‘Fox and Jewel’ Combines Japanese Myth, Story of Modern Japantown

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Tatsu Aoki and Melody Takata (Photos by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

SAN FRANCISCO — Gen Ryu Arts will present “Fox and Jewel” and the release of “a fox peeks out: poems” on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18-19, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 20, at 5:30 p.m. at Dance Mission, 3316 24th St., San Francisco.

The show is a collaborative, interdisciplinary work by taiko artist/dancer/choreographer Melody Takata, poet and writer Ravi Chandra, M.D., actor/comedian Todd Nakagawa, shamisen/taiko/jazz artist Tatsu Aoki, composer/jazz artist Francis Wong, filmmaker Adebukola Bodunrin, lighting designer Patty Ann Farrell, director Wilbur Obata and the Gen Ryu Arts cast.

“Fox and Jewel” transforms a Japanese fox myth, using jazz and Japanese music, poetry, animation and live action to tell the story of a modern-day Japantown under threat.  A humble mochi-shop owner takes on a greedy developer with the help of a divine fox-woman, saving Japantown.

Gen Ryu Arts describes the show as “a timely morality tale that is a feast for the senses and fun for all ages.”

Takata, founder and director of Gen Ryu Arts, states, “As I attended neighborhood planning meetings for redevelopment in Japantown, I realized that while there was a lot of community support for the arts, there was no specific plan to create the required space or maintain events that have been part of the area for decades.

Francis Wong

“Moreover, newcomers to Japantown have challenged and limited festivals, and the city has hiked fees to use public spaces to the point of driving out some community events.  These conditions threaten to further marginalize arts and culture.

“This would endanger the very heart and soul of this vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco – one of the last three remaining Japantowns in the United States.”

Takata sees “Fox and Jewel” as a way to express the tension between profit and people, and as a bridge to build support for a community arts and exhibition center in Japantown.  “Artists have left this community for lack of space and support. Japantown already is a destination – having an arts space would increase that potential.”

The production is co-presented by Asian Improv aRts and the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, and made possible by an Individual Artist Commissions grant awarded to Takata from the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Cultural Equity Grants Program.

Gen Ryu Arts will also hold its recital prior to the Sunday performance of “Fox and Jewel” at 4 p.m.

For information and tickets, visit www.genryuarts.org.

About the Artists

Melody Takata is a taiko artist and dancer/choreographer trained in classical Japanese dance. In her 20-plus-year career, she has engaged in the interpretation of traditional pieces as well as created new works in the tradition. She has further explored the role of innovation as a means to advance the tradition as living culture, experimenting both with interdisciplinary integration of traditional art disciplines (taiko, folk dance, folk music, ozashiki music, classical dance) as well as the use of contemporary forms in modern dance, spoken word and improvised music.

Ravi Chandra, M.D. is a psychiatrist and writer. He has just published a book of poetry, “a fox peeks out: poems,” in conjunction with this performance of “Fox and Jewel.” He also writes blogs for Psychology Today and the Center for Asian American Media.  www.RaviChandraMD.com

Francis Wong was called one of “the great saxophonists of his generation” by the late jazz critic Phil Elwood. A prolific recording artist, Wong is featured on more than 40 titles as a leader and sideman. For over two decades he has performed his innovative brand of jazz and creative music for audiences in North America, Asia, and Europe.

Tatsu Aoki is an influential jazz musician, one of Chicago’s most in-demand on contrabass, taiko and shamisen. He is founder and executive director of Asian Improv aRts MidWest (AIRMW), and initiated the Chicago Asian American Jazz Festival.  He is a leader in the Asian American musical community.

Todd Nakagawa is a native San Franciscan actor/performer who has worked with the Young California Writers’ Project (YCWP), Kearny Street Workshop, Locus Arts, Bindlestiff Studios, Mary Sano Studios and Asian American Theater Company. He is also an original member of the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, an award-winning Asian American theatrical comedy group that has performed nationally and internationally.

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