Sky of Darkness
A new play by Siting Yang
Directed by Rakesh Palisetty
Produced by Zhe Pan and Devin Ray Ramirez
June 2-12, 2022
Performances Thu-Sat at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 3:00 pm
Tickets $25 – buy HERE
Siting Yang’s Sky of Darkness is a documentary-style play that takes a somber look at neocolonialism, race, and the perils of personal choices in the face of complex global issues. Loosely adapted from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and informed by the harsh 1975 critique of the novel by African writer Chinua Achebe, the work is based on actual, first-person accounts of Chinese nationals who found themselves in the service of a huge government-owned industrial conglomerate selling and operating military equipment in West Africa. Focusing on the developments that get little exposure in the Western media, Yang’s play asks questions pertaining to the social and ethical consequences of the modern-day expansion of Chinese industrial power in the Black Continent. Featuring the international cast and creative team and infused with multimedia, the two-act piece juxtaposes live actors and pre-recorded content, creating a dreamlike narrative that examines the fleeting nature of memory.
Sky of Darkness tells the story of a modern-day persona modeled after Conrad’s Marlowe – a young Chinese pilot Ma Luo who is sent on a mission to West Africa under a state-owned enterprise in military aviation. Ma Luo starts off with his naive belief that he could make a contribution to the aviation industry in Mali, but as he learns more about the corrupted and selfish intentions of his colleagues and the actual threats of terrorism around him, Ma Luo gradually becomes disillusioned and starts to question the real agenda behind his mission. Confronted by the ghost of the Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, Ma Luo departs on a profound journey into his own memory of Africa, dissecting his dream, guilt, and disillusionment.
The show, starring HanJie Chow as Ma Luo, Malcolm Opoku as The Ghost of Chinua Achebe, and Sanskar Agarwal as The Pakistani Pilot is directed by Rakesh Palisetty and features dramaturgy by Zhe Pan, projection design by Andrew Freeburg, sound design by Sophia Shen and Lemon Guo, and cinematography by Daniel Cho. Elliot Gong is the producer of the film used in the show.
Please note: COVID 19 boosters and KN95 masks are required to enter the venue. Masks will be also available at the door. Space capacity has been restricted to 45 seats. The safety of our audience and artist is a priority. Thank you for helping us keep Theaterlab a safe space for everyone.
About the Artists
Siting Yang (Playwright) is a playwright, director, and aspiring scholar from Beijing, based in NYC. She seeks to explore radical aesthetical expressions of individual discontent, resistance, and digression with factual and historical materials. Her select credits include Ward No. 6 (Schapiro Theater, New York); V.A.B.E.L (Brecht Festival, Berlin and Augsburg), TTD (University of Toronto), and Marat/Sade (TheaterNine, Beijing). She received her BA in German Literature and World History from Peking University, MFA in dramaturgy from Columbia University, and is continuing her studies towards a Ph.D. in German Literature at Harvard University.
Rakesh Palisetty (Director) is a theater, film, and opera director from New Delhi, India. Most recently, he was a Directing Fellow with the Lucille Lortel Award-winning musical Kimberly Akimbo at the Atlantic Theater. His shows have been toured extensively across India. Select credits include Much Ado About Nothing at Two River Theater, Hedda Gabler at Lenfest Center for the Arts, Thirty-Six Questions at Columbia Stages, and Bedtime Plays at The Tank. He is currently in the MFA in Directing at Columbia University.
Zhe Pan (Co-Producer, Dramaturg) is a bilingual, cross-disciplinary theatre artist. Select dramaturgy credits include Made By God (Irish Rep); Awakening Youth (Shanghai, ET Space); Juggernaut, Thirty-Six Questions, and Hedda Gabler (Columbia Stage); The Box Cutter and In the Woods Where the Man Works ( New York Winterfest, Ensemble). He has also served as a language and culture translator in a variety of Chinese-American theatrical collaborations, including a recent position at Broadway Asia. Zhe is currently a Dramaturgy MFA candidate at Columbia University School of Arts.
HanJie Chow (Performer, Ma Luo) is a multidisciplinary theatre artist. Credits include Boxes (Creating Apart ’21, London), The Last Gasp, Bike America, The Richard Project, Lady Lucy, and Virtual Love in Lockdown (Fentress Films). HanJie is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Collaborates behind-the-scenes in costuming and as a photographer: POTUS (Broadway), KPOP (Ars Nova), Underground Railroad Game (Ars Nova), Sing Street (NYTW) hanjiechow.com
Malcolm Opoku (Performer, The Ghost of Chinua Achebe) is a graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse School of The Theatre (NY). Recent credits include: Marat/Sade (Lenfest Center for the Arts), As You Like It (Lenfest Center for the Arts), Black Hollow (Alchemical Studios), A Stitch Here Or There (The Playwright’s Loft), and Ruined (Heights Players).
Sanskar Agarwal (Performer, Pakistani Pilot) is a South-Asian actor and a graduate of the NYU Tisch School for the Arts. Credits: Exit Strategy (Atlantic Theatre), Halal Brothers (Columbia), Jyoti’s Bridge (Columbia), A Thousand Suns (La MaMa).
Devin Ray Ramirez (Co-Producer) is currently attending the MFA in Theatre Management and Producing program at Columbia University. Prior to Columbia, Devin attended UT Austin (2020) where a highlight of his studies included working on the development of new plays as part of the University of Texas New Theatre (UTNT) program. Recent producing credits include Zeit Heist (Columbia), and America, Home, Heart (Columbia).
Elliot Gong (Film Producer) is an NYC-based producer currently pursuing his B.F.A. at NYU Tisch School of the Arts with a double major in Film & TV Production and East Asian Studies. The films he produced have been featured by Senses of Cinema, a prestigious online film magazine, and have been selected by Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, Flicker’s Rhode Island International Film Festival, and LA Shorts International Film Festival. In 2020, he was awarded the Akhtar-Bhutta Fund for Student Producers.
Andrew Freeburg (Projection Designer) is a second-year MFA Directing candidate at Columbia. He directs theatre, film, and installations; he also designed video, scenery, and props for the Dmitry Krymov Laboratory and productions in Europe and the United States. His projection designs were featured in Darling Grenadine (Roundabout Theatre Company), The View, and The Trojan Women (both at Columbia). Recently, Andrew directed Victory over the Sun at the Moscow Historical Museum.
Sophia Shen and Lemon Guo (Sound Designers) are female composers and sound artists who work in the interstices of multiple genres and are active in the United States, Japan, and China. They have been collaborating since 2013. Their debut album 42 Days (2021) has been featured on BBC Radio 3, BBC Sound, NTS Radio, Montez Press Radio, Framework Radio, International Computer Music Conference (ICMC), New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (NYCEMF), Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS), Broadway World, Tone Glow, and New York Music Daily, amongst others.
Daniel Cho (Cinematographer) is a director of photography based in New York and is currently pursuing a degree in Film/TV Program as a Dean’s Scholar at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Beatrice Mai (Production Designer, Film), is a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker and art director based in New York City and China. She is currently pursuing a degree in film and television at NYU Tisch School Of The Arts, with a minor in food studies.
Artwork by Yichan Wang.