"Thread Hell" brings the Japanese avant-garde to the Kennedy Theatre stage

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Matthew Kelty, (808) 956-2598
Director of Publicity, Kennedy Theatre
Kennedy Theatre Box Office, (808) 956-7655
Posted: Mar 15, 2013

Members of the ensemble of Kennedy Theatre's "Thread Hell"
Members of the ensemble of Kennedy Theatre's "Thread Hell"
The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Department of Theatre and Dance is proud to present Kishida Rio’s “Thread Hell” as its final mainstage production of the 2012-2013 season.  This classic work of the Japanese angura (underground theatre) movement will be directed by visiting artist Colleen Lanki, who is an alumna of UHM’s Asian Theatre program.  This production will mark the first angura production on the Kennedy mainstage — as well as the world premiere of a new English-language version, which Lanki co-translated. 
Performances will take place on the theatre’s mainstage on April 12, 13, 18, 19, and 20 at 8 p.m., and April 21 at 2 p.m.  Audiences will also have the opportunity to attend free pre-show chats at 7:00 p.m. on April 13 and 20.  Subject to availability, UHM students with a validated Spring 2013 ID will be able to take advantage of the theatre’s buy-one-get-one-free program on Thursday, April 18.
Rio was a major figure in Japan’s angura movement — and the only female playwright to have a significant role in the movement’s first wave, which began in the 1960s.  Although she declined to identify herself as a feminist, she often wrote about the interior lives and societal struggles of women, in language that is poetic and highly symbolic.  "Thread Hell” is her most successful piece: it has received multiple productions in Japan and toured Australia, and was awarded Japan’s major playwriting honor, the Kishida Kunio Prize.
“Thread Hell” is Rio's symbolic exploration of the role of women in Japanese society.  Set in 1930s Japan, the play takes place in a silk-spinning factory that doubles by night as a brothel.  (Due to some mature themes, the play may not be appropriate for audience members younger than 14 years of age.)  The women employed at the factory, named after suits in the Japanese card game hanafuda, have lost the memory of their lives before the factory.  (The large ensemble cast includes Karissa Murrell Myers and Kyle Scholl, both seen earlier this year in UHM’s production of “Uncle Vanya and Zombies,” and Amanda Stone, who was also an ensemble member in the Fall production of “Sonnets for an Old Century.”)  But the appearance of a young woman named Cocoon who “came from the sea” (Leah Koeppel, seen last Spring in “The Vagina Monologues”) brings back memories, and begins to free the women from the control of Rope, the factory owner (Isaac Ligsay, seen in last semester’s Prime Time production of “Handler”).
Director Lanki is the Artistic Director of TomoeArts in Vancouver, Canada, and is uniquely qualified to bring “Thread Hell” to the Kennedy Stage.  Before receiving her MFA in Asian Directing from UH Mānoa, Lanki spent several years in Japan studying both nihon buyō, or classical Japanese dance, and traditional theatre.  She has performed at Japan’s National Nō Theatre, and became a natori, taking a professional performance name in nihon buyō, in 2001.  At the same time, Lanki was investigating contemporary Japanese drama, and she worked in a variety of contemporary styles ranging from shingeki to angura and movement-based theatre.  Lanki shares all of this knowledge and experience with her actors, incorporating both classical and contemporary approaches in rehearsal.
These techniques, combined with Kishida’s densely layered script, create a piece that is neither typical Western realism nor traditional Asian performance.  “Audience members should expect a performance that’s both highly poetic and extremely physical,” said Lanki.  “This play is full of characters who do extraordinary things in a terrifying and extraordinary world.”
“Thread Hell” is supported in part by grants from the Office of the Chancellor, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa; the UH Foundation Japanese Theatre Fund; the National Resource Center East Asia, UHM; the Norma Bird Nichols, PhD Asian Theatre Endowment Fund; and the Consulate General of Japan in Honolulu.
Tickets for “Thread Hell” are available online at etickethawaii.com, by phone at (808) 944-2697, at participating outlets, and at the Kennedy Theatre box office; the box office is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended hours on performance dates.  Prices are $24 general admission; $22 seniors / military / UH faculty and staff; $15 UHAA members; $13 students; and $5 UHM students with validated Spring 2013 UHM photo ID.  Ticket prices include all service fees.  Discount rates are available for groups of 10 or more.  For more information, please visit hawaii.edu/kennedy or call the theatre at (808) 956-7655.  For disability access, please call the theatre.

For more information, visit: http://www.hawaii.edu/kennedy