Work Samples for Min Kahng

WORK SAMPLE #2: The Funny Pages from The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga

WORK SAMPLE #1: Fruitless Mountain from Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

The opening number for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is intended to highlight the contrast between the magical world of Minli’s and her father’s imaginations and the harsh everyday reality they live. The clustered, crunchy chords at the beginning represent the daily drudgery of picking rice, and when Minli and her father sing about the world of fantasy, the music rises up, lightening in both pitch and tone, with lyrics reflecting this other-worldly realm.

The contrast is intended to be jarring when the world of fantasy is once more intruded upon by the real world. In the middle of this tone-setting, the story of the piece develops with an episode depicting Minli purchasing a Goldfish – an important transaction that sets her on her course for the rest of the play.


Script Excerpt

Music #2 Fruitless Mountain

A few other VILLAGERS enter. Together with BA and MA they begin to work the rice fields.

 

MA

BACK TO MUD

THE SOGGY FLOOD

NOT A LEAFY GREEN OR BUD IN THIS FIELD

JUST SPECKS OF RICE

AND THAT’S THE PRICE

OF A PADDY THAT DENIES US A YIELD

OH, BUT THAT'S HOW IT IS HERE ON FRUITLESS MOUNTAIN!

 

MA, VILLAGERS

     THAT’S HOW IT IS HERE ON FRUITLESS MOUNTAIN!

 

VILLAGER 1

WE SLIP AND SLOP

 

VILLAGER 2

IT NEVER STOPS

 

VILLAGER 1

IT'S AMAZING WE DON'T DROP IN THIS HEAT

 

VILLAGER 3

AND ALL MY CLOTHES

DISPLAY MY WOES

'CAUSE I'M MUDDY FROM MY NOSE TO MY FEET

 

ALL

AH, BUT THAT'S THE LIFE HERE ON FRUITLESS MOUNTAIN!

THAT'S OUR LIFE HERE ON FRUITLESS MOUNTAIN!

 

BA

AND THE ONLY THING

THAT KEEPS MY HEAD UP

THE ONLY THING

THAT KEEPS ME SANE

ARE THE OLD FOLK TALES

THAT MY FATHER TOLD ME

HE SAID "SON, WHEN TIMES LOOK DREARY

RECALL THE THINGS I SAY

AND SOON YOU'RE OFF

GLIDING DOWN A HIDDEN TRAIL

RIDING ON A DRAGON'S TAIL

HALFWAY TO THE STARS

IF YOU DON'T LIKE WHAT YOU SEE

FLY AWAY IN REVERIE

AND YOU'LL FORGET

THE HORRIBLE

PLACE WHERE YOU ARE

 

ALL

THAT'S OUR LIFE HERE ON FRUITLESS MOUNTAIN!

 

MINLI enters on another part of the stage. She has arrived at her family's hut. GOLDFISH MAN enters with a cart of goldfish bowls.

 

GOLDFISH MAN

GOLDFISH!

 

MINLI

I KNOW THIS TOWN

CAN TURN AROUND

COULD BE MORE THAN JUST A BROWN, MUDDY PLACE…

 

GOLDFISH MAN

GOLDFISH FOR SALE!

 

MINLI

I COULD BRING BACK FORTUNE TO FRUITLESS MOUNTAIN

 

GOLDFISH MAN overhears MINLI and changes his sales pitch.

 

GOLDFISH MAN

GOLDFISH

BRING FORTUNE INTO YOUR HOME!

 

MINLI

Excuse me, sir. Did you say your goldfish can bring me fortune?

 

GOLDFISH MAN

Yes!

 

MINLI

How?

 

GOLDFISH MAN

It is said that a bowl of goldfish means your house will be full of gold.

 

MINLI

               (excitedly)

I HAVE TWO COINS

MY PARENTS SET ASIDE FOR ME

TWO COINS

FOR ME TO DO WITH AS I CHOOSE

 

GOLDFISH MAN

TWO COINS?

 

MINLI

IT'S ALL THE MONEY THAT WE HAVE

 

GOLDFISH MAN

YOU'RE IN LUCK

THERE'S A SPECIAL TODAY

ONE COIN

AND ONE OF THESE FISH IS YOURS

 

MINLI's eyes brighten. She runs to her hut and returns with one coin. She gazes at the Goldfish cart. One GOLDFISH in particular flutters around in her bowl. MINLI points to her. The GOLDFISH MAN approves. They exchange goldfish for coin.

