Tree City Legends was envisioned as an evening-length musical theater work chronicling the life of a Korean-American family - focused on the lives of the Kane brothers: Junie, Sum, denizen, and Min. The Legends of the story are at once flesh and fiction, men and make-believe. Their story is a remembering, a reworking of myth. Their song is a dub, a version; the sound the dead make, mourning themselves.
Written by emerging playwright Dennis Kim, and with visual design by Joan Osato, and directed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Tree City World Premiered through the nationally acclaimed art space Intersection for the Arts in February 2012.
Tree City Legends is a multidisciplinary theater work that melds post-hip hop aesthetics, urban folklore, Asian Pacific Islander cultural references, live music, myth, legend, and parable. It explores the profound feelings of rootlessness and abandonment of urban Asian Pacific Islander American immigrants and traces the lives of the Kane brothers: Sum, Junie, Denizen, and Min. Biblical imagery, multi-perspective narrative, and a sense of longing underpin Junie's story—part Bildungsroman, part blues song, part Book of Jonah remix—and haunt his rise and demise as a folk-singing sensation and eventual escape. The bitter realities of the block and a ghostly past loom in the background as the brothers struggle to make sense of a world that was not made with them in mind. Their connection to each other is expressed as an invented language—a way of survival on the margins of the cultural page.
First developed at Intersection for the Arts Hybrid Project and New Works Festival in 2008, Tree City was work-shopped as a solo piece written and performed by Dennis Kim. In our revamping of the play, primary development of the script will focused on the inclusion of other characters into the world of Tree City and informed the aesthetic of the piece by a the creation of a rich visual language firmly rooting Tree City in place, time and environment. The visual design of Tree City feeds off of the thematic focus and synergy of the play, and results in the creation of a cinematic and visual storytelling device. Using found footage, juxtaposed against portraiture and panoramic landscape images, the visual design will served as scene –setting devices, scenic design, and transitional spaces within the structure of live performance.