“Shank’s Mare,” a play featuring fifth-generation Japanese puppet master Koryu Nishikawa V and American puppet artist Tom Lee comes to the Detroit Institute of Arts

 East and West come together at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) in the spectacular production of “Shank’s Mare,” featuring fifth-generation Japanese puppet master Koryu Nishikawa V and American puppet artist Tom Lee. The free performances in the Detroit Film Theatre are on Friday, April 7 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 8 at 2 p.m. Recommended for ages eight and older.

This beautiful and detailed production combines traditional Japanese kuruma ningyō (cart puppetry), where black-clad puppeteers roll about the stage on carts and manipulate the puppets with their hands and feet. Completing the performance are live video projection of miniature sets and a haunting score on the hammered dulcimer, the three-stringed Japanese shamisen and flute. Nishikawa V will also perform a ritual puppet dance that purifies the stage. Kuruma ningyō is seldom seen in the West and this is the first time this style of puppetry will be presented in Detroit.

 On Sunday, April 9 from 1 to 3 p.m., visitors can get a close look at the kuruma ningyō puppets used in “Shank’s Mare.” Puppeteers will demonstrate techniques used to manipulate the puppets and invite people to bring such puppets to life.

 The title “Shank’s Mare” refers to a journey on foot, and the play tells a parallel story of two characters approaching the ends of their lives. Kandata, a samurai who descends into darkness after his young son is killed, becomes a thief and murderer and dies alone on a snowy mountainside. He is sent to hell where the Shakyamuni Buddha pities him and sends a spider thread down to bring him out of the abyss. Sadly, Kandata’s selfishness breaks the thread, and he falls back into his suffering.

 In a parallel storyline, an aging astronomer sees an approaching comet, a once-in-a-lifetime event, which he must witness to fulfill his life’s work. He and his disciple, a young girl, begin a walking journey into the wilderness in search of the comet, during which the girl begins to learn and cherish her teacher’s pursuit of wisdom. When they lose each other in a snowstorm, the astronomer climbs a nearby mountain and is absorbed into the heavenly brilliance of the comet. The girl is left alone and begins to run back home. In a fantastic sequence, she is transported through time and space and wakes up in the present day. On her iPhone she sees two news articles mysteriously connected to the two journeys she has witnessed. She now must choose her own way forward.

For additional information go to www.tomleeprojects.com/shanks-mare

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