• The MIT Dance Theater Ensemble's production of 'Madness at Mokuba' features giant robots (such as the one portrayed here by Kristof Erkiletian) among its many characters. Open image gallery

    Photo / Kristof Erkiletian

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Anime takes the stage

Japanese animation-inspired play features live-action heroes, villains

The excitement and eccentricities of anime will be brought to life this week when members of the MIT community perform "Live Action Anime 2007: Madness at Mokuba," a play directed and co-written by MIT professors.

Anime (pronounced "ah-nee-may") refers to Japanese animated films and television shows in which characters are often drawn with large eyes and spiky hair and presented as ultraviolent and possessed of quirky sexuality. Anime is a global media phenomenon, embracing children's shows and toys like Pokémon as well as fine arts genres including such films as Paprika.

The MIT Dance Theater Ensemble's production of "Madness at Mokuba" is part homage to anime history, part commentary on the plight of undocumented workers in the United States, and 100 percent tribute to anime creators and fans worldwide. The original production features giant robots, a Japanese schoolgirl, a lovelorn otaku, a master-less samurai, evil media magnates and a vengeful death-god, all of whom battle for truth, justice and the anime way.

The story begins in bitter conflict and intensifies from there: As two teams rev up for the finals of the giant robot contest at the Mokuba Institute of Technology, a strange disease called Virtigo sweeps the school and causes unpredictable reality slippages.

As Virtigo gets worse, the anime heroes start sleuthing. Are the reality slippages linked to Homeland Security's suspicious arrest of undocumented workers nearby? More pressing: Can the heroes solve the mystery of Virtigo, help the workers and … find love?

"Madness at Mokuba" is directed by Thomas F. DeFrantz, professor of music and theater arts, with an original script by Ian Condry, associate professor and Mitsui Career Development Professor in foreign languages and literatures. The play features a cast of MIT students, faculty and members of the MIT community.

To set the stage for the show, Condry will present a lecture, "Explaining Anime's Global Power," at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, in Kresge Little Theater.

Condry, an anthropologist who specializes in Japan, media and the globalization of culture, said MIT students broadened his anime horizons and in the process helped bring about his involvement with "Madness at Mokuba."

"I knew anime classics like 'Akira,' 'Ghost in the Shell' and 'Princess Mononoke,' but my MIT students got me excited about lesser-known works, which helped inspire the 'Madness' project," Condry said. "They introduced me to the tremendous range of cutting-edge anime that is translated by fans and made available online."

Among the MIT students taking part in the production is junior Ashley Micks, who not only performs onstage but also drew cartoons of the characters that will appear in the production.

"Madness" and Condry's kickoff lecture on Nov. 29 are sponsored by the MIT Japan Program, MIT Music and Theater Arts, MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures, SLIPPAGE: Performance, Culture, Technology, the Cool Japan Research Project and the De Florez Fund for Humor.

Performances of "Madness at Mokuba" will be held at 8 p.m. Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Kresge Little Theater. The performances are free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Condry at condry@mit.edu or 518-542-5058, DeFrantz at defrantz@mit.edu, or K.C. Cortinovis at kccort@mit.edu or 617-253-4771.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on November 28, 2007 (download PDF).

Topics: Humanities, Arts, Faculty, Special events and guest speakers


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