"I...want to highlight the incredible power of the human spirit--the value of freedom and the will to survive."
--Creator Vân-Ánh Võ
Marking the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, The Odyssey–from Vietnam to America (The Odyssey) explores the personal and spiritual journeys of the Boat People escaping war and abandoning their lives in the search for freedom with an alien and unknowable future. The work, created by composer-performer Vân-Ánh Võ, utilizes new music for Vietnamese and Western instruments, ambient sound, spoken word, historical objects, and live media, conveying stories of human transformations that resonate for all, not just Vietnamese refugees.
The music in The Odyssey utilizes Vietnamese traditional instruments for the core sound, complemented by electronic music and Western instruments. Vietnamese folk songs, especially the lullabies, are an important part of the raw musical materials. Although differing in dialects, all show the same common themes of providing comfort to children, giving encouragement to the men who had enlisted to fight in wars, and longing for loved ones. These lullabies are used to evoke the deepest sense of comfort, calm, and strength that the Vietnamese Boat People desperately needed, in order to overcome the insurmountable psychological and emotional challenges during their odyssey.
For this project, in collaboration with Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), older Vietnamese were given additional opportunities to share their life stories, past histories, and challenges as Boat People and refugees with the younger generations. This experience gave younger Vietnamese generations to understand and identify more with their roots and heritage and further appreciate the meaning of their parents and grandparents' sacrifices and hard-earned successes.
The Odyssey features Vân-Ánh Võ along with musicians from the Vân-Ánh Võ Quartet, with Alex Kelly on cello, Jimi Nakagawa on taiko and percussions, and Dan Cantrell on accordion and piano. Guest artists include award-winning environmental sound artist and ethnomusicologist Philip Blackburn and award-winning video and media artist Ian Winters, whose work helps to create multiple layers of stories in the production.
Performed in Vietnamese and English. Recommended for age 15 and up.
Performance Timing: Part One - 50 min.; Intermission - 20 min.; Part Two - 40 min.
Support is provided by the Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater.
International Programming at the Kennedy Center is made possible through the generosity of the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts.
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