ANIME MOMOTARO Makes East Coast Premiere at Imagination Stage, 1/30-3/10
Anime Momotaro is a staging of a famous Japanese folktale that teaches powerful lessons about inner strength and the ability to stand up against bullying. Created and premiered by the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Imagination Stage is bringing Eric Johnson (adaptor/director) and Alvin Chan (adaptor/choreographer) from Hawaii to develop an expanded version for Imagination Stage audiences.
Anime Momotaro runs in Imagination Stage’s Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Theatre January 30 through March 10, 2013. Best for ages 5-10, tickets are $12 to $25, and may be purchased online at www.imaginationstage.org, at the Imagination Stage box office, or via phone at 301-280-1660. Group rates are available.
Set in ancient Japan, an elderly couple longs for a child. Their wish is granted when a huge peach floats down the river and breaks open to reveal a baby boy. As Momotaro (momo means peach; Taro is a common Japanese boy’s name) grows up to be the strongest young man in all the country, he realizes he must take a stand against his village’s one small problem: giant ogres. Ogres have been bullying the villagers for years, and with the help of his friends – the dog Inu, the monkey Saru, and the bird Kiji - Momotaro meets his foes face-to-face. Thus, an action-packed adventure is born.
This play is part of what Imagination Stage Artistic Director Janet Stanford calls a “youth speaks to age effort,” which offers children new perspectives on the culture they are consuming (the recent P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical is another example of this work). Stanford explains: “Anime is now part of our globalized culture and the visual effects and storytelling style has become part of youth language. Rather than dusting off the classics, we need to be developing work that looks at what’s going on now, responds to how kids live, and sees if we can make art from it. Children will be amazed to see how the stylized figures, wacky camera angles, and exaggerated sound effects that they know from anime digital media productions are presented live on stage.”
Anime Momotaro was adapted from the traditional Japanese folktale by Alvin Chan, Eric Johnson, and Honolulu Theatre for Youth. “One of the things that attracted me to this idea is that young kids all over the world are influenced by anime,” says Johnson. “Kids will recognize some of the aesthetics of movement and color that have been picked up by filmmakers and graphic artists to create the cultural landscape of the now.”
Honolulu Theatre for Youth was founded in 1955 and is one of the oldest and most respected children’s theatres in the country. Imagination Stage and Johnson first worked together in 2004 when he directed Liang and The Magic Paintbrush, and then again in 2005 with Callisto 5.
Jacob Yeh will perform the title role of Momotaro. Jacob was most recently seen at Imagination Stage in P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical and Wake Up, Brother Bear! He has also performed at Ford’s Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Adventure Theatre MTC, and Discovery Theater.
Phil Reid and Tia Shearer will play the old couple. Phil (also playing Monmon and Inu) has performed in several productions at Imagination Stage, including Dr. Dolittle, Wind in the Willows, and Pirates! A Boy at Sea. Tia (also playing Nakoman and Kiji) performed in Imagination Stage’s production of Bunnicula. Rafael Untalan (Daimon/Saru) is new to Imagination Stage. Rafael received his MFA from Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at the George Washington University. Ryan Sellers will perform as the koken, a puppeteer dressed in black who manipulates objects to create special effects and is unrecognized by the actors onstage.
The creative team for Anime Momotaro includes Set Designer Natsu Onoda Power, Costume Designer Deb Svigny, and Lighting Designer Zac Gilbert. Terry Hong is the Cultural Advisor, and is on board to ensure that cultural references translate properly for mainland audiences. Terry is a media arts consultant for the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program and was an Artistic Advisor for Imagination Stage in 2009-10.
Imagination Stage’s 2012-13 season continues with two Roald Dahl plays in repertory, James and the Giant Peach (April 3 – May 26) and The Magic Finger (April 12 – May 24), followed by Peter Pan and Wendy (June 26 – August 11).