By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Once a year on a special night, a hundred demons and spirits come together and parade through the streets of Japan led by the powerful spirit known as Nurarihyon. The demons revel while people hide in their homes. If a human should cross paths with the parade, they will be spirited away and taken to the other side.
That’s the underlying story of the “Hyakki Yagyō” or “Night of a Hundred Demons,” a piece of Japanese folklore adapted as “The Night Parade” by Tom Dang and Kendall Uyeji, and directed by Dang for Pork Filled Productions (PFP). The show puts the audience very much in the middle of things, with ghosts and other otherworldly apparitions flowing past.
“I was intrigued by the idea of an annual parade of demons from all regions of Japan,” commented Dang. “It was a great metaphor for celebrating diversity and inclusivity and I knew I had to do something with it. From there, my theater company held workshops to devise narratives and build on the lore. We went through about 15 drafts of the script over the last two years, and then Kendall signed onto the project and it took off.”
Dang studied drama at the University of Washington and divides his time between Seattle and Los Angeles. Roger Tang, one of Pork Filled Productions’ producers, approached him to help PFP branch out into areas that the company hadn’t tried before.
Dang had already worked on an immersive theater project in L.A. and projects locally with his own REBATEnsemble — he proposed that his company work with Tang’s to create “The Night Parade.”
“I directed this piece by myself, but Kendall was often in rehearsals working in tandem with everyone,” the director elaborated. The script we wrote has a lot of abstract directions and demands.
“Kendall, being the writer in the room, is often of the mind to simplify and take the pen to the script if something wasn’t working right away. Obviously, this created a very interesting dynamic since my directing and storytelling style is kinetic and relies on experimentation with the actors. We would often negotiate with each other to let one step back and allow the other to assert influence. It’s a very constructive relationship as we both know that we are always working in the interest of the production.”
The show includes folks of Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Laotian, Cambodian, and Thai ethnicities, working as actors or behind the scenes. After settling on a final script, Dang reached out to some actors he’d known before, and also held open auditions.
The production’s notable for using a mystery site — an audience member won’t know where the show happens, until after a ticket is purchased.
“The reason why it had to be private and exclusive gets revealed in the story. Logistically, we tell our audiences that it is a mystery site but that it is in the Crown Hill neighborhood. We also promise a close walking distance to Crown Hill Park and guarantee parking.”
In addition, Dang promises, the show will station ushers near the site, to make sure folks get where they need to go; and a setup resembling a “matsuri,” or Japanese festival, to draw attention.
“When you work with a new space, a found space, and additionally a space not designed for theater, the challenge becomes about making the space work with you and for you,” Dang concluded.
“We had to build around and utilize structures in the space and justify them as part of the exhibit. I think we did quite well, and the experience will be a fantastic one.”
“The Night Parade” runs Oct. 17–Nov. 3. All performances will be at a mystery site and disclosed when tickets are purchased. For prices and more information, visit porkfilled.com/wp/2018/08/pfp-teams-with-rebatensemble-to-immerse-audiences-in-japanase-demons-and-folk-tales.
Andrew can be reached at email@example.com.