Sōseki and other Japanese authors with pen names, Kyōka is usually known by his pen name rather than his real given name.
Eccentric and superstitious, Kyōka developed a reputation for writing about the grotesque and the fantastic. “The Holy Man of Mount Kōya (高野聖 Kōya Hijiri?),” is a tale about a monk’s journey through a mountainous wilderness, encountering inexplicable and unsettling experiences. Borrowing and embellishing themes from Edo period popular fiction, folklore and Noh drama, more than half of Kyōka ‘s works incorporate some form of supernatural element. Kyōka’s narrative style borrows from traditional rakugo storytelling, and also uses dramatic dialogues similar to that used in kabuki drama. Kyōka often depicted life in the hanamachi of downtown Edo or Tokyo, which is why he is often compared with his contemporaries Kafū Nagai and Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. However, Kyōka makes much more use of a complex plot and suspense in his narrative. Another thematic concept strong in his writings is that of a beautiful older woman taking care of a young man.
His plays are particularly popular in Japan: such works as Demon Pond (夜叉ヶ池 Yasha ga Ike?), The Sea God’s Villa (海神別荘 Kaijin bessō?), and The Castle Tower (天守物語 Tenshu monogatari?) are still performed regularly.
The Izumi Kyōka Prize for Literature is a literary award established by the city of Kanazawa, first awarded in 1973 on the hundredth anniversary of Kyōka’s birth.
Information references from Wikipedia
Dr. Nina Cornyetz’s teaching and research interests include critical, literary, and filmic theory; intellectual history; studies of gender and sexuality; and cultural studies, with a specialization in Japan. She has been the recipient of research fellowships from the Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture, Rutgers University; the Japan Foundation; and the Now Foundation, Tokyo, Japan.
Among her publications are The Ethics of Aesthetics in Japanese Cinema and Literature: Polygraphic Desire; Dangerous Women, Deadly Words: Phallic Fantasy and Modernity in Three Japanese Writers ; “Fetishized Blackness: Hip Hop and Racial Desire in Contemporary Japan” in Social Text ; and “Gazing Disinterestedly: Politicized Poetics in Double Suicide” in Differences . Her Gallatin courses include a study of ancient and premodern Japanese poetics and other art forms in Behind the Mask I: Exteriority , a close reading of several of Sigmund Freud’s case studies in On Freud’s Couch , and a study of ethics and cinematography in Hong Kong gangster films and their Japanese and American counterparts in Beyond Good and Evil: Gangsters, Violence, and the Urban Landscape.
Dr. Cornyetz has helped to refine the translatation Tenshu Monogatari into English.
Dr. Beth Kattelman received her doctoral degree in theatre from The Ohio State University in 1999. She also holds a masters degree in library science from Kent State.
Dr. Kattelman has performed with various theatre companies throughout the Midwest including the ArtReach Touring Theatre, The Cincinnati Children’s Theatre, The Reality Theatre, Act Out Productions and Actor’s Theatre. She has also worked with Megan Terry at the Omaha Magic Theatre, where she served as company member and sound designer for productions of Body Leaks and Sound Fields/Sound Minds.
Dr. Kattelman co-founded Madcap Productions a Cincinnati based puppet-theatre company that continues to tour throughout the country. She also co-founded and served as Artistic Director of the New Venture Theatre a Columbus company that was devoted to showcasing and developing new works. She has directed several award- winning productions in Cincinnati and Columbus including The Rocky Horror Show (the inaugural production for Stage Five Repertory Company), The Story of My Life: Part One, the End (written by OSU visiting artist Dr. Allan Munro), Agnes of God, and Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love.
Dr. Kattelman currently is a member of the Advisory Board for the Columbus Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival and is a contributor to the Gale Group’s Drama for Students series. She has also written entries for numerous theatre encyclopedias and reference sources.
Shadowing Shadow : The Stories Behind Tenshu
Embedded reporting by Lia Eastep
Here are Some Gorgeous Influences: The Tenshu Preview
I am confident enough to assert that no arts organization can match Shadowbox Live’s level of hospitality. Of course there are tons of groups out there who adore their audiences and are ever-grateful for the support. Still. Shadowbox love is big and exhaustive. Which made The Tenshu’s preview event a no-brainer.
Walking into the Bistro on September 1, the night of an invite-only special preview event, I fell easily into a long, snaking line of guests already filing into the theater and straight into a buffet line piled high with the kinds of appetizers that easily double for a meal. (They’re no dummies in implementing the clichéd way to our hearts…)
After settling in and meeting some new friends, I watched as the band Light took their places on stage. The first thing that jumped out at me was the uniform expression of pride. These were artists bursting with the desire to share their work with an audience for the first time. This is impressive because I was well aware that the show’s creators were still waist-deep in process. No matter. There is a huge difference between the frustration of being overwhelmed by your ambitions and the buzz of fully embracing the chaos and trusting that it will eventually get you where you need to be. Guyer and co., having experienced the former early in their career, seem to have finally found an easy home in the latter.
