Flight of the Monkey King


 adapted by Kathy Foley, University of California at Santa Cruz, Theatre Arts Center


Director's Statement

The story of Monkey King is one that captured my heart and imagination from the first time I encountered it in the Arthur Waley translation of Wu Chueng'en's 16th century epic Journey to the West.  Monkey's sorrow when he realizes that monkey's do no live forever causes him to search the world and challenge heaven to frame existential questions.

When I saw the pictures of Belle Yang's oral history of her father in a Monterey gallery in 1995, they led me to her books, Baba and Odyssey of a Manchurian, which tell of Joseph Yang's journey out of war torn China.  This was a life story full of parallels to the great Buddhist epic of Monkey.

This production attempts to weave together these two narratives and share them with a California audience, mindful that this is really a California story.  Belle Yang was raised in Carmel and attended UCSC.  While the scenes focus on her telling of her father's life experience, the play is as much about her (and hence our) coming to understand the richness and importance of Chinese roots to thought and culture here.  These are not stories of the long ago and far away.  These are the stories of neighbors and friends who populate our beautiful Monterey Bay.

My cast and I have had the opportunity to learn more about Buddhism, Chinese folk culture, and Twentieth Century history as a result of this project and hope that some of this learning can be transmitted through performance to you our viewers.  But the presentation of the materials should not be seen as Chinese or Asian.  In this performance we have borrowed liberally from Korean sources for movement and help of Hi Young Kim, from shadow puppet experiments of the Bay Area Shadowlight Theatre of Larry Reed, from music of Southeast Asia through Undang Sumarna and Andy Bouchard, from theatre techniques of Japan, and from improvisational techniques of Viola Spolin.  We rejoice to be in California where those in the arts can everyday encounter such a wide diversity of sources.   Our work grows from our location on the Pacific Rim where all these influences converge.

I invite you as an audience to embrace this diversity and to understand that the stories of Monkey and Joseph Yang are our stories too.  I thank David Jones of Porter College and George Ow, Jr. for their support in this project, and Belle and Joseph Yang who in taking us through peaceful settings and plunging us in the white heat of war allow us to imaginatively enter a peopled landscape that we nee to know as citizens of the Pacific Rim.


Kathy Foley

Professor of Theatre Arts