 

GOLDFISH MAN

May it bring you the greatest fortune.

 

GOLDFISH MAN wheels his cart away. MINLI is enraptured by the GOLDFISH.

 

GOLDFISH MAN

GOLDFISH!

GOLDFISH FOR SALE!

 

MINLI

AND THE ONLY THING

THAT KEEPS MY HEAD UP

THE ONLY THING

THAT KEEPS ME SANE

ARE THE MAGIC WORLDS

THAT MY FATHER SPEAKS OF

WHERE A DRAGON RULES THE RAINSTORM

OR A GOLDFISH HOLDS THE KEY

SOON I'LL BE OFF

 

Action resumes on the rice paddy.

BA

AND SOON YOU'RE OFF

 

MINLI & BA

GLIDING DOWN A HIDDEN TRAIL

RIDING ON A DRAGON'S TAIL

 

MA & VILLAGERS

WE SLIP AND SLOP

 

MINLI & BA

HALFWAY TO THE STARS

IF YOU DON'T LIKE WHAT YOU SEE

FLY AWAY IN REVERIE

 

MA & VILLAGERS

IT NEVER STOPS

 

BA

AND YOU'LL FORGET

 

MINLI

AND YOU CAN CHANGE

 

MINLI & BA

THE HORRIBLE PLACE WHERE YOU ARE

 

MA & VILLAGERS

THAT'S OUR LIFE HERE ON FRUITLESS MOUNTAIN!

THAT'S OUR LIFE HERE ON FRUITLESS MOUNTAIN!

This musical is based on Manga Yonin Shosei – a comic book chronicle written and illustrated by Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama that depicts the adventures of pioneer, Issei-generation Japanese living in San Francisco from 1904-1924. Kiyama inserted himself sparingly into the comics, which detail a broad range of historical events like World War I, the Panama-Pacific Expo, and the Great Quake of 1906. At the point in the show where this song occurs, the Great Quake has just shaken up San Francisco and other characters begin to question Kiyama as to why he chose to portray such a horrific tragedy in the form of comics. The staccato notes heard throughout the song are intended to reflect Henry’s reluctance to speak and draw attention to himself, but as his monologue progresses, he gets more and more excited about explaining his artistic reasons for his work. The song accomplishes multiple things at once: exposition, digging deeper into Henry’s character, proposing one of the musical’s central premises, and establishing a point of conflict that will come up again throughout the rest of the show.

NOTE: The demo does not reflect all the moments of dialogue outlined below.


 Script Excerpt

The BUFFOON enters pulling HENRY onstage by the ear.

 

BUFFOON

     What kind of comic book is this?!?

 

HENRY

     Ow… Excuse me… ow… Sorry, but… ow…

 

PRESENTER

No sense in blaming Henry for the earthquake.

 

BUFFOON

I’m not blaming him for the earthquake, I’m questioning his documentation practices.

 

PRESENTER

     Meaning?

 

BUFFOON

It ain’t right to put a devastating natural disaster into a comic strip!

 

HENRY

     That really hurts.

 

PRESENTER

     Let him go…

 

The BUFFOON lets HENRY’S ear go.

 

BUFFOON

          (to HENRY)

Well? What d’ya gotta say for yourself? Ain’t you got an answer?

 

Music #5 The Funny Pages

 

HENRY

     YOU ASK ME FOR AN ANSWER

     AND HERE IS MY REPLY

     I WARN YOU IN ADVANCE, SIR

     IT MAY NOT SATISFY

    

     WHEN TRAGEDY BEFALLS US

     AND HOPES ARE CUT IN HALF

     WHAT BETTER TIME TO LOOK AROUND AND LAUGH?

 

     THE FLAMES AND SMOKE ARE DANCING

     AND CAUSING SUCH A FRIGHT

     TO TEMPER THEIR ADVANCING

     THEY TRY SOME DYNAMITE

 

FIREMAN

     5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

 

          Loud explosion.

 

HENRY

     THEY BLOW A COUPLE BUILDINGS

     AND THEN THEY START TO CURSE

     THEIR PLAN TO STOP THE BURNING

     HAS ONLY MADE IT WORSE.

 

          The flames suddenly grow big.

