|APE STORY is set against
a continuous two-hour, wide-screen, film projection. The sound
accompaniment is diverse, with a series of compositions on the
Chinese erh-hu weaving a musical theme. There are nineteen major
performers and approximately 350 Chinese children in this highly
In the late 1920's, Franz Kafka wrote Report to an Academy,
a short play about an ape addressing the scientific establishment
with stories of life in captivity, trying to find freedom through
In 1972 , I met Eugenie Chonnard, a then 84-year-old artist living
in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1914 she was commissioned to live
with and sculpt a bust of Dinah, the first captive gorilla in
Throughout the 1970's, I video-documented and spent time with
Koko, a young female gorilla initially raised at Stanford University,
being studied and taught to communicate in American Sign Language.
For about 10 years, I would visit zoos and primate research facilities,
when traveling. Once, at the Bronx Zoo, I met Caroline, arthritic
and nearly hairless, in her 50's, the oldest gorilla in captivity.
Eventually, I composed a play about Dinah, an old gorilla able
to talk with the aid of an implanted artificial larynx. She was
entertaining, but after a while it was clear that she was also
The play, Ape Story, was to also feature an all-Chinese cast,
Chinese translation and ehr-hu music, and a choreographed, ever-increasing
gathering of Chinese children on stage, until no one could move.