Deaf West Theatre's THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO Opens 2/25

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Kicking off its 20th Anniversary, Deaf West Theatre puts its own, unique spin on the classic story of a mischievous puppet who wishes to become a real, live boy. Using a mix of deaf and hearing actors, Stephen Rothman directs The Adventures of Pinocchio, a commedia dell arte adaptation of Carlo Collodi's 1883 novel by Lee Hall that brims with clever political subtext and sly social commentary. Deaf West's retelling of Pinocchio's treacherous journey through childhood opens February 25 at Deaf West Theatre in North Hollywood's NoHo Arts District, with two low-priced previews on February 17 and 18. (The Adventures of Pinocchio is rated "PG" for mild language and dark themes - recommended for ages 10 and up.)

Tony Award-winner Lee Hall (Billy Elliott) has created an adaptation of Carlo Collodi's novel that is steeped in the Italian tradition of commedia dell'arte, a comic that lends itself perfectly to Deaf West Theatre's signature, award-winning combination of signed and voiced theater. Characterized by improvised text based on plot outlines and stock characters, commedia uses sexually challenging language and physical comedy to poke fun at society. In that spirit, Hall encourages theater companies to "cut, expand, mess about and improvise to suit the needs and strengths of all involved." Deaf West has taken the playwright at his word, integrating ASL (American Sign Language) and controversies relevant to Deaf culture into the production. In keeping with Deaf West Theatre's singular artistic vision, The Adventures of Pinocchio will join talking and signing on stage in one poetic dance, illuminating the text in new ways and creating a uniquely rich theatrical experience.

"Pinocchio's story is hilarious and comical, full of old-fashioned slapstick and true theatrical magic," says Rothman. "But we'll also be sneaking some serious thematic material into the fun. Right around the time Pinocchio was written, something called the Milan Conference took place in Italy, which promoted the idea that sign language was not acceptable and that people who were deaf should learn to read lips. Similar forums wanted to prevent deaf people from marrying one another so that deafness would not be passed down to future generations. Using improvisation, we're working some of these concepts into our story."

The Adventures of Pinocchio stars James Royce Edwards (Deaf West's Pippin at the Taper, Broadway productions of Hairspray, Mamma Mia); Lindsay W. Evans (Deaf West's My Sister in This House); Matthew Henerson (Romeo and Juliet directed by Peter Hall at the Ahmanson, Hamlet directed by Dan Sullivan at South Coast Rep, When Garbo Talks at ICT); Tommy Korn (the face of Russienor Spring 2010 Menswear collection, Mr. Deaf California Ambassador '09-'11of C.A.D. Youth), Lexi Marman (former Miss Deaf California, Best Actress nominee for AFI Film Festival award winner Hamill); Colin O'Brien-Lux (recent graduate of UCLA's school of Theater Film and Television); Darrin Revitz (Deaf West's My Sister in This House, Linda Eder at The Palace on Broadway, LADCC award-winning productions of assassins and Zanna Don't, LA Weekly Best Musical The Beastly Bombing); Vae (Deaf West productions of Oliver!, Aesop Who?, the national tour of Big River); and, as Pinocchio, Amber Zion (Deaf West's My Sister in this House).

Set design is by Evan Bartoletti; lighting design is by James Moody; costume design is by Ann Closs-Farley; sound design and original music are by Joe Cerqua; wig, hair and make-up design are by Carol Doran; properties design is by Alexandra Dunn; ASL master is Linda Bove; casting is by Michael Donovan; the production stage manager is William Coiner and associate producer is David Kurs.

Italian author and journalist Carlo Lorenzini took his pen name, Collodi, from his mother's native village in Tuscany. His active interest in politics may be seen in his earliest literary works as well as in the founding of the satirical newspaper Il Lampione. Lorenzini had won fame as early as 1856 with his novel In vapore and had also begun intense activity on other political newspapers such as Il Fanfulla. In 1875, he entered the domain of children's literature with Racconti delle fate, a translation of French fairy tales by Perrault. In 1876 Lorenzini wrote Giannettino, the Minuzzolo, and Il viaggio per l'Italia di Giannettino, a series which explored the re-unification of Italy through the ironic thoughts and actions of the title character. Fascinated by the idea of using an amiable, rascally character as a means of expressing his own convictions through allegory, in 1880 he began writing Storia di un burattino ("The story of a marionette"), which was published weekly in serial form in Il Giornale dei Bambini (the first Italian newspaper for children). The 1883 novel, re-titled Le avventure di Pinocchio, is one of the great inventions of modern literature, a melding of literary genres unique for its time that merges the traditions of the picaresque, of street theater, and of folk and fairy tales into a work that is at once adventure, satire, and a powerful enchantment that anticipates surrealism and magical realism. Pinocchio's world is not a traditional fairy tale world, instead containing hard realities such as the need for food, shelter, and the basic measures of daily life, and the setting of the story is the very real Tuscan area of Italy. In the original, serialized version, Pinocchio dies a gruesome death, hanged for his innumerable faults. At the request of his editor, Collodi added chapters in which the Fairy with Turquoise Hair rescues Pinocchio and eventually transforms him into a real boy when he acquires a deeper understanding of himself.

