to Rice than Rice-A-Roni and Uncle Ben's
performance included puppet theater, which used
Balinese puppets such as the one shown here. Courtesy
the San Francisco treat! A break from potatoes!"
exclaims Dan Kwong as he mimics the catchy saying, but
ironically for most people, potatoes are the break from
rice. Over half of the world consumes this grain on
a daily basis, but short of having it for lunch or dinner,
not many of us pay attention to its importance. But
all that changed as 11 performers from six different
countries came together in the "Art of Rice Traveling
Theater" on September 27 and 28 at the Aratani/Japan
America Theatre to pay tribute to this popular, but
often neglected food item.
Jingquan incorporates elements of traditional Chinese
opera in his performance. Courtesy of wac.ucla.edu
from the Asia Pacific Performance Exchange (APPEX),
"Art of Rice" was a multicultural collaboration
created during two workshops held in Bali, Indonesia.
The artists wanted to create a show that would cut across
cultural lines while providing a reflection of our globalized
world. They decided to draw their inspiration from rice
since it is a common connection between Asian countries.
show was divided into 13 acts that incorporated different
styles from the modern/postmodern dance of Cheng-Chieh
Yu and Roko Kawai to the Indian Kathakali dance of Etumanoor
Kannan Parameswaran and the Chinese opera of Pingquan
Peng. These, in combination with the sounds of Kenny
Endo's taiko drums, I Dewa Petu Berata's gamelan instruments,
and Kyaw Kyaw Naing's drum-circle created an avant-garde
performance full of cultural flavors.
Kannan Parameswaran performs traditional Indian
Kathakali dance. Courtesy of wac.ucla.edu
performance showed that rice was not only a facilitator,
but a source of cultural traditions as seen in "Maintaining
Harmony" and "Nature," where mythical
fables inspired by rice were acted out from Rice Goddess
Dewi Sri and the pig-headed demon Bawi Srenggi. Even
the labor of producing rice is celebrated as performers
mimicked the movements of planting and threshing rice
in "Fieldwork" and "Cycle of Rice."
performance of the "Art of Rice" in Indonesia.
Courtesy of wac.ucla.edu
that this was a rice-inspired performance, there was
of course the obligatory comedic jab made at Uncle Ben's
and Rice-A-Roni. Humor was incorporated as I Made Sidia
used Balinese puppets to parody capitalistic corporations
trying to buy the land of rice farmer Dan Kwong. But
beneath the laughs, it was hard to ignore the underlying
social message and the daunting reality of these parodies.
Endo plays the taiko drums. Courtesy of wac.ucla.edu
the show wasn't all about fun and entertainment as seen
in "The Green Revolution" and "Encounter"
where two rice farmers from different parts of the world
shared their woes about farming. Although scientific
advances have allowed increased rice production, farmers
continue to struggle, living a meager existence. These
two acts served as powerful reminders of our highly
urbanized and processed world.
from being just a theatrical performance, "Art
of Rice" is proof that people from different histories,
cultures, and customs can exist together in harmony.
Nowhere is this more evident than in "Common Ground"
where each performer came out carrying his own rice
mat and speaking his own language, but walking offstage
hand-in-hand with another member, leaving the rice mats
behind in one pile.
"Art of Rice" will make its last stop at UCLA
with a free performance at the Fowler Museum Amphitheater
on Friday, October 3 at noon. For more information,
please visit their
website. Come see the show and you'll never look
at a bowl of rice the same way, let alone that Rice-A-Roni