ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINESE AMERICA (VOICE OF THE DRAGON I)
I had never trained in Martial Arts before, but my training as a dancer worked to my favor in being cast as Ng Mui, The Martial Nun, in the first Fred Ho production I ever worked in. I trained so hard to keep up with the other cast members who were all national and international martial arts champions. I came home from rehearsals all banged up and bruised, and I often cried.
After the first show at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC 1999, I took martial arts classes with a wushu master, lifted weights, and started boxing so that I could look the part even more for the next iteration of the show as we toured to Seattle Children's Festival in 2001. With music composed by Fred Ho and text written by Fred Ho and Ruth Margraff I experienced their signature style of theatrical extravaganza for the first time, and thus started a long working relationship that spanned two decades.
In 2002, when my firstborn was 10 months old I brought her with me to Ukraine to work with Yara Arts Group and Mariana Sadovska, Ukrainian singer and musical director, and the folksinging group Oira. We traveled to meet the old grandma and grandpa singers of Kriachkivka in the Poltava region, and Svarytsevychi in the Polissia region. There, we had singing exchanges with the villagers and there was definitely magic sparkling inside the walls of the community halls we gathered in. Learning to sing in the particular style of Ukrainian folksinging was such a gift, and I still sing those songs today.
I sing folksongs in Buryat Mongolian, Ukrainian, and Crimean Tatar, thanks to these cultural exchanges that Yara Arts Group have conducted over the decades.
Singing together in various languages mimics the heartbeat of its people.
Photo Vitaly Horbonos
DEADLY SHE WOLF ASSASSIN AT ARMAGEDDON
My very last performance working with Fred Ho was 2013, a year before he died. He had been fighting cancer for nine years already, and we didn't know how long he would hold on. He was in a hyperprolific state at that point, wanting to get his work out of him before he moved on, and we basically all rallied to make that happen in the most spectacular way we could. I remember the very last show, a Sunday matinee, hearing those soaring and piercing notes on the shakuhachi, and the powerful outcry of the bari sax, and thinking how much I would miss being in Fred's shows, and especially being part of this production with my cast mates and the kick@ss band every night. Fred sat in the audience as usual with a big smile on his face... the whole time.
Fred's legacy lives on in all of us whom he worked and made theatre with.