“Soul of The City” 2024

“Soul of the City,” by Brenda Wong Aoki returns for two shows!

Saturday, June 1st at 7 PM and Sunday, June 2nd at 4 PM Presidio Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Brenda Wong-Aoki leads a team of artistic collaborators and performers for Soul of the City in two performances Saturday June 1 at 7 pm and Sunday, June 2, at 4 pm at the Presidio Theatre. Soul of the City weaves a fond and reverential narrative through San Francisco’s diverse cultural landscapes, including Chinatown Japantown, and The Fillmore.

The production showcases a rich blend of traditional Japanese theater, contemporary spoken word, pioneering Afro-Asian American Jazz and digital visual technology. At the heart of the experience are stories that tell where we came from, who we are and how we can reconnect with hope, unity, peace and identity to restore the everyday magic, transformation, activism and heart once and forever associated with San Francisco.

For tickets and more information, please visit presidiotheatre.org.

For more about First Voice and the production, please visit firstvoice.org

*** Use the “SOUL2024” discount code until May 31st for 20% off tickets at presidiotheatre.org ***

A Story of Transformation

Soul of the City intertwines personal stories with the broader historical and cultural tapestry of San Francisco, from its early days in the 1800s to the present. The performance is underscored by original Afro-Asian Jazz, a musical fusion that mirrors the city’s diverse cultural heritage and is accompanied by digital media elements that bring the city’s history to life. This journey through time and memory culminates in a communal celebration in the Presidio Theatre’s Plaza.

Live Performance Filming

Building on the success of the world premiere of Soul of the City in 2023, Soul returns in 2024 for two performances that will be filmed by multi-Emmy Award winning filmmakers, Emiko Omori and Wendy Slick, to be released as a feature-length production documenting the experience.

Soul of The City 2023 production photos by Mark Shigenaga.

Soul of the City is more than a show–it’s a communal ritual where every voice, every story and every spirit contributes to the tapestry of our City’s soul.”

Soul of the City is more than a show–it’s a communal ritual where every voice, every story and every spirit contributes to the tapestry of our City’s soul,” says Brenda Wong-Aoki. The production transcends traditional performance boundaries, offering an audience-participatory exploration of San Francisco’s multifaceted history and identity. Through its captivating mix of artistic disciplines, the show delves into the City’s historic and personal stories, celebrating the diaspora and the interconnectedness of its communities. Soul of the City is a tribute to the City’s resilience and spirit, echoing the rich cultural heritage of its iconic neighborhoods.

Celebrating Our City Together

Audiences are encouraged to come dressed in celebratory attire, embodying the spirit of the event. The performance becomes a communal act of calling forth the spirits of ancestors with the ringing of bells, a tradition that weaves together the personal with the communal.

The Sacred Tree of San Francisco, an installation by Ikebana artist Hiroko Tsunetsugu, will stand in the Theatre’s plaza as a beacon for attendees to hang their composed prayers, hopes and dreams. An “I am the Soul of the City” photo booth will offer a moment of reflection and personal connection to the City’s enduring spirit, inviting audiences to capture and share their part in the collective narrative.

About the Creative Team

Brenda Wong-Aoki and Mark Izu, whose deep roots and innovative artistry bring unparalleled depth to the story of their heritage. Aoki, with a family history spanning more than 120 years in San Francisco, and Izu, with his groundbreaking Afro-Asian American Jazz compositions, create an artistic dialogue between eras and cultures while personifying and celebrating the city’s legacy to embrace its evolving identity.

Joining Aoki and Izu is a lineup of esteemed artists, each bringing their unique
voice to the stage. Soul of The City is written by Brenda Wong Aoki, features
original music by Mark Izu (sho & contra bass) & Mas Koga (winds & keyboard), poetry by San Francisco’s poet laureate devorah major, vocals & Afro-Cuban percussion by legendary Kenneth Nash, natori master Jimi Nakagawa on Taiko, natori master Shoko Hikage on koto, multi-instrumentalist Sara Sithi-Amnuai on trumpet, sheng & handmade electronics, choreography by Claudine Naganuma, multimedia digital collage by Andi Wong and Olivia Ting, photography by Mark Shigenaga and costumes designed by Lydia Tanji.

Pictured below, left to right: (top) Mas Koga, (row 2) devora major, Mark Izu, Sara Sithi-Amnuai, (row 3) Kenneth Nash, Jimi Nakagawa, Shoko Hikage. Photos by Mark Shigenaga.

Founded by Brenda Wong Aoki and Mark Izu in 1997, First Voice is dedicated to bringing to life the stories and music of individuals navigating the space between diverse cultures.

With a mission centered on the authenticity of personal experience, First Voice has become a cornerstone in the evolution of the Bay Area’s Asian American arts scene, influencing the global arts community through its innovative fusion of Asian theatrical, musical, and spoken word traditions with indigenous American art forms. From symphonic compositions and storytelling to jazz ensembles and large-scale theatrical performances, First Voice’s work is celebrated for its exploration of identity, home, and the universal quest for understanding across cultures.

For more, visit firstvoice.org

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