PULLproject is an award-winning ensemble based in LA, comprised of aerial artist/actor Kennedy Kabasares and writer/actor traci kato-kiriyama. Most recently they were recipients of the Exchange Grant (2015) and the Continuation Grant (2016) - both national awards from the Network of Ensemble Theaters (NET). This supported the continuing development of their newest show, Tales of Clamor, in “exchange” with a principal partner and a new team of artistic collaborators.
Founded in 2008, PULLproject began as a conversation between Kennedy Kabasares (aerial artist/actor) and traci kato-kiriyama (writer/actor), who had toured together previously in a theatrical/spoken word trio (zero 3; 2000-2006) and wanted to explore the development of a 2-character story based in theatre with the use of a single aerial apparatus (static trapeze). They took over a year to begin developing their first project. Their commitment was to the story first, in order to ensure any circus apparatus was a device to support the narrative. Their first show, "PULL: Tales of Obsession," was based on a true story of a daughter, her father's death, and her mother's journey through mourning in the midst of her quest for "answers" on a less-than-perfect marriage.
The first incarnation of the show, at 25 minutes, was presented as an official selection of the National Asian American Theatre Festival (Los Angeles; 2011). Over time and a constant development process, it grew to a 55-minute show and PULLproject was invited to present “PULL: Tales of Obsession” and participate in artist residencies at Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia and Eventual Ashes in Toronto, and perform in the Summer Series at CounterPULSE in San Francisco.
In 2015, PULLproject was a recipient of the NET/TEN Exchange Grant, which allowed them to enter into a development process with Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress (NCRR) for PULLproject’s next show, “Tales of Clamor”. NCRR granted official use (including all fees waived) to PULLproject of video footage of the 1981 Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) hearings in Los Angeles. The footage is co-owned by NCRR and Visual Communications, an Asian-American media arts organization. These videos are very close to NCRR, because they were the principal organizers responsible for the Commission’s decision to take the hearings outside of Washington, D.C. and into the cities where communities of Japanese Americans live. This footage is the only known video record of any of the hearings that happened.
Through the Exchange Grant, PULLproject and NCRR were able to bring in artistic consultants Nancy Keystone of Critical Mass Performance Group, performance artist Dan Kwong, circus artist Eric Newton, and composer & sound designer Howard Ho. During this year-long exploration, PULLproject met with NCRR members in myriad ways that included interviews, a community writing workshop, viewing of video footage and an early ideas-in-process session at the beginning of the writing and movement development. With the assistance of the artistic consultants, PULLproject began developing a script, movement vocabulary, and music. This culminated in a 50-minute work-in-progress presentation in 2016, after which NCRR excitedly agreed to continue forward with the development to create a full-length show.
Later that year, PULLproject and NCRR were the sole recipients of the NET/TEN Continuation Grant, which enabled them to further develop the piece, bringing together the seven cast members and artistic consultants with members of NCRR to share stories of their memories of both organizing for the CWRIC hearings as well as hear, first hand, one of the cast members’ experience in camp. The development process also resulted in a completed first draft of “Tales of Clamor”, which included revamped scenes and the inclusion of more circus elements. This culminated in an 85-minute staged reading of the first full draft for the general public.
"Tales of Clamor" is a theatrical case-study that examines the sound of silence, the reverberations of a little-known yet major moment of American history, and the universal need for connection and collective noise in today’s landscape. “Tales of Clamor” utilizes aerial apparatuses, scenes based in the present and past, and rarely seen video footage from the 1981 CWRIC Hearings. Its political texture calls on us to recognize the need for solidarity and the power of a community breaking silence in order to create change.
At its emotional core, “Tales of Clamor” is about people showing up for each other at a critical moment of individual and collective need. The narrative anchor of this performance is the duo of traci and Kennedy - who together explore concepts including the science of sound, the Model Minority Myth, and the Commission Hearings that led to Redress in the 1980s. And all of this happens in the setting of a circus school.