While they know who they are, they were also clear in what they weren’t. The Tenshu, as stated explicitly from the stage that night, is not a traditional Japanese production, but rather a modern rock piece with a Japanese aesthetic: “Here are some gorgeous influences from Japanese music, and here’s how we want to express it.” Tenants were indeed violated; not out of disrespect or the sake of rebellion, but in acknowledgment that Shadowbox is, at its essence, inherently Western. That being said, there has been great effort put forth to get it right; listening to advisors when they say, “Um, we don’t do that in Japan.” (In the case of this production, therefore, there will be no gongs.)
There was, however, an astonishing overture, followed by a slew of introductions, including Japanese choreographer/director Hiromi Sakamoto. We saw designs of the set that will require a complete overhaul of the auditorium. We saw a few actors dressed in stunning full dress and makeup. Bryan Kao (who works in the Bistro as the head bartender) and Simran Khaira demonstrated choreographed sword play, and Amy Lay and Nick Wilson danced as a crane and a falcon to the song, “To Catch a Falcon.”
Finally, it wouldn’t be a Shadowbox Live production without an impressive marketing strategy in place, and The Tenshu just might top all other efforts to date. There will be tie-ins galore. In a move that truly feels more inclusive than opportunistic, there will be everything from anime screenings in the Bistro to Japanese beers and sake added to the menu and more.
As always, the cast, was on hand after the show – to greet, connect, answer questions, sign people up for packages and otherwise engage as they move further and further toward the opening.
Would You be Willing to Be a Puppeteer? — Auditions
It’s been a long time since I’ve been at an audition. Like since they were called “try outs” and I accompanied singers on the piano with “the Greatest Love of All.” So you can imagine my confusion when I arrive at Shadowbox for Tenshu auditions with a Chorus Line-esque scene in mind and am, instead, ushered into an office where I find Stev, Stacie and Julie sat behind laptops and spreadsheets.
While Shadowbox does not cast outside performers, internal auditions are necessary to cast each show. Though accused of pre-casting in advance, Guyer insists that there are always surprises. The scene makes me really nervous for everyone involved but, of course, they’ve long known this deal. For the next two hours, 26 hopefuls parade in and out of Stev’s office, offering their take on a pre-determined selection from the script and a few bars from some songs.
The level of style, approach and ease of the auditioners ranges widely. Some engage in pleasant chit-chat, others are polite but maintain a steely focus. One woman comes in an apron, which I assume means she took a break from her shift in the Bistro downstairs. Everyone is asked if they would like to be considered as a puppeteer. The implied subtext is, “can we still count of you if you do not get a part”. The answers are good-natured and everyone says yes of course, but the responses come with their own subtext (from “Sure! I’m just happy to be involved” or “I will do whatever you need, but my mind is focused on getting this part.”)
Stev is right in that the auditions yield surprises. But decisions are made quickly as Stacie and Julie join Stev around a small table, which gives the discussion a huddle-like feel, both urgent and strategic at the same time. They begin with the match-ups that require no discussion and work their way down the list. So-and-so has the physicality needed here, someone else, the vocal finesse required there. In areas of a draw, outside factors are considered, but there is an overall confidence that propels the process into the next stage. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cast list is distributed before I can make it to my car.
Just because the audition process is fast and deliberate, doesn’t make it any more inherently pleasant. On my way out I stick my head into Nikki Fagan’s office to get her take. “Well,” she said, multitasking and eating lunch at her desk, “It’s never feels okay to be judged by your peers, but it gets easier.” This makes sense, and I’m nearly convinced, until I take the elevator down with Robbie Nance who tells me, “I’ve been here for fifteen years and auditioning still makes me feel like I’m going to throw up.” As I reach the door, I hesitate when I spy Ashley Pearce in the box office. I mistakenly ask her about her “process” when I really mean her experience in the most recent audition. She gives me a thoughtful answer—about the questions she asks of herself after reading a script, the ones she asks of the character, the needs of the production, and finally, knowing when it’s time to stop thinking and act.
It’s good advice. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into making this show. It’s good to know that there will come a time when the big thinking will morph into major action.
Seed to Scratch – Creating the Music
Despite having a facility that could comfortably host the Boston Philharmonic, Shadowbox CEO Stev Guyer chooses to work with his band Light at his home. Not to be confused with house band, BillWho?, Light (who, well, share some of the same musicians with BillWho?) collaborate and create the music for their original works such as Gallery of Echoes, the Masque and 7 Deadly Sins. Mid-summer, I attended a work session for the score to Tenshu.
