Journey of the Wind Is About Love in Darkness


Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer KAYLEE YU and edited by Teen Editorial Staff Member DAPHNE BUNKER


At Jet City, improvisation is the name of the game. With their new production, Journey of the Wind, they use the malleability of improv storytelling to explore themes of humanity, loss, and childhood– all with the whimsy and finesse of your favorite animated films.

Atop the simple, rounded platforms of the stage, this collaboration, running from May 3-18 at Theatre Off Jackson, between Jet City Improv Presents and Chinatown’s Pork Filled Productions shines.

One of the most interesting things about improvised theater is the stories we end up platforming. We’re able to see the unique strengths of each actor as they bring something of their innermost self to the stage; before our eyes, raw ideas and passions mingle with finely honed acting chops. It’s a natural and unpracticed act of creation–but that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of direction.

At Journey of the Wind, the direction is a singular, consuming inspiration. Studio Ghibli’s resident genius, Hayao Miyazaki, creates films that reach millions and touch hearts worldwide. Through this long-form improv performance, director Belinda Fu explores the why and the how of Miyazaki’s storytelling. What defines whimsy? Is there “logic" to Ghibli? And lastly, and possibly most importantly: “How do you live?”

Courtesy of Jet City Improv

Miyazaki is more of a philosopher than he intends. In films like Princess Mononoke and Castle in the Sky, he speaks to the importance of nature. With Kiki’s Delivery Service and My Neighbor Totoro, he paints beautiful pictures of childhood, impulsivity, and interpersonal relationships. With all of his films, he explores the magic of reconciliation– reconciliation between nature and humans, but also reconciliation between individual human beings. Reconciliation is a wonderful thing, surely; but ultimately, reconciliation is love enduring. Reconciliation, in Ghibli, is love persevering through the darkest times.

“How do we live? Miyazaki’s answer: Love. Love for people, for living creatures, for spirits of the earth. Love that connects us with a force greater than our individual selves. A universal love that heals and gives us hope.”

Journey of the Wind Director Belinda Fu

Journey of the Wind aims to spread this message of universal love. It’s beautiful and admirable, but how can you take the message conveyed by lush animation and translate it to improvised theater, where anything can happen? You can attempt to direct a story in a specific way, but how do you know the theme has been conveyed clearly? How do you know you’re cohesive and impactful? The cast and crew of Journey of the Wind spent much of their rehearsal time cultivating deep personal connections. They explored the stories each of them wanted to tell as well as specifics of Miyazaki’s work that inspired them. In this deep dive into Ghibli films, the research and love that went into each spontaneous scene were tangible to me.

Courtesy of Jet City Improv

Without a set, props, or even costumes, it is incredibly difficult to paint a convincing picture. However, Journey of the Wind strikes a balance between flexible minimalism and blankness with the Japanese practice of “set-painting:” not with paint and wood, but with words. Two of Journey of the Wind’s ensemble take the roles of narrators, pausing scenes to describe characters, locations, and actions. This description is a key player in the success of this show–without their well-crafted world (based on audience suggestions at the start of the show), the narrative would have seemed flat.

With a question as ephemeral as “how did this make me feel,” it’s difficult to give an apt description. However, the emotions that the cast of Journey of the Wind was able to convey were poignant: from deep sisterly love to riotous delight, the story told on the night I watched had me enraptured and overjoyed. In almost every moment, I could see the hand-drawn style and signature feel of Ghibli movies. From the dank, damp mineshafts filled with bones to the lava lake with its ferryman, I saw Miyazaki’s masterful hand (or at least, the influence of it)guiding the show.

As someone who grew up on Ponyo, Totoro, and Kiki, sitting in the audience of Theatre Off Jackson filled me with childlike joy. The knowledge that the narrative before me was one-time-only, never-to-be-seen-again, fueled that enchantment—the story felt alive. I sensed the love and care poured into unconstrained creation. I could see the world being rebuilt all around me: restored, renewed, reconciled, and brimming with universal love.

Courtesy of Jet City Improv

Lead Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jet City Improv

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 5 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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