Ryan Conarro and Ping Chong Theater Company share excerpts from the performance work they’ve been developing at Bunnell Street Arts Center and for the past two years, and they invite you to share your reflections and questions. The full production returns to Bunnell Street Arts Center in September, so come enjoy this opportunity to catch it during its development!
Read about full project here.
WHERE THE SEA BREAKS ITS BACK (working title) weaves puppetry, video installation, recorded interviews, and yuraq (Yup’ik drum and dance) in a collage of striking contemporary and historical encounters between indigenous Alaska Native communities and newcomers to the Great Land. The working title of the piece—an English translation of the Aluutiq indigenous word “Alaska”— serves as a metaphor for the personal and cultural clashes at its heart. Performers Ryan Conarro and Gary Upay’aq Beaver (Central Yup’ik) – along with puppeteer Justin Perkins – use movement, stories, and puppetry to reveal a series of little-known historical narratives of collisions between people and cultures in Alaska. These histories, at times humorous or tragic, juxtapose against Beaver and Conarro’s own memories. Through storytelling and yuraq, they recount their shared memories and unfold their personal perspectives as “insider” (represented by Beaver as a 21st-center indigenous artist and culture-bearer) and “outsider” (Conarro, confronting the ramifications of his choice to move to Alaska and his presence as non-Native artist, journalist, and educator).
The ensemble has engaged in several weeks of statewide Alaska travel to conduct research and record urban and rural interviews, which weave as a soundscape throughout the performance designed by Lucy Peckham, layering perspectives on what it means to be “Alaskan.” That audio material along with post-show audience interviews will create an archive of community reflections on identity and belonging.
Where the Sea Breaks Its Back will be presented Off-Broadway in October 2017 at La MaMa ETC in New York, and will tour in Alaska and nationally with support from NEFA’s National Theater Project, the Jim Henson Foundation, the Ferguson Foundation, and the NEA.
Created by: Ping Chong, Ryan Conarro, and Gary Upay’aq Beaver (Central Yup’ik)
Performers: Ryan Conarro (NYC/Juneau), Gary Upay’aq Beaver (Kasigluk), Justin Perkins (NYC)
Directed by: Ping Chong (NYC)
Puppet Design: Justin Perkins (NYC)
Sound Design: Lucy Peckham (Anchorage)
Video and Projection Design: Kate Freer (NYC)
Lighting Design: Marika Kent (NYC)
Costume Design: Stefani Mar (NYC)