La MaMa Blogs: 6 Questions: Hua Hua Zhang

Thursday, November 1, 2018

6 Questions: Hua Hua Zhang

Inspired by a classic Chinese poem, Tian Wen is an experimental puppetry performance featuring living sculpture, stylized movement, and live music. The individual pieces - or dreams - explore the differences in feelings, concerns, and behaviors between East and West that Hua Hua Zhang has observed during her artistic journey in America.

Hua Hua Zhang took time out of busy rehearsals to answer 6 Questions about this unique puppet performance coming to the La MaMa Puppet Festival:

1) Do you have a favorite puppet in your performance? 
The “Two Rocks” puppets are my favorites in Tian Wen because they are unique—made up intuitively. I like how their simplicity expresses everything I wish to get across. 

2) How do you define living sculpture? 
The performer creates the appearance of a sculpture through posture and through the manipulation of the shapes and vivid figures on the stage. 

I like to create living sculpture. It not only has the quality of a puppet as a sculpture, it also gives the performer – puppeteer the opportunity to reach out to their imagination and open themselves up to endless creative possibilities. Once the performer makes it alive, it is puppetry! Living sculpture provides an additional layer of artistic expression. 

3) What makes cross cultural expression important? 
We need to open our minds, to keep curious and be willing to learn about different backgrounds of people and be willing to share cultural differences. 

4) Do you have a favorite country where you have performed? 
Germany. In Munich, I had a chance to stay with a German family to experience the life of the people and enjoyed it very much. 

5) Why do you include live music in your performance? 
I do so in order for the audience to feel that they are in a real theater. 

Live music has a direct impact on my heart and my soul. In other words, I feel the music instinctively when a live musician plays in the theater. I hope the audience feels this too. The cello in Tian Wen show gives the audience feeling in real world. Electronic sounds give the audience a feeling of being in dream world. Live cello (reality) with electronic sounds (dream) crossing over each other reflects the questions of Chinese philosopher Zhuang-zi, who famously asked whether he dreamed he was a butterfly, or if the butterfly was dreaming that he was a man. 

I want the music to reinforce this blurring of the line between reality and dream that occurs dramatically in each piece of the show. This is what Cory Neale, the composer for Tian Wen, has said about his music: “The music of Tian Wen is a blend of contemporary and traditional sounds and motifs. In this work, it is important for the sound to provide space and emotion to accompany the audience and help take the viewer into the dream world that Tian Wen creates. 

The addition of a live instrument brings the music and sound into the story as a character and has an important role to play in shaping the viewer's understanding of this dream world. It introduces a human element into the sound, and gives a character that the audience can readily relate to as they fade in and out of the dream world created by electronic and ambient soundscapes.” 

6) What does working at La MaMa mean to you? 
More than a decade ago, after seeing a show at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theater, I had dream that one day I would be able to perform here. 

Ellen Stewart’s idea of embracing diverse artists from all over the world and giving them the opportunity to share their art and culture encouraged every artist—especially those (like me) who came here from other countries. She opened her heart for us (artists). We miss her very much! 

I am honored to be invited to perform Tian Wen for the Ellen Stewart Theater. It means a lot for me. Tian Wen is an experimental puppetry performance—a risk-taking endeavor created with my heart and intuition. Some people who have seen my recent works said that I go too far with puppetry. This kind of comment makes me confused. Puppetry does not have to be only one certain thing or style. I so value the opportunity to share this experimental show with my audience, friends, puppet lovers, and people from the world who come from different cultural and artistic backgrounds. I look forward to hearing from you all about Tian Wen. Many thanks to La MaMa for letting my dream become real!


La MaMa presents 

Part of the La MaMa Puppet Festival 

Ellen Stewart Theatre | 66 East 4th Street (2nd Floor)

Saturday at 8:30PM; Sunday at 3PM; Monday at 7PM
$25 Tickets; $20 Student/Senior Tickets [+$1 Facility Fee]
Run Time: 70 Minutes

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