Since 1992, under the rubric of its UNDESIRABLE ELEMENTS series, the beloved Ping Chong + Company has created nearly 50 deeply moving Theater Productions that give voice to specific communities. In the creation of each piece, local participants testify to their real lives and experiences, often for the first time. Scripts are based on interviews with these participants, who then tell their stories in the final production. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the initiative, the company will offer a festival of these works-including CRY FOR PEACE: VOICES FROM THE CONGO; SECRET SURVIVORS , featuring adult survivors of child sexual abuse; and INSIDE/OUT… VOICES FROM THE DISABILITY COMMUNITY - running from October 18 through November 4 at La Mama E.T.C. The programming will also include panel discussions, live streams of performances, and the screening of a new documentary entitled Secret Survivors: Using Theater to Break the Silence.
Performances of CRY FOR PEACE: VOICES FROM THE CONGO will take place October 18th, 19th and 20th at 7:30 pm, and October 21st at 2:30 pm. Performances of SECRET SURVIVORS will be held October 25th, 26th and 27th at 7:30 pm, and October 28th at 2:30 pm INSIDE/OUT… VOICES FROM THE DISABILITY COMMUNITY will play November 1st, 2 and 3 at 7:30 pm, and November 4th at 2:30 pm.
All shows will take place at La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre (66 East 4th Street). Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling 212.475.7710 or visiting www.lamama.org.
Conceived by Ping Chong, who has for decades garnered international acclaim for theater and installations exploring intersections of race, culture, history, art, media and technology, UNDESIRABLE ELEMENTS is an open framework that can be brought to any community and tailored to suit the needs and issues facing that community. Each production is made with a host organization based in the local community, with local participants testifying to their real lives and experiences.
The development process includes an extended community residency during which Ping Chong and Associate Director Sara Zatz conduct intensive interviews with potential participants and get to know the issues and concerns facing that community. Typically, Ping Chong + Company will interview up to twenty-five individuals and select five to seven of them, assembling a group that represents a diversity of voices on the issues facing that particular community.
Ping Chong, with Zatz or another collaborator, writes a script that adapts and theatricalizes the interviews, weaving cast members' individual experiences together in a chronological narrative touching on both political and personal experiences. The interviewees themselves, many of whom have never before spoken publicly, perform the script. The resulting production is a chamber piece of personal testimonies.
When audience members come together to experience an Undesirable Elements production, they form a community through an exchange with the performers and with each other. They bring their experiences into their respective communities, broadening the dialogue and understanding generated by the theatrical event.
In the UNDESIRABLE ELEMENTS FESTIVAL at La MaMa, Ping Chong + Company will perform three highlights of the series to date:
CRY FOR PEACE: VOICES FROM THE CONGO, a new production, two years in the making, will have its New York premiere at La MaMa following a world premiere at Syracuse Stage September 14-23, 2012. Ping Chong + Company is creating Cry for Peace with refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who are seeking to rebuild community in their adopted home of Syracuse, NY. Approximately 200 refugees from the ongoing wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) based in Syracuse, NY represent twelve different tribes sharing a violent past. Commissioned by Syracuse University and co-written by Syracuse Stage's Kyle Bass, CRY FOR PEACE: VOICES FROM THE CONGO is specifically designed as a replicable international model for reconciliation work with Congolese refugee communities in the U.S.
SECRET SURVIVORS uses the personal narratives of adult survivors of child sexual abuse to show that this violence is an epidemic, to represent the diverse ways this violence occurs, and to grapple with the many reasons why most survivors remain silent. Written and directed by Ping Chong + Company Associate Director Sara Zatz, in partnership with Project Coordinator and survivor Amita Swadhin, Secret Survivors had a workshop presentation in Spring 2010 and was presented as a full performance at El Museo del Barrio in March 2011.