The 47th Street Hotel

The Club
September 16 - 19, 2004

With "The 47th Street Hotel" by Rick Ebihara (who is one-third of the edgy Asian performance troupe SLANT), La MaMa adds a comedic rock musical to its multi-national La MaMa Puppet Series Festival. From the discarded rubbish of a midtown flophouse hotel springs a cast of found objects-- a mattress, a worn and torn lost high heeled shoe, a pissed off prophylactic, a prostitute's undergarments, a mop, a roll of paper towels--who sing and rock you their life stories and torrid tales from the urban underclass. The production premieres September 16 to 19 in the second-floor Club at La MaMa.

Ebihara only had to look out the window for inspiration. He lives near a hotel that, although recently urban-renewed, used to be known as a haven for prostitution and drugs. Looking at what was thrown out there, he began musing about what the garbage had lived through, and what stories items in the garbage could tell. This begat a collection of stories, but not the puppets. Ebihara didn't go picking in the trash for 'em, he built 'em. They include a TV-sized VHS and such garment puppets as a larger-than-life thong and pair of hot pants. Mostly they are larger-than-life renditions of what he saw out his window.

The puppets, songs, music and lyrics are all by Ebihara. If you've seen such SLANT shows as "Big Dicks, Asian Men" and "Wa Zu," you'll remember Ebihara as the Japanese-looking guy who plays a mean Rock guitar. SLANT is known for modernistic dance-cum-rock-'n-roll musicals that are ingenious and outrageous. The troupe is a three-man collaboration of Ebihara, Perry Yung and Wayland Quintero.

Ebihara will appear as puppeteer and occasional guitar player, but the onstage work will fall primarily on actors/puppeteers Peggy Cheng and Erin McDonnell. Musical director is Roko Djokovic, who will perform on guitar, keyboard and percussion. The musical style is "all pop oriented" and a mix of rock and ballads. Lighting is by Michael Kang. Puppet contraction is by Ebihara and Erin McDonnell. Street sign props and cityscape are designed by Andrea Falaguerra.

It's the kind of show where the puppets are objects, not little people. So it is always objects that are interacting. There is a scene where the giant shorts and thong walk down the street and perform a duet with a pair of pants. In a porn shop, a discarded VHS tape sings a lament about being rejected and antiquated in the age of DVDs. When the discs come out and sing, a la N Sync, it's the show's big company number. The writing and songs are SLANT-flavored. Ebihara claims to be using "as many puns as I can pull out of my butt" to depict the human element in all this garbage.

"The 47th Street Hotel" began as a project of St. Ann's puppet lab, which Dan Hurlin, Theodora Skiptares and David Neumann were mentoring two years ago. Recently, Ebihara completed a second year at the lab, putting together the second part of the show. The third part is being scripted as of this writing.

Richard Ebihara was raised in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio. Beside his work with SLANT, he has acted in Pan Asian Rep's "Forbidden City Blues," "Cambodia Agonistes" and "Letters From a Student Revolutionary" and in Theaterworks USA's "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.

The La MaMa Puppet Series Festival, September 16 to October 10, also features multicultural works from India, Poland, Bali, Japan and the Czech Republic. One production is a significant revival: the series culminates October 7 to 10 with "Motel," the puppet play of "America Hurrah," Jean-Claude van Itallie's trilogy, which was originally presented by La MaMa in 1965 and is now widely regarded as the watershed Off-Broadway play of the Sixties. The festival is supported by The Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater and utilizes all three of La MaMa's performance theaters.

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