Ralph Lee Comes to St. John with BEFORE THE SUN AND THE MOON
Before the Sun and Moon is drawn from an ancient Korean folktale, a magical story in which a young husband and wife discover the power of love and devotion through unexpected challenges and wild adventures. As always in a Mettawee production, the show will incorporate ?masks, puppets and other visual elements. The company of actors includes Mettawee veterans Andrew Butler, Tanya Dougherty, Rob McFadyen, Jan-Peter Pedross and newcomer Claire Moodey. Assistant director Jon Riddleberger will join the cast as puppeteer. Playwright Kristine Haruna Lee wrote the script. The production is directed and designed by Ralph Lee, with costumes by Casey Compton.
The soaring musical score is by Neal Kirkwood, who has composed scores for Mettawee productions since 2001. The music will be performed by the multi-talented Ed RosenBerg on alto saxophone, hammered dulcimer and any number of rattles, bells and drums.
During its 2016 summer season, Mettawee presented a limited, four-performance "work in progress" version of Before the Sun and Moon. With more than a dozen performances scheduled in 2017, this season will bring the finished production to the company's broad audience of devoted audience members throughout the region.
About the Mettawee Theatre Company Under the Artistic Direction of mask maker, designer and director Ralph Lee, the Mettawee River Theatre Company, founded in 1975, creates original theater productions that incorporate masks, giant figures, puppets and other visual elements with live music, movement and text, drawing on myths, legends and folklore of the world's many cultures for its material. The company is committed to bringing theater to people who may have little or no access to live professional performances.
In his design and direction, Lee seeks to create vivid theatrical moments with economy and elegance. This search for an evocative simplicity of image and Mettawee's commitment to making theater accessible to the widest possible audience through its outdoor performances give this theater company its particular character.
About Ralph Lee Ralph Lee first created puppets as a child growing up in Middlebury, Vermont. He graduated from Amherst College in 1957, and studied dance and theater in Europe for two years on a Fulbright Scholarship. Upon returning to the United States, Lee acted on Broadway, off-Broadway, in regional theaters and with the Open Theatre. During that period he started creating masks, unusual props, puppets and larger-than-life figures for theater and dance companies, including the New York Shakespeare Festival, Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre, the Living Theatre, the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, Shari Lewis, the Metropolitan Opera and Saturday Night Live.
In 1974, while teaching at Bennington College, Lee staged his first outdoor production, which took place all over the college campus, and featured giant puppets and masked creatures. That same year he organized the first Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, which he directed through 1985. For his work on the parade Lee received a 1975 Village Voice OBIE Award, a 1985 Citation from the Municipal Arts Society, and in 1993 he was inducted into the City Lore People's Hall of Fame.
Two of Lee's Mettawee productions have been honored with American Theatre Wing Design Awards: The Popol Vuh in 1995 and Wichikapache Goes Walking in 1992. Under Lee's direction, Mettawee also received a 1991 Village Voice OBIE Award and two Citations for Excellence from UNIMA, the international puppetry organization. Additional awards to Lee include a 1996 Dance Theatre Workshop Bessie Award for "sustained achievement as a mask maker and theatre designer without equal," and a 1996 New York State Governor's Arts Award in recognition of his many contributions to the artistic and cultural life of New York State. In 2003, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, one of the nation's most prestigious honors. In 2008 Lee served as the Jim Henson Artist-in-Residence at the University of Maryland at College Park. He is currently on the faculty of New York University. For more information about the Mettawee River Theatre Company, visit the company's web site at www.mettawee.org.