 

FIREMAN

     Oops.

 

HENRY

     Do you see what I mean?

      IT BELONGS IN THE FUNNY PAGES

     WE DID WHAT WE COULD, BUT AS THE BRUTAL

     FIRE RAGES

     OUR EFFORTS ARE PROVEN TO BE FUTILE

     HOW ELSE CAN WE MUDDLE THROUGH

     BUT LET OUT A CHUCKLE AND QUIP

     THAT OUR SORRY FATE

     WOULD BE GREAT AS A COMIC STRIP?

 

BUFFOON

     Is it just me or is he enjoying this?

 

HENRY

Sorry. I just never get much of a chance to talk about what goes on inside my head.

 

BUFFOON

     I get why.

          (aside to PRESENTER)

     He’s bonkers!

 

PRESENTER

     I think he’s a genius.

 

          DR. OMORI enters.

 

HENRY

     I’LL TELL ANOTHER STORY:

     NOW HERE’S A DECENT MAN

     HE’S CALLED DOCTOR OMORI,

     SEISMOLOGIST FROM JAPAN

 

     HE’S COME TO HELP US SURVEY

     OUR HEAPS OF ASH AND SCRAP

     BUT WHEN THE WHITE FOLKS SEE HIM

     THEY ONLY SEE A -

 

OFF-STAGE VOICE

     Jap! Go home!!!

 

A stone comes and konks OMORI on the head. CHARLIE and FRANK see this and rush over to him.

 

CHARLIE

     Are you all right, sir?

 

OMORI

Don’t they understand? I’m only trying to help prevent further damage in the area!

 

FRANK

          (looking at OMORI’S head)

Prevent further damage in the area? Maybe you should invest in a helmet.

 

HENRY

     LET’S PUT THAT IN THE FUNNY PAGES

     AS SOCIAL MALAISE BEGINS DESCENDING

     BET MY WAGES

     THAT TROUBLES LIKE THESE ARE FAR FROM ENDING

     FIND THE HUMOR IN THE HURT,

     HOW ELSE WILL WE GET A GRIP?

     ALL THE TROUBLES WE FACE

     MAKE AN ACE OF A COMIC STRIP

CHARLIE and FRANK stand in line for free handouts of food.

 

HENRY

     I DON’T MEAN YOU NEEDN’T GRUMBLE AT MISFORTUNE

    AND PAIN AND SHOCK AND GRIEVING HAVE THEIR PLACE

     BUT WHEN IT’S DARK ENOUGH TO LIGHT A TORCH IN

     THAT TORCH WILL BE THE LAUGHTER ON YOUR FACE

 

     A checkpoint appears with a GUARD.

 

     HERE ARE FRANK AND CHARLIE

     NOW FURNISHED WITH FREE FOOD

     AND THERE’S A GUARD AT CHECKPOINT

     WHO’S IN A SOUR MOOD

 

     AND FRANK AND CHARLIE KNOW NOW

     CAUSE THEY ARE JAPANESE

     THEY’RE GIANT, WALKING TARGETS

     FOR GUARDS TO SEARCH AND SEIZE

 

A WHITE LADY begins to walk through the checkpoint.

 

CHARLIE

     Quick. Walk as close to her as possible…

 

FRANK

     Why?

 

CHARLIE

     Let’s pretend we’re her “help.”

 

They follow behind the WHITE LADY subserviently and pass the checkpoint without problem.

 

HENRY

     IT’S A SCENE FOR THE FUNNY PAGES

     OUR HEROES ARE LEARNING TO ADAPT

 

The WHITE LADY turns around. CHARLIE and FRANK tip their hats to her. She bristles and hurries off. CHARLIE and FRANK laugh and run off.

 

HENRY

     FROM FOOLS TO SAGES,

     ALTHOUGH IT ONCE SEEMED THEIR DREAMS WERE SAPPED

     WE ALL WISH LIFE FILTER OUT THE

     PARTS THAT WE’D RATHER SKIP

 

     BUT HERE’S THE ANSWER FOLKS

     I SWEAR THIS IS NO HOAX

     IF YOU CAN CRACK A JOKE

     EACH TIME YOU SLIP

     ALL THOSE MOMENTS OF HELL

     WILL BE SWELL

     FOR A COMIC STRIP

Sorry that my explanation took so long.