Red Earth. Hunger
BOTH EYES OPEN
BOTH EYES OPEN is an experimental chamber opera currently in development by Brooklyn-based composer Max Giteck Duykers and Bay Area playwright Philip Kan Gotanda. This work explores the psychological abuse that interned Japanese-Americans experienced during World War II and suggests paths toward healing. Combining physical theater, interactive audio and video, contemporary music and singing, extended vocal techniques, chanting, spoken word, and modern dance, BOTH EYES OPEN revisits a pivotal moment in U.S. history and ethnic tensions that still resonate today.
Set in Stockton, CA, the story focuses on a Japanese immigrant landowner named Jinzo Matsumoto, who, with his wife Catherine, was interned in a camp in Rohwer, Arkansas in 1942. Before leaving their farm, they bury a Zen Daruma Doll on their land. According to Japanese tradition, these papier-mâché idols are given to people when they embark on a challenging endeavor or make a serious promise. At that time, only one eye is painted on the doll's face to symbolize the person's initial commitment to the challenge. If success comes, then the doll receives its second eye and is burned ceremonially to release its spirit.
During his internment, Jinzo (baritone Kelvin Chan) not only loses his land, business, and his pride, but also his wife Catherine, who dies in camp while giving birth to their first son. As Jinzo's inner life begins unraveling, our story takes a hallucinatory, nonlinear turn when the Daruma Doll, played by tenor John Duykers, comes to life as a sardonic, one-eyed guardian angel. With irreverent song, wild dance, stark narration, and Zen Buddhist teachings, the Doll, joined by the ghost of Jinzo's deceased wife (soprano Kalean Ung) propels the piece forward. Together, in song, dance and visual images, they depict metaphorical flashbacks and dreams of Jinzo and Catherine’s earlier life. Reaching a fever pitch, the drama splits violently into two alternative conclusions. In one, Jinzo ends his life by lying down on nearby railroad tracks and dies; in the other, he is rescued from an oncoming train by the Daruma Doll, who invites him to fulfill a promise made to Catherine: to return to his land, to the center of his soul. With this promise, the Daruma earns his missing eye and fades away in a vortex of ashes. The audience must then decide which story line is “true,” and in the process, come to empathize and understand more deeply the existential conflicts that interned Japanese Americans faced after returning home from the camps.
Joining our three singers will be four members of the Paul Dresher Ensemble playing violin, clarinet, piano, and Buchla's Marimba Lumina but they will also be deeply integrated into the action on stage. Director Melissa Weaver and video artist Kwame Braun and Matthew E. Jones will use projected images, simple scenic elements, and lighting to create the performance environment. Choreographer Katie Faulkner will give physical embodiment to the Jinzo's struggle, through stylized dance and abstract movement.
In his libretto Philip Gotanda examines institutionalized vocabulary about race and ethnic difference, exposing scapegoating, fear of betrayal, and xenophobia. His story is not a naturalistic tale of social realism but instead uses abstraction and satire to embrace divergent perspectives.
BOTH EYES OPEN has had several workshops performances including one in January 2016 at U.C. Berkeley, sponsored by the Center for the Japanese Studies and the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies. In September 2016 the University of Nevada also produced a workshop performance through the N.E.O.N festival.
A 5-minute excerpt of BOTH EYES OPEN, produced by First Look Sonoma, the N.E.O.N. Festival, and The University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Fall 2016
A montage of early workshops for BOTH EYES OPEN showing the experimentation process.
Music: Max Giteck Duykers
Librettist: Philip Kan Gotanda
Charlie Daruma - John Duykers, tenor
Jinzo Matsumoto - Kelvin Chan, baritone
Catherine Matsumoto - Kalean Ung, soprano
The Paul Dresher Ensemble
Marja Mutru, piano
Joel Davel, Marimba Lumina
+Violin and Clarinet
Movement: Katie Faulkner
Video Design: Kwame Braun
Costume Design: Maria Christoff
Directed by Melissa Weaver
Produced by the Paul Dresher Ensemble and First Look Sonoma