By Gavin Borchert
Composer Byron Au Yong‘s latest project is a one-man show based on the story of Ming Kuang Chen, the Bronx restaurant bike-delivery guy trapped for three days in April 2005 in an elevator, played by Seattle School performance-art provocateur Xike Xin.
It’s a meditation on the immigrant experience, and—well, few composers are as good with words as Au Yong, so I’ll let him do the talking: “Opera is about giving voice to human needs and desires. The themes surrounding Chen’s story propel the music: being stuck physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, legally, and linguistically. His questions go from practical to existential, from where do I pee to what is the meaning of life. . . Aaron [librettist Aaron Jafferis] finds ways to make words sing like in this snippet: ‘I wish I could flip a switch and spit English from my mouth.'”
As for Au Yong’s own contribution: “The music includes elevator sounds along with singing, er-hu, and other assorted surprises. The accompaniment will come from four speakers that surround the audience for an intimate, scary, other-worldly, and claustrophobic feel.”
At press time, the piece is still in the throes of production; Au Yong reports, “Aaron just added a gigantic rapping fortune cookie. The costume designer asked, ‘You mean like the Ivar’s clam?’ I’m like, ‘How do I compose a rap?'”
Photo of Xike Xin in Stuck Elevator by Jean-Stephane
Copyright 2007 Seattle Weekly