Posts tagged #Lindsay Hirata

The Four Immigrants at Musical Cafe

The Four Immigrants Manga  reading team! From L to R: Leslie Martinson (director), Lindsay Hirata (Ensemble), Carina Salazar (Ensemble), Will Dao (Frank), Sean Fenton (Fred), Benjamin Nguyen (Henry), Brian Palac (Charlie), Dana Shew (Ensemble), Lawrence-Michael Arias (Ensemble), Min Kahng (book, music, lyrics), Frederik L. Schodt (translator)

The Four Immigrants Manga reading team! From L to R: Leslie Martinson (director), Lindsay Hirata (Ensemble), Carina Salazar (Ensemble), Will Dao (Frank), Sean Fenton (Fred), Benjamin Nguyen (Henry), Brian Palac (Charlie), Dana Shew (Ensemble), Lawrence-Michael Arias (Ensemble), Min Kahng (book, music, lyrics), Frederik L. Schodt (translator)

At the end of January, I had the opportunity to present a 25-minute segment of The Four Immigrants Manga: An American Musical Extravaganza at the inaugural Musical Cafe Showcase presented by The Alchemy Works and Play Cafe. I had the joy of working with Leslie Martinson as the director of the project (Leslie is also my mentor via the Titan Award, and the Associate Artistic Director & Casting Director for TheatreWorks in Silicon Valley) and with eight amazing actors who infused energy and life into the project! Fred L. Schodt, translator of Henry Kiyama's The Four Immigrants Manga, was also in attendance. After the reading, he mentioned to me that I was staying true to the spirit of Kiyama's work - which pretty much made my evening! The evening consisted of four other musical writing teams presenting portions of their work as well - all in various stages in their creative process.

I learned so much through this rehearsal process and performance. After last year's presentation at the TheatreWorks Writers Retreat, I have moved cautiously forward with a vaudeville style to match the original text's "Sunday funnies" nature. I was unsure as to whether the dated feel of the work would translate to contemporary audiences. It was great to see the showcase audience respond to specific moments in the script/score that 1) worked for humorous effect, but more importantly 2) helped bridge the gap between an old-fashioned style and a modern audience.

Working with actors is always a treat because once I've explained the traits of each character, it's fun to then see actors at play, discovering internal and relational dynamics that I had not yet considered. I came away from the showcase not only feeling like the four titular characters stood strongly as four personalities whose journeys I'm interested in, but that the rest of the ensemble shown through with a presence of their own.

Of course, there are still so many questions to consider. One thing I need to consider moving forward is the idea of Japanese-ness, American-ness, and Japanese-American-ness. Because Kiyama wrote the comic book in a very imitative, American comic-book style, I have gone in the direction of a very American-feeling vaudeville. And yet, thanks to some valuable feedback, I realize that there is a danger then of not having the characters feel "Japanese" enough. This is further made difficult because of the fact that at this time, Japan itself was split on its approach toward the West, and, in particular, America. There were many who passionately claimed that following the ways of Western democracy, individualism, and economics was the way forward for Japan. And others just as passionately fought for a return to traditional Japanese ways. It seems that Kiyama was, at least in part, of the former mentality. He came to America to study the Western styles of art (though it should be noted that he was adept at Japanese artistic styles and techniques as well), and he made the decision to capture the history of the Four Immigrants in a form that was distinctly Western - the frame-by-frame comic strip. What does that mean for my interpretation (as a non-Japanese-but-still-Asian-American) of his work? The good news is, I am still early enough in the process to really grapple with this question and even explore these issues in the script/score itself. As of right now, I don't know if the final show will have anything definitive to say about the topic, but I do see many opportunities to weave it into the work and perhaps show a variety of perspectives. All this to say, these are the types of incredibly rich questions/dialogues that have arisen from the showcase, and I'm excited for this next phase of research and writing!

Next step: complete an entire first draft.


Transformative Performance - An Interview with Lindsay Hirata


In The Song of the Nightingale, Lindsay Hirata plays the role of Mei Lin, a fish-delivery-girl-turned-kitchen-maid who has her eyes set on moving up in the palace. Lindsay is also a music therapist and is completing her Master's in Integrative Health Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. As a therapist, she focuses a lot on the transformative power of the arts, something that I take seriously in my own work as a writer/composer. I asked her to share some of her thoughts on her worlds of music therapy and performance.


MIN: Can you describe the work you do as a Music Therapist?

LINDSAY: Music therapy is the use of music as a tool for positive change (physical, cognitive, behavioral, social/emotional, spiritual).  I believe strongly in the transformative power of sound and music, and feel incredibly lucky to bring that into my work. There is something very visceral and honest about a musical experience.  It has the possibility to shift so many things in our lives: our thoughts, our awareness, and our ability to listen and to be heard.  

What really excites me is using music to connect people to themselves and to others.  Music, at its core, is a combination of elements strung together in a synchronized way.  I think it facilitates that same process in us when we listen to or engage in it.    

M: Do you find your experience as a performer has helped inform your work in music therapy or vice versa?

L: Definitely!  For a long time, I stopped performing.  I poured myself into learning and growing as a music therapist.  I used music but never “performed."  There seemed to be this negative connotation with it in my mind.  I think what happened is I stopped believing that I had something valuable to share. [The Song of the Nightingale] has really brought me back to my voice and encouraged me to share that with others.  It makes me a better music therapist.  As I get ready to finish grad school and continue to build my work, it’s so important to remember to continue sharing and connecting with others in that very honest way.

M: What themes in The Song of the Nightingale  do you relate to the most? Are those values you also like to incorporate into your therapy work?

L: I read something about performing the other day that really shifted the way I thought about it.  It defined performance as: “transforming something into what it truly can be,” and described it as a process that required subtlety, patience, and precision (Les Mckeown, Inc. Magazine). I loved that perspective. When we think about performance in this way, it becomes an act of optimism and hope in what is possible. It is less about perfection and achievement, and more about a process in transformation. That's how I feel when I am onstage with my fellow cast mates. We are co-creating something in every moment and building something bigger than ourselves.

In my work, I think it is so important to remember what is possible while still continuing on with patience in the process. Meeting people where they are at while holding them up to their highest gifts is a balance that I always want to keep in mind. 

Relating it to the story of Nightingale, I think the characters are all going through a kind of transformation, and the Nightingale is a reminder to continue along this path with faith and optimism.  I hope people who watch the show are inspired to continue looking for what is possible in each day.

Posted on October 8, 2013 and filed under Performing Arts, Nightingale.