Director Stephen Rothman returns to Deaf West Theatre where he previously directed Orphans, Of Mice and Men, and What Are You...Deaf? Best know as the founder and artistic leader of the Pasadena Playhouse from 1979-1988, he has also served as artistic director of the Sacramento Theatre Company and as producing director of Pennsylvania Center Stage. In 2001, Mr. Rothman joined the faculty of California State University Los Angeles, serving for two terms (six years) as chair and artistic director of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, where he continues to teach and direct as a tenured professor. His numerous directing credits include Echoes and Room Service (Pasadena Playhouse), Sockdology, Stag at Bay and Greater Tuna (Asolo Theatre Company), California Schemin', Camping With Henry and Tom, Dracula and Hometown Heroes (Sacramento Theatre Company), To Kill a Mockingbird, A Walk in the Woods and Peccadillo (Geva Theatre), The Comedy of Errors (Illinois Shakespeare Festival), Charley's Aunt (Utah Shakespearean Festival) and God's Man In Texas for Florida Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse In the Park, and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. He has had the privilege of directing many world premieres including Father, Son, and Holy Coach (Santa Monica Playhouse), The Scandalous Adventures of Sir Toby Trollope (San Diego Rep), Sparky and Fitz starring Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson (George Street Playhouse), and Gilligan's Island: The Musical (Chicago's Organic Theatre). For TV, he spent two seasons directing episodes of The New WKRP in Cincinnati.

Founded by artistic director Ed Waterstreet in 1991, Deaf West has produced over 40 plays and four musicals, winning more than 80 theater awards including a Tony® nomination and four Drama Desk Awards for the Broadway production of Big River. Award-winning productions include: Big River (Ovation, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and Backstage Garland awards for Best Musical, Tony and Drama Desk nominations, Best Revival), A Streetcar Named Desire (Ovation Award--Best Play, 2000) and Oliver! (Ovation Award-Best Musical, 2000). In 2005, DWT was selected to receive the Highest Recognition Award by the Secretary of Health and Human Services for its "distinguished contributions to improve and enrich the culture lives of deaf and hard of hearing actors and theater patrons." A former 12-year member of the National Theatre of the Deaf, Ed Waterstreet starred in the Emmy Award-winning Love Is Never Silent and the recent Hallmark movie, Sweet Nothing in My Ear. Ed was the recipient of the James A. Doolittle Ovation Award for Leadership in the Theater at the L.A. Stage Alliance 2003 Ovation Awards ceremony. Most recently, Ed was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from his alma mater, Gallaudet University.

The Adventures of Pinocchio runs February 25 through March 27, with performances on Thursdays and Fridays @ 8 pm; Saturdays @ 2 pm & 7 pm; and Sundays @ 2 pm. (Please note: there will be no Saturday matinee performance on March 26.) Audience Talk Backs follow the matinee performances on Saturday, March 5 and Sunday, March 13. ASL Nights are Thursday, February 24; Thursday, March 3; and Friday, March 4: arrive at 7:30 pm for a ½ ASL workshop that teaches signs used in the play. Four preview performances will take place on February 18, 19, 20 and 24 on the same schedule. General admission is $25; children 12 and under are $15; and tickets to previews are $15. Student rush tickets are available for $15 with valid ID, 30 minutes prior to curtain on Thursdays March 3; 10 and 17 (subject to availability). Deaf West Theatre is located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood, CA 91601. There is ample street parking. The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 818.762.2773 (voice) or 866.954.2986 (video phone), or go to www.deafwest.org.

 

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Amber Cassell From a very early age, Amber Romina Cassell always knew that she did not want to be a writer. While attending film school at the University of Southern California, however, she volunteered as a critic for the school newspaper in order to see all the plays and screenings around town and the rest, as they say, is history. A devoted lover of musical theater, Amber has had the immense pleasure of covering some of Los Angeles' most prominent theatrical events and has conducted in-depth interviews with some of Broadway's greatest talents and strives everyday to help promote and encourage the LA theater scene.


 
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