Ping Chong's Blind Ness: the Irresistible Light of Encounter at La MaMa in New York

Posted by Lia Chang

Don't miss Ping Chong's Blind Ness: the Irresistible Light of Encounter at La Ma Ma in New York through June 27th.

Avant garde theater director Ping Chong travels deep into Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness , colonialism in the Belgian Congo, exploring the battle for land, profit and conscience into the present with the New York premiere of Blind Ness: the Irresistible Light of Encounter .

June 18-20, 22-26 at 7:30PM; June 20 & 27 at 2:30PM
La MaMa E.T.C. (Annex Theater), 74A East 4th Street
$25, Box Office: (212) 475-7710. Online ticketing available at www.lamama.org.
Gala benefit June 23: for info call 212-529-1557.

Channeling Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness , colonialism in the Belgian Congo is the inspiration for director Ping Chong's new multi-disciplinary theatrical work, Blind Ness: the Irresistible Light of Encounter , where he explores the battle for land, profit and conscience.

The avant garde artist collaborated with Michael Rohd to develop this timely political theatrical experience, which incorporates Chong's signature touches-- seamlessly meshing stunning visuals with performance, text, shadow puppetry and object theater.

Blind Ness weaves Conrad's characters, Kurtz and Marlow, with heros and villains of the 19th and 20th centuries including real-life figures King Leopold II of Belgium, Roger Casement, Edmund Dene Morel, William Sheppard, Henry Morton Stanley and Patrice Lumumba.

Drawing from contemporary resources such as Adam Hochschilds King Leopolds Ghost , Pagan Kennedys Black Livingstone , and historical texts by Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, Casement, and Morel, the show highlights the historical events in the late 19th century that led to the acquisition of the Congo as a personal colony of King Leopold II of Belgium, the exploitation of the Congolese people, and the human rights movement that arose when Belgian abuses were brought to light. This movement resulted in the removal of the Congo from Leopolds personal control and facilitated the colony's independence.

Chong alternates between the narrative line of Heart of Darkness (Marlow's journey up the Congo River to find the mysterious Kurtz is told through shadow puppetry), historical events surrounding Leopold II, and the struggles of activists Edmund Dene Morel, Roger Casement and William Sheppard, who organized to reveal his crimes in the Congo throughout Blind Ness .

Shipping clerk Edmund Dene Morel noticed vast quantities of ivory and rubber coming out of the Congo, but weapons for the colonial administrators were the only "trade" flowing in return. British diplomat and Irish nationalist Roger Casement documented horrible cruelties inflicted upon Congolese people, including the amputation of limbs from forced laborers in the rubber and ivory industries. William Sheppard established the first Black missionary community in the Congo. As witness to the systematic torture and pervasive abuse of Africans, his documentation through photos and articles echo striking contemporary parallels and reveals the pivotal role played by photography in uncovering crimes committed in the name of "progress."

Chong's Blind Ness shows how Europe exploited Africa in the 19th century, inspiring a protest movementthe precursor to the international human rights movement. The publication of photos by Sheppard and others set off a decisive change in public opinion worldwide much like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal of today.

June 18-20, 22-26 at 7:30PM; June 20 & 27 at 2:30PM
La MaMa E.T.C. (Annex Theater), 74A East 4th St., New York
$25, Box Office: (212) 475-7710.
Online ticketing available at www.lamama.org.
June 23 Gala benefit: For info call 212-529-1557.
(Presented by La MaMa, ETC in association with Ping Chong & Company and Kent State University School of Theatre and Dance )