ON GOD'S HIGHWAY,
the latest new work by International WOW Company, is
an American pastoral resonating on the themes of poverty, existential and economic
struggle. Conceived and directed by Josh Fox, it is a fast-paced, cinematic
epic that begins in the humble mining towns of Western Pennsylvania. Several
interwoven storylines follow down-and-out characters as they hit the road in
search of faith, love, and justice; in particular a young woman named Daisy
Mae, who finds herself out on the long American road with only her faith in
humanity to see her through.
The project was inspired
by Great Depression-era folk songs and from movies about "the road."
It marks a considerable shift in tone and subject matter for International WOW
company, whose work to-date was marked by an international theatre style. Artistic
director Josh Fox describes the project as "inspired by Depression-era
photos by Dorothea Lang and the writings of John Steinbeck, with a lyrical musical
style and an emphasis on stage poetry and expressionism within the American
folk tradition." There is a cast of eleven, with eight in featured parts
and three in multiple roles.
At the time of its last
production, "The Bomb," at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, Time
Out (Jason Zinoman) described International WOW Company as "meteoric"
and called its Artistic Director, Josh Fox, intellectually intrepid and possessing
of "a brilliantly resourceful mastery of stagecraft." Lawrence Van
Gelder (NY Times) wrote that the troupe "brings an intense theatrical style
to the consideration of global issues" and Time Out's David Cote has made
reference to the company's "activist aesthetic." The troupe seems
to be bringing a powerful freshness and raw vitality to Off-off Broadway that
has been missing for some time. The Waterfront (NJ) Journal (Ahn Behrens) described
"The Bomb" as "intricate, layered and extremely thought-provoking,"
praising its design as "pure magic" and declaring, "you are stunned
over and over again by what happens next." The company's "Hyperreal
America" the year before was picked as one of the "Ten Best"
shows of 2001 by Time Out.
The troupe was founded in
1996 by American director Josh Fox and a diverse group of theater and dance
artists from the United States, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia, who met as
participants of the Bangkok-Berlin-Bali Rendezvous of Arts Festival in Bangkok,
Thailand. They sought to create a new international aesthetic by working
with performance methods from their culturally diverse artistic disciplines,
languages and styles. After a six month period of exploration in Jakarta,
Indonesia, Chiang Mai, Thailand and New York City during which the company
embarked on an intensive training, exchange and rehearsal process, the company's
first two original pieces, "?WOW!"
and "American Interference," were created and performed in New York
City and Bangkok.
International WOW's early
works were described as complex multilingual spectacles that were bound together
by the Esperanto of pop culture, in which the language of music, fashion
and McDonald's created the basis for interchange. Over the past six years,
it became a pioneer of international theatre exchange, incorporating traditions
from the East and West to create new plays and forge an interdisciplinary
training for actors. The company has produced over 30 plays in New York City
and Thailand, all physical and visual in style. Even the "establishment" has been
wowed: Thai Airlines' in-flight magazine reported, "WOW staged a new adaptation
of the Ramakien, Thailand's oldest and most famous play..Incorporating traditional
and contemporary storytelling, American expressionism, Taiwanese singing and
dazzling multimedia images, it truly reflected a spirit of international exchange."
McLaughlin has written, To see them work is to witness the birth of an extraordinary
new talent in the theatre world. We should all be grateful. But more than
that, we should give them the attention and support they deserve."
As of this writing, "Orphan
on God's Highway" is being created collectively by its cast of Sophie Amieva,
Josh Fox, Connie Hall, Gina Hirsch, Ravi Jain, Peter Lettre, Alanna Medlock,
Jason Quarles, Bob Saietta, Magin Schantz, Dario Tangelson, and Aaron Mostkoff
Unger. International WOW follows a collaborative script-development process.
For "Orphan on God's Highway," the cast began ikn August of this
year with central questions on their personal beliefs regarding death, loss,
and faith. Material was generated based on these questions by the actors interviewing
each other and bringing in related text and music. As characters and stories
emerged, an outline for the play was created and scenes have been presented
and videotaped. By opening night, the elements will be synthesized by director
Josh Fox. Interestingly, a written script will not exist until it is transcribed
from the final production's videotape.
(Artistic Director) was born and raised above 96th street and grew up almost
entirely in Manhattan. He is a graduate of Columbia University with a degree
in Theater Arts. His teachers and mentors include: Anne Bogart, Andrei Serban,
Tazewell Thompson, Manuel Lutgenhorst, Tadashi Suzuki, Tom Nelis, Ellen Lauren,
Edward Taylor, Billie Whitelaw, Mary Zimmerman, Laksmi Simanjuntak and Kazuo
Ohno. He has appeared in over 60 plays at Steppenwolf Theatre, Joe's Pub and
numerous venues in NYC, Thailand, and Indonesia. As an Arts Organizer, he produced
three International WOW Company residencies in Chiang Mai and Bangkok Thailand.
As a 1999-2000 Asian Cultural Council Fellow, he spent most of 1999 and the
spring of 2000 in Thailand, The Phillipines and Japan.