Monkey: Journey to the West

Article by Michelle Xia
Photo by Niko

Lincoln Center, located in midtown, celebrates the various cultures represented by New Yorkers in the Lincoln Center Festival. Starting on July 6, this three-week long festival commemorates and exposes the arts and performances of other cultures to an American audience.

One showing that brought attention in the Asian community is Monkey: Journey to the West. This performance is based on an ancient Chinese folktale about a Monkey King who protects and guides a monk, Tripitaka, safely on a religious journey to India. Along the way, Tripitaka is faced with many challenges and competitors in which Monkey King and his other animal companions battle off. This show, which is a unique blend of mystical happenings and Chinese culture, was first introduced into American film through this festival.

On June 24, 2013, there was a small press conference being held for Monkey: Journey to the West. Hosting the show, director Chen Shi Zheng introduced a few snippets of performances. The audience was able to witness different types of characters in the folktale through different means of traditional Chinese activities. From acrobat performance with traditional Chinese fans to the Chinese yo-yo, the performers stunned the audience with their movements and performances.

Nigel Redden, the director of the Lincoln Center Festival, claims the story of Monkey King to be a combination of humor, fantasy, and culture. Redden is more than excited to bring this production into the American environment. “It’s a story people in the west should know about.”

Chen Shi Zheng’s main goal for production is to introduce and integrate this well-known Chinese story into the American culture. Zheng understands that the story heavily involves Chinese traditions and practices; however, he feels that there are many themes in the show that are universal. The idea of friendship with the Monkey King and the travellers, the challenges they face along the way with people and with themselves, and the practice of greed and selfishness – all are themes that are prevalent in this show. All these key terms are applicable and understood globally. Also, who wouldn’t enjoy watching Chinese acrobats, Kung Fu fight scenes, and magic?

As the story Monkey King is budding into the American culture through Monkey: Journey to the West, it is inevitable the expansion of Chinese ideology. With festivals like the Lincoln Center Festival, it allows for culture acknowledge and fosters the blend in between cultures. The festival will continue until the 28th and would suggest everyone to participate in the festivities. Take the journey to the west.

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