Storytelling partners
use humor, music
to get people together
FARMINGTON — “Chicken-Fried Sushi”? When you hear a title like that, you know something interesting is going to happen.  And when celebrated Japanese mime-storyteller Motoko and her African-American partner, the inimitable jazz vocalist-storyteller Eshu Bumpus, perform for adults, that something will be an amazing evening of intimate, multicultural theater.

Motoko and Eshu are funny, moving, musical and intriguing. The internationally-acclaimed duo will be performing “Chicken-Fried Sushi: Stories to Nourish Your Soul” at the Emery Community Arts Center at the University of Maine at Farmington on Saturday evening, June 13. In addition to their evening program for adults and older children, they will present a free multicultural folktale program for families at the Farmington Public Library on Saturday at 10 a.m.

Sponsored by Western Maine Storytelling, their programs are funded in part by the New England States Touring program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.

“We are a unique collaboration,” they explain.  “We’re a combination of differences – different energies, different cultural backgrounds. What links us together is our love for music, for sharing stories, for bringing people together.”  In their shows for adults they sing together and trade stories that combine to portray a whole world.  Eshu will tell, Motoko will drum; Motoko will tell (and mime), Eshu will play music. “I go for humorous stuff,” says Motoko, “but my goal is to articulate a sense of humanity.”  Eshu adds, “And we hope people will come away from the evening knowing that they, too, can tell stories.”

Interested in theater and mime, Motoko came to the University of Massachusetts as an exchange student from Osaka, Japan, in the mid-1980s, and later studied with Tony Montanaro at Celebration Barn in South Paris.  Eshu grew up in a tough neighborhood in Roxbury, Mass.  A gifted mentor to younger children, he was drawn to the great libraries and museums of the Boston area and read every folktale and myth he could find, finally coming to the African folklore that is now at the heart of his repertoire.

Motoko and Eshu have been learning from each other and performing together professionally for more than 20 years in hundreds of schools, libraries, festivals, and museums.  Both have been showcased at the National Storytelling Festival.  In 2012 they traveled to Senegal with a group of artists.  In their show at the Emery Theater they will include the story of their visit to Goree Island, the “point of no return” from which slave traders shipped Africans to the Americas.  Eshu will perform the very moving song he composed for and sang at Goree Island, “A Land Called Freedom.”

Eshu and Motoko will present a free multicultural folktale program for families at the Farmington Public Library, 117 Academy St., on Saturday, June 13, at 10 a.m..  They will perform “Chicken Fried Sushi” at 7:30 pm on June 13 at the Emery Community Arts Center at the University of Maine at Farmington, on Academy Street.  Admission is $10 at the door.  For more information, go to, or call 645-2982.

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