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Nancy Wang collaborating with Asian Improv aRts
Award: $35,000 Traditional Arts grant awarded in June 2001
Presented: Works-in-progress presented in 2003; Culminating performances in April 2004

Through interviews, storyteller Nancy Wang researched stories of Asian American female activists and, with her long-time partner Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo, and with Francis Wong of Asian Improv aRts, shaped them into the performance, “In Need of Goddesses,”  using both traditional and contemporary storytelling techniques.

Researched subjects included: Yuri Kochiyama, a long time political activist who lived in Harlem for many years and was close to Malcolm X; Janice Mirikitani, poet, choreographer and Glide Memorial Program Director; Dorothy Wong, Executive Director of the International District’s Medical Center in Seattle; and Donna Ozawa, environmental artist. These researched stories enhanced Wang’s weaving together of two very different stories–a true-life experience atop Mt. Fuji (for which Wang interviewed four participants) and the Japanese myth of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, and her battle with the Storm God, Susano-wo.

The project allowed the lead artist to draw upon her extensive past experience working with traditional storytelling. In this case, she varied her approach by making the informants’ own words and manner of speaking part of the presentation. Music, movement, and visual images were used to  indicate the era and cultural context for the tales.

For more than 20 years, Nancy Wang and Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo have collaborated with presenting storytelling performances, and concerts, retelling ancient Asian folktales, myths and legends as well as contemporary Asian American stories. Based in and annually performing in San Francisco, they also tour widely as Eth-Noh-Tec Productions.

Asian Improv aRts (AIR) is a nonprofit Asian American arts presenter that has produced many community events in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is dedicated to the cultivation, presentation, and documentation of the Asian American experience.