Arts & Events

AROUND AND ABOUT THEATER: Shadowlight's Poro Oyna,' Myth of the Aynu

By Ken Bullock
Saturday January 18, 2014 - 04:16:00 PM

The Aynu (or Ainu), indigenous people of Hokkaido, Northern Japan, and of Easternh Russia, whose culture dates back 2200 years, were only recognized as such by the Japanese Diet in 2008. Fewer than 15 native speakers of their language are alive. 

Shadowlight Productions of San Francisco, which Larry Reed founded over 40 years ago to explore the theater of shadowplay and shadow puppets, greatly expanding on that ancient medium with the introduction of projections, cinematic and modern music and sound techniques as well as masked live shadow performers, is putting on a show, this weekend only, with Aynu and Japanese performers featuring live Aynu music and singing, of 'Poro Oyna ["he Great Story"], the Myth of the Aynu,' adapted from Aynu lore of Ainu Rakkur, demi-god who rescued the Sun Goddess from a monster. 

Coming from Japan are Oki, an Aynu performer and stringed tontori player, Marewraw, a fur-woman chorus and members of Urotsutenoyako Bayangans, a Tokyo theater company that performs shadowplay. 

Shadowlight shows are a unique form of spectacle. If you've never seen one, this very rare chance to witness Reed's splendid artistry in collaboration with Aynu and Japanese performers, who together created a manifestation of a little-understood, endangered traditional culture, it's a double reason to see 'Poro Oyna' this weekend. 

'Poro Oyna' Friday at 8, Saturday at 2 & 8, Sunday at 2, Southside Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard, San Francisco. $15-$35.