EMPAC goes kawaii in

Experimental. Thought-provoking. Weird.

These are some responses that could be garnered about Thursday’s and Friday’s performance of choreographer Jeremy Wade’s “there is no end to more” at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center. The performance was based on the Japanese kawaii culture, from which the “cute” genre of anime has sprung, and its growing influence across the globe. The piece was previously performed at Japan Society in New York City, and it’s pretty cool to think that it was brought up to our campus.

The piece is primarily a solo performance in which actor/dancer Jared Gradinger participates in portions of movement and eventually a mock children’s television show skit addressing topics from puberty to consumerism and the government. Though the stage was simple with only a podium and screen, Gradinger certainly made up for the lack of props with his movement across the theater.

The piece begins with a stream-of-consciousness voiceover narration that seemed to be pointless. During this first portion, Gradinger tiptoed, ran, and hurled himself across the stage; he even mimicked flying while on his stomach at one point, moving his arms and legs as he presumably soared through the sky. The mood quickly changed into the children’s television show, which was pieced together from several characters that were reflected on the screen behind the stage, similar to those protagonists of Japanese cartoons.

The television show, in which Gradinger plays the host figure, starts with a lesson on puberty, and moves to diversity, and then toward government. High-pitched and annoying childrens’ voices interrupt each of Gradinger’s monologues with random questions and thoughts for each topic, leading to a series of tangents such as “What if your mom used to be a boy?” during a discussion of family.

Gradinger is berated by the “more, more, more” of today’s society showcased through the piece, and is eventually overwhelmed. It seems that the whole performance boils down to a critique of the overload on our senses and the consumer-happy society that we currently inhabit.

At the close of the performance, I was left greatly confused as to what I had just seen. It was your typical EMPAC performance, though this one catered more to the anime-loving RPI student than many other exhibits featured there. Kudos to EMPAC for bringing something more students can relate with, even if it is still a little out there for me!

Also of note: in conjunction with Wade’s piece, there is currently an exhibit on the sixth floor of EMPAC exploring the culture of Japanese manga and anime. The exhibit includes posters and first episodes from anime and manga series, as well as books on the cultural influence of these production forms. The exhibit is definitely worth checking out if you’re into anime (or even if you’re like me and it’s not your usual cup of tea). It’s only open until today and can be viewed between noon and 6 pm, so make your way over there quickly!