The Ox-Herder's Tale | Museum of Contemporary Art | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
click to enlarge cc_oxherder.jpg
When: Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 30 2008
Phone: 312-397-4010
Price: $20-$25
The ten ox-herding pictures are a kind of Zen catechism, showing the stages a person may pass through on the way to enlightenment. Developed about 900 years ago in China, they use the ox—a castrated bull, interestingly enough—as a metaphor for ego, to show that it can be caught, tamed, ridden, and transcended. But the beauty of the pictures is that they don’t stop there. After the ox disappears—at picture seven—the ox-herder disappears as well (eight), merges with nature (nine), and finally goes back to being the everyday slob he always was. Only now he’s an authentic, perfectly realized everyday slob. In The Ox-Herder’s Tale, Blair Thomas turns the pictures into physical theater. The 90-minute piece opens comically, with a performance put on by a stunningly bad magician and his frustrated assistant. Finally, the assistant goes ballistic, humiliating the magician so thoroughly that he breaks in two: one self portrayed by a human actor, the other by a life-size Bunraku-style puppet whose three handlers manipulate him with an exquisite naturalism. It’s this divided man who embarks on the journey of enlightenment described by the ten pictures—the stations of the ox. Silent but for a percussion score performed live by Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake, the show itself is perfectly realized: beautiful, inventive, masterfully crafted, moving. And something else, too: Zerang and Drake’s extended improvisation at the end transforms it into a meditation. --Tony Adler



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