The Asian Festival, a semester-long cultural event headed by the University’s Asian Studies Program and started on Jan. 18.
This event is devoted to showing the University community different art forms to honor Asian culture.
The Asian Studies Program, in conjunction with the theatre department and the University Art Gallery, have prepared a wide range of artistic events including workshops, lectures and performances.
Each of these events, spread out over the entire spring semester, is designed to represent a major Asian country.
Joanna Rotte director of the Asian Studies Program, led in the development of this semester-long event.
“My concept was to offer an artistic form from each of the major Asian countries,” Rotte said.
She had been thinking about the festival idea for quite a while. After the recent approval of the Asian Studies minor, Rotte thought this was a good time for the festival to come to life.
The major Asian countries and areas highlighted for the event are Japan, Pan-Asia, China, India and Tibet.
Every few weeks there will be an event wholly centered on an artistic and cultural tradition from that region.
The art forms that will be presented throughout this festival are both visual and motion art.
“Over a period of four months we will have featured art from each of the most influential Asian countries,” Rotte said.
The first of these presentations was Japan, which was displayed on Jan. 18-20 through a staged reading of a new play done in five acts.
This play was written by Rotte herself, based on traditional Japanese Noh theatre.
The play, “The Beautiful Life of the Woman Komanchi,” had been on Rotte’s mind since 1983, and she saw this festival as the perfect opportunity for its creation, as she hardly has time for any outside work.
The University provided a guest director, Elizabeth Dowd, to help make this traditional play come to life.
“I wrote it in Noh theatre form,” Rotte said. “The woman of Komanchi was considered the most beautiful woman ever born in Japan and it’s the story of her life as she grows older and loses both her beauty and her court standing. She goes through a very deeply personal, spiritual journey.”
A presentation on “The Musical Elements of Japanese Noh Theatre” on Jan. 19 included a musical performance and talk.
Tomorrow, the festival will be featuring Pan-Asian culture through a keynote speech by Tisa Chang, artistic producing director of Pan-Asia Repertory Theatre in New York.
Later this month, China will be highlighted through an artist talk and calligraphy workshop as well as the opening of an art exhibit titled Lampo Leong’s “Enchanted Brushwork.”
Rotte and Fr. Richard Canulli, O.S.A. have been working together to bring Leong’s abstract and dramatic artwork to the University for a while now. Leong will be attending the opening.
Late March will feature an Indian dance performance and workshop entitled “Contemporary Expression in Traditional Bharata Natyam.”
“I wanted to include artistic movement,” Rotte said.
Finally, April 19 will feature a Sand Mandala Dissolution. This is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition that is said to depict the Wheel of Life.
The Sand Mandala will be created by a Tibetan Buddhist lama in the same line of lineage as the Dalai Lama.
Over the span of a week, the Tibetan lama will create the mandala sand by sand, piece by piece, in the Villanova Art Gallery.
By the end of the week, there will be a ceremony in which the mandala will be completely dissolved.
The variety of cultural events will leave a mark on the University’s campus. Rotte mentioned that the campus does not currently have a representation of Asian art and culture.
“I wanted to offer [Asian culture],” Rotte said. “Most of our Asian Studies at Villanova are from an economic and political science point of view. The contributions of Asian art to the world are tremendously moving. I wanted our community to have an opportunity to appreciate this culture first hand.”