Shank's Mare Puppetry Enchants Audiences

The Story: The title Shank’s Mare refers to a journey on foot. The proud samurai Kandata descends into darkness after his young son is killed, and becomes a thief and murderer. Tortured by visions of his lost son, he wanders the countryside until he dies alone and lost on top of a snowy mountain. In a parallel story, a medieval astronomer sets out to see a mystical comet, the culminating event to his life’s work. Accompanying him is his apprentice, a young girl who comes to appreciate her teacher’s pursuit of knowledge. When they lose each other in a snowstorm, the astronomer climbs a nearby mountain to witness the rare cosmic event. The girl is propelled through time and space and wakes up in the present-day, where she sees news articles mysteriously connected to the two journeys.


Audiences were able to see some rare artistry at work during last week’s performances of Shank’s Mare at Asia Society Texas Center. Created by American puppet artist Tom Lee and fifth-generation Japanese puppet master Koryu Nishikawa V, the sold-out show enchanted viewers with its moving story of two wandering travelers whose paths intersected in time and space.

Completing the performances were live video projections of miniature sets handled by Chris Carcione, and a live score composed by Bill Ruyle (hammered dulcimer and percussion) and Chieko Hara (shamisen).

The performances utilized traditional Japanese kuruma ningyō (cart puppetry). Black-clad puppeteers rolled about the stage on small carts while manipulating the puppets with their hands and feet. Visitors were able to get a closer look at the puppets during post-performance Q&A sessions and a special puppetry workshop. Nishikawa, Lee, along with other Shank's Mare artists Ryukumi Nishikawa, Josh Rice, Justin Perkins, CB Goodman, Takemi Kitamura, and Solvej Lee demonstrated the unique techniques used to bring the puppets to life before allowing the audience an opportunity to handle the puppets themselves.

The Houston production of Shank’s Mare was made possible due to the generous support of its sponsors and donors. Asia Society Texas Center gives thanks to its presenting sponsor, Bank of America, and program sponsors, the Japan Foundation, Daikin, JGC Corporation, Kuraray, and the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.


Related Links

Ancient Roads: Shank’s Mare at Asia Society Texas Center. Arts + Culture. April 24, 2017.

传统与现代的邂逅:日本民俗车木偶剧《Shank's Mare》亚协登场 座无虚席 (40图). World Hall of Fame Network. April 13, 2017. 


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