Jazz composer Francis Wong collaborated with theatre ensemble Thick Description to create an original score for Karen Amano’s Asian American adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Under Western Eyes. The play’s world premiere coincided with the December 1999 opening of Thick Description’s 85-seat theater, the Thick House, on Potrero Hill in San Francisco. The musical score took the form of recorded music by Wong’s ensemble Gathering of Ancestors as well as pre-show and intermission music. In keeping with Thick Description’s ensemble method, Wong participated fully in the play development process.
Amano’s Under Western Eyes moved Conrad’s story from Tsarist Russia and democratic Geneva to New York and San Francisco, in a future time of unrest, characterized by the temporary suspension of the civil rights of Asian Americans.
Composer Francis Wong was a co-founder of Asian Improv aRts in 1987, a production and recording company dedicated to promoting the work of Asian American jazz musicians. He has had extensive experience with collaboration, working with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Asian American Dance Performances, poet and playwright Genny Lim, filmmaker Steven Okazaki, and others.
Thick Description, an ensemble composed of Karen Amano, Tony Kelly, Rick Martin, and David Yezzi, was founded in New York in 1988 and moved to San Francisco in 1989. It closed in 2009. They produced original adaptations of old plays and visionary new theater works.