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    2008-2009 reviews:
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    To list your event here, please send information by e-mail (preferred) to or by mail to, P.O. Box 3340, Hoboken, N.J. 07030.

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    Blind Ness: the Irresistible Light of Encounter

    A prismatic theater work exploring Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," colonialism in the Belgian Congo and their reverberations into the present. Using text, movement, performance, shadow puppetry, object theater, and stunning visuals that have been the hallmark of Ping Chong's work for more than 30 years, "Blind Ness" intercuts the dramatic saga of Conrad's classic characters, Kurtz and Marlow, with such real-life figures as King Leopold II of Belgium, Roger Casement, Edmund Dene Morel, William Sheppard, Henry Morton Stanley, Patrice Lumumba and other heroes and villains of the 19th and 20th centuries. The work draws from contemporary resources such as Adam Hochschild's "King Leopold's Ghost," Pagan Kennedy's "Black Livingstone," and historical texts by Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Casement, Morel, and others. Co-writers Ping Chong and Michael Rohd made two primary research trips to Belgium where they gathered photographic and textual materials and conducted interviews at the Royal Museum of Central Africa and other archives. The show explores the historical events in the late 19th century that led to the acquisition of the Congo as a personal colony of King Leopold II of Belgium, the exploitation of the Congolese people, and the human rights movement that arose when Belgian abuses were brought to light. That movement ultimately became a worldwide cause, resulting in the removal of the Congo from Leopold's personal control and ultimately, the colony's independence. The play alternates between the narrative line of "Heart of Darkness" (Marlow's journey up the Congo River to find the mysterious Kurtz is told through shadow puppetry), historical events surrounding Leopold II, and the struggles of activists who organized to reveal his crimes in the Congo. These activists included Edmund Dene Morel, Roger Casement, William Sheppard, and famous writers and such public figures of the time as Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle. Edmund Dene Morel was a shipping clerk who noticed that vast quantities of ivory and rubber were coming out of the Congo, but that the only "trade" flowing in return was weapons for the colonial administrators. Roger Casement was a British diplomat and Irish nationalist who documented the horrible cruelty inflicted upon Congolese people, such as amputation of limbs from forced laborers in the rubber and ivory industries. William Sheppard established the first Black missionary community in the Congo. He witnessed and documented, through photography and articles, the pervasive abuse of Africans. The publication of photos by Sheppard and others set off a decisive change in public opinion worldwide. The play is rewarding from a historical standpoint, as it shows how Europe exploited Africa in 19th century and thereby inspired a protest movement which was the precursor to the international human rights movement. The piece displays the theatrical artistry expected from a work by Ping Chong. It also sizzles with contemporary political urgency: there are striking parallels to current events, including the systematic use of torture and the pivotal role played by photography in revealing crimes committed in the name of "progress." "Blind Ness" is conceived by two time OBIE winner Ping Chong. It is written and directed by Ping Chong and Michael Rohd in collaboration with Bobby Bermea, Jeff Randall and M. Burke Walker. "Blind Ness" reunites Chong with several long time artistic collaborators: Randy Ward (sets, lighting and projections) and Stefani Mar (costumes). Joining the production team is Stephen Kaplin (puppetry design and construction), creator of shadow puppet sequences for Broadway's "The Lion King," and Stephen Zapytowski (sound design). The cast includes Bobby Bermea, Jeff Randall, Michael Rohd, M.Burke Walker and students from Kent State University's School of Theatre and Dance.

    Dates:  June 18, 2004 - June 27, 2004
    Schedule:  June 18-20, 22-26 at 7:30PM; June 20 & 27 at 2:30PM
    Venue:  La Mama Experimental Theater, 74A East 4th St.
    Price:  $25
    Company:  Ping Chong
    Tickets/info:  (212) 475-7710

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