Wa Zu

created, written, directed and performed by:Richard Ebihara, Wayland Quintero and Perry Yung

Performance Schedule:
The Annex Theatre
September 12 - 29
Thursday - Sunday 7:30pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
Tickets: $20.00

SLANT, the performance ensemble of Richard Ebihara, Wayland Quintero and Perry Yung, reinvents the notion of ritual with "Wa Zu," a brand new music, choreographic and theatrical spectacle about primitive pop culture. A monkey boy on a leash, a guitar-wielding ghostgirl from a mountain village, a drum-banging, earth-stomping rock-'n-roll Mekong delta dance and a driving score of "ancient funk" music combine to take the audience on a journey of skewered dreams and cultural odysseys.

The work was inspired (though not at all literally) by the trio's travels to the Yunnan Province of China--a region bordering on Laos, Tibet and Myanmar (Burma)--in June 2001, courtesy of a grant from DTW's Suitcase Fund. Images from the trip permeate this work, but they might be unrecognizable to the Wa (the name of that indigenous culture) or Zu (literally, minority people) of the region. The origin of only one image is really distinguishable: SLANT's brooding, barechested "hair dance," in which big, long white hair is swung to sampled music, would be unmistakable to anyone who has seen the locals of this region swing their locks in a ritual dance of the hunt.

"Wa Zu" is also, in part, about the theme of "cultural tourism." Video projections show real-life clips of traditional and indigenous performers earning a living in artificial villages built for tourists, students at a couple of overseas performing arts schools, an ancient music ensemble performing in a mountain resort, and line-dancing with local tribal women in front of a monastery. SLANT accompanies the video journey with live shakuhachi flute, bouzouki (a three-string guitar from the Middle East) and a Korean drum.

Its exotic origins notwithstanding, "Wa Zu" is essentially an American avant-garde play on sounds, inspired by theater styles the La MaMa threesome acquired while working under directors Andrei Serban, Elizabeth Swados, Ping Chong and Ellen Stewart (among others), mixing these with imagery from pop culture and modern dance. For example, when the trio go running to the airport, it is to the accompaniment of Yoga sounds. At the airport, their security check-in is a melange of security machine sounds and security guard vocal sounds, mixed with a reggae beat on a drum machine. It all develops into a Grahamesque dance number with the trio vocalizing to Copeland's "Appalachian Spring." The nutsy-cookoo "plot" involves the threesome parachuting from an airplane bound for Little Rock (told through shadow puppetry) and landing in a "primitive" place filled with monkey suits and dragon heads. Other highlights of the travel theme include a "don't drink the water" diarrhea dance complete with flying toilet paper.

SLANT is known for modern dance-cum-rock-'n-roll musicals that are ingenious and outrageous. The Village Voice (Laurie Stone) described SLANT's debut work, "Big Dicks Asian Men," as "a satirical revue as raucous as it is deadpan, as unironed as it is deliberate, as piercing as it is self-exposing." Brad Bradley (Manhattan Mirror) called it a "buoyant and at the same time adorable low-budget satire." Reviewing a subsequent production at Pan Asian Rep, D.J.R. Bruckner (New York Times) wrote, "SLANT must be incapable of dullness. This trio...seem inhabited by a single mischievous and merry spirit. They are good, if loud, musicians; they can dance; all are acrobats if not gymnasts, and no matter how much fun they poke at other people, they laugh at themselves more than at anyone else." The show's charm was not lost on out-of-town critics. The Philadelphia Weekly wrote, "Through dance, rock, and inventive dialogue, their pithy lessons induce convulsive laughter that makes their medicine easy to swallow and long- lasting. They polish their limber bodies and deadly wit with a chamois drenched in a winning sense of fun." LA Weekly opined, "SLANT is poised to tweak the mainstream with their beyond SNL appeal."

The group followed with "The Second Coming" (La MaMa, fall 1996), a sexual satire of their genetic past and future through the saga of three innocent spermatozoa, racing against time as they travel through vignettes of music, dance and theater. Matt Stuart (Time Out) wrote, "Like a karate chop to the senses, the gifted guys of SLANT kick some comic ass on the stage of La MaMa....This is a riotous show quivering with an energy that would make the Blue Man Group proud." Reviewing "Squeal Like a Pig" (1997), Anita Gates (New York Times) wrote, "SLANT's appeal is its members' ability to exude childlike loveability and create truly good-natured humor." Charles McNulty (Village Voice) added," SLANT has a way of throwing sticks of theatrical dynamite." The trio visited karaoke purgatory in "wetSpot" (1999), a show that asked the question, "Will I still be Asian when I'm dead?" Its last original work was "High" (La MaMa, June 2000), which viewed the NYC subways as a true multi-ethnic underground crossroads of the many characters of New York . The Village Voice (Charles McNulty) called it "a little bit of rhythm and a whole lot of madcap delight." City Search NY (Drew Pisarra) wrote, "Where as Blueman and Stomp have invented lite experimental, SLANT reinvigorates the genre with social satire." Last season, the group revived "Big Dicks Asian Men" at La MaMa.

Richard Ebihara was raised in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio. He has performed with Pan Asian Rep in "Forbidden City Blues," "Cambodia Agonistes" and "Letters From a Student Revolutionary" with Theaterworks USA in "From Sea to Shining Sea" and "The Velveteen Rabbit." He has also performed with Chen and Dancers in Symphony Space's Selected Shorts. He played the lead in "The Last Hand Laundry in Chinatown" in 1999 at La MaMa.

Wayland Quintero was born in the Philippines, grew up in Hawaii and performed in the Bay area before moving to NYC in 1989. He has choreographed experimental dance works presented by DTW, Dia Center, St. Mark's Danspace, Gowanus Arts Exchange and Workhouse Theater. Quintero directed "Rajah Mangandiri" (La MaMa, December 2000), an original dance and music version of "The Ramayana," the great Indian classic, which was performed by Kinding Sindaw, a NYC troupe of 16 young artists led by artistic director Potri Ranka Manis, the daughter of a Sultan from Mindanao, Southern Philipines.

Perry Yung is Chinese-American, originally from San Francisco. He trained extensively there in Chinese dance, martial arts and Martha Graham technique. He was a featured performer in Ping Chong's "Deshima" and Theodora Skipitares' "Under the Knife III" and a lead dancer in Muna Tseng's "The Pink," all at La MaMa. As a member of La MaMa's Great Jones Repertory, he played the title role in the most recent tour of Ellen Stewart's "Mythos Oedipus" and appeared in La MaMa Umbria productions of Huseyin Katircioglu's "The Garden of the Deer" and Andrea Pacciotto's "Geranos." He appeared in "The Trojan Women," directed by Andrei Serban with music by Elizabeth Swados, in its tour to Seoul, Korea, The Republic of China at Taipei, and most recently, Japan.

The three men of SLANT are past recipients of a NYFA Fellowship and a Joseph Papp Public Theater Play Development Commission.

2002 page