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 Akira Matsui and Zhou Long perform "Forgiveness".   Photograph by Rachel Cooper.

Akira Matsui and Zhou Long perform "Forgiveness".

Photograph by Rachel Cooper.

Inspired by a classic Chinese ghost opera, "Forgiveness" gives voice to the complex collective memory and emotions of the post-war generation of Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. Conceived and directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and developed over two years in collaboration with composer Eve Beglarian and noh master Akira Matsui, "Forgiveness" was produced by the Asia Society and co-commissioned with the Festival d'Automne a Paris, Flynn (Michigan) Theater for Performing Arts, Hebble Theatre Berlin, the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) and the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan.

Based on The Punishment of Zi Du, a ghost story about glory, betrayal and retribution, "Forgiveness" uses movement, text and slide projection to join history with the present moment. Live music, ranging from Korean vocals and Japanese shakuhachi, to a driving hip hop rant, brings the metaphorical story alive for a generation burdened by the history of their respective nations.

"'Forgiveness" seeks to break through the passed-down, even unconscious hatred and suspicion that is prevalent among Chinese, Koreans and Japanese and find ways to acknowledge the brutal past in order to move more positively into the next century," said Chen Shi-Zheng.

Since 9/11, the creators of "Forgiveness" have been retooling the production to fit the new political climate, and presentations are being planned for Paris, Berlin and, possibly, Asia. But in Minneapolis, where it first opened in March 2000, followed by performances in Burlington, VT, Ann Arbor, MI and Seattle, WA, local Asian American communities responded profoundly to what they experienced.

"'Forgiveness" brought together people from a dozen different ethnically specific organizations, groups that hadn't even been in the same room together before," explained Rachel Cooper, director for performing arts and public programs. "It uncovered buried issues, issues that haven't been shared before, and the audience was affected very powerfully. It was so much more than a performance."