Stev’s house can be described as historic-registry on the outside and every-guy’s-domestic-dream on the inside. The living room furniture consists primarily of band gear. I sit on a folding chair under the arch to the dining room where there is a pool table and a couple of bikes in the place where one might traditionally put a nice china hutch. But the kitchen is traditional Italian-grandmother, fully stocked (some of it leftover from a Bistro-catered event, because at Shadowbox, everything bleeds over into everything else) and active. It’s early in the morning and people are in and out, making it unclear who might actually live here, who is here for the business meeting being held out on the front porch and who is here for the band rehearsal.
Speaking of Light, when the band members set out to develop one of their original works they start by creating “seed tracks.” These are recorded bits—snippets, riffs, musical ideas—that they share with one another through a common digital dropbox. They can very, very simple or surprisingly complex. One of the biggest challenges in creating the Tenshu score is working against a tendency toward complex time signatures. “We really like to pretend we’re a jazz band in disguise,” says Guyer. This time around, though, they’re going for memorable songs, “extremely vocal-centric music.”
I ask Guyer to explain Light’s process in creating a score and he sends me a lengthy email. Here is an abbreviated transcript:
Come together to combine seeds and rework them…make a very rough, one-take recording… receive script and start over… swap things around… another major reworking…select right soundscape, pace and energy for each piece… another rough recording… write raw poetry that will eventually be turned into lyrics… head into vocal recording mode… rethink orchestration… rerecord everything… listen critically to entire piece… Make any necessary changes… one more major recording before going into rehearsal with the cast.
While I’m sure I have been told, I have no idea what stage the band is in on the day that I observe, except that the songs (or at least some of them) have names and discernible melodies. The progress of the work session is accelerated through the kind of shorthand that comes when musicians this good know each other this well. When someone suggests a place in the music “for some improvisation with tension,” or requests a “Whiter-Shade-of-Pale-type organ sound,” everybody understands and adjusts accordingly. Everything is fluid. The addition of Kris Keith on woodwinds (most recently seen killing it on sax in Which One’s Pink) adds an air of excitement, and a hurdle or two. A classically trained musician, Keith is accustomed to reading from a written score, something Guyer no longer does. But everyone in the room is committed to making it work, adopting a general don’t-be-an-asshole policy, which, in an environment of infinite possibilities, means the best ideas ultimately win out.
The result of this day’s work is a “final scratch track.” This is what the vocalists and dancers will use to learn their respective parts as the company relentlessly drives forward.
Intro to The Tenshu Process Stories
They call James Brown, “the hardest working man in show business.” But imagine a theater company made up of more than thirty James Browns (minus the Angel Dust and the firearms.). That’s Shadowbox Live. For anyone who’s ever engaged with a company member on the phone and then needed to take a nap to recover, or felt guilty ordering a foofy drink from a performer still dripping with sweat from going full-throttle during the first act of a show, you understand what I’m talking about.
The artists at Shadowbox Live are hard at work on a new show. (Well, they’re always hard at work on a new show.) It’s really ambitious. (Okay, so every new Stage 2 show has been increasingly ambitious.) But this one takes it all up several notches. Billed as “live anime” with martial arts, magic, supernatural experiences, and giant puppets, The Tenshu is a multi-cultural collaboration with world-renowned co-producer, Hiromi Sakamoto.
Can you even begin to imagine how all that might work? How that could possibly be pulled together into a cohesive show? Shadowbox does. Or, they will when they’re done, once again, pushing themselves to the brink of their abilities and understanding until they break through yet another creative threshold.
This is my first in a series of “process stories” that will lead up to the opening of The Tenshu,. These are designed to inspire, illuminate, and, well, make it impossible for you to miss this show.
So who am I? Call me an “old friend.” I’ve known the core members of Shadowbox since their squatting days in the old Bugyworks building in the early nineties. I wrote a few pieces in their very first sketch comedy show. I went off and did other things – mostly corporate copywriting and journalism, or other things I could do sitting down – but Shadowbox consistently gives me something I had no idea I desperately needed but haven’t been able to get anywhere else. This project allows me to turn a desire to want to just hang out and absorb their energy into something productive. (Plus, I really want to see how the puppets are made…)
Can’t wait to see you there!
This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts
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Media Partners :
"n my nearly 14 year tenure as supporter, commentator and yes … critic … I have seen the Shadowbox Live troupe evolve in a myriad of ways. The scope of their vision and breadth of their talent has at times astonished me. But The Tenshu is the biggest step … and an enormously risky … production. Kabuki Theater? Rock music? Puppets?"
"It’s obvious the minute you walk into Shadowbox Live’s theater that The Tenshu, their adaptation of the Japanese ghost story classic Tenshu Monogatari by Izumi Kyoka is going to be like nothing we’ve seen from them before. The scale of the set custom built for this, including high risers for the band in two halves at either end so they play facing each other, is eye-popping."