P.NOKIO: A HIP-HOP MUSICAL Returns to Imagination Stage Today, 9/29

Hip-Hopia is back and as fly as ever when P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical returns to open Imagination Stage's 2012-2013 season. P.Nokio, written by hip-hop theatre artist and playwright Psalmayene 24 and called "inspired and quirky" by The Washington Post, updates the classic Pinocchio story with a new beat for today's audiences. Made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, this Helen Hayes Recommended musical enjoyed its world premiere at Imagination Stage this past February and a successful tour to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in March.

P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical runs in Imagination Stage's Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Theatre today, September 29 through October 18, 2012. Appropriate for ages 5-12, 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.

"I'm absolutely overjoyed that Imagination Stage has decided to remount P.Nokio, the second installment in my trilogy exploring the past, present, and future of hip-hop. It was enthusiastically embraced by audiences during its world premiere production and I'm looking forward to sharing the experience with more Imagination Stage audiences this second time around," explains Psalmayene 24 (Psalm). "In a culture that often portrays hip-hop in a negative light, I'm particularly excited about the opportunity to reveal a more positive, multi-dimensional, and, dare I say, beautiful interpretation of hip-hop than what is typically presented. I believe it's important for young people, and people of all ages, to see this youth created culture through a new lens that, hopefully, ignites the imagination and challenges you to be your best person."

In P.Nokio, G.Petto is a designer of game characters, and P.Nokio is one of his designs that magically comes to life. P.Nokio has raw talent to rap and break-dance. Arming P.Nokio with the sacred "Book of Rhymes," G.Petto sends his boy to The Old School to master style, originality, swagger, and the ways to use hip-hop to help the community. However, en route to school, P.Nokio finds a fork in the road, leading to "the way of fun and trouble," which turns out to be mighty tempting.

Psalm, who also directs and performs the title role, has been recognized as one of the pioneers of hip-hop theatre. Psalm performed at the first NYC Hip-Hop Theatre Festival. His influential solo play, Free Jujube Brown!, was published in the first hip-hop theatre anthology, Playz from the Boom-Box Galaxy: Anthology for the Hip Hop Generation (TCG). His first play for young audiences, Zomo the Rabbit: A Hip-Hop Creation Myth, was commissioned by Imagination Stage, as was P.Nokio.

The original cast and production team will return for this remounted production. Musician Nick Hernandez, sound designer/composer, had his theatrical debut with Zomo the Rabbit: A Hip-Hop Creation Myth. Nick has produced original soundtracks for Loose Change 9/11, Paige in Full, and The Peter Rosenberg Show, as well as for national and local artists. Paige Hernandez, the choreographer, also plays the Graffiti Fairy (a spray paint-wielding fairy godmother). In addition to her many performing and teaching credits, Paige is a hip-hop education advocate, helping teachers understand the fundamentals of hip-hop while incorporating the culture into their curriculum.

Joining Psalm and Paige on stage are James Johnson (G.Petto), who was previously seen in Imagination Stage's Lyle the Crocodile and Zomo the Rabbit; Jacob Yeh (Fox Madoff), whose recent credits include Brother Bear in Imagination Stage's Wake Up, Brother Bear!; and Katy Carkuff (Cat Burgler), whose credits include work with Folger Shakespeare Theatre and Studio Theatre 2ndStage.

The remainder of the creative team includes Set Designer Ethan Sinnott, Costume Designer Kendra Rai, and Lighting Designer Andrew Griffin.

By melding the classic folktales and hip-hop culture, P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical shares the relevance, genius and life-lessons of both with children.

"When Imagination Stage began producing plays 17 seasons ago, we could not always find work that challenged and inspired children adequately, so we began to commission plays," says Artistic Director Janet Stanford.

The theater has grown to become one of the leading sources of theatre for young audiences, producing more than 30 world premiere commissions, with another, Roald Dahl's The Magic Finger, premiering in April 2013.

Show Schedule:

· Public performances on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

· Tuesday-Friday field trip performances

· Special Friday Night performance on October 12

Tickets: $12 - $25; Best for ages 5-12.

Special Opportunities:

· ASL interpreted performance: October 7 at 4 p.m.

· Old School Dance Party following the October 12, 7 p.m., performance, DJ'd by composer Nick Hernandez. Admission free to ticket holders.

The 2012-13 season's remaining shows: Seussical (Nov. 14 – Jan. 6), Anime Momotaro (Jan. 30 – March 10), James and the Giant Peach (April 3 – May 26), The Magic Finger (April 12 – May 24), and Peter Pan and Wendy (June 26 – Aug. 11). Subscriptions are now available at 301-280-1660 or www.imaginationstage.org. Individual tickets go on sale on August 20.

Imagination Stage is located at 4908 Auburn Avenue, Bethesda, MD. Metered parking in the adjacent public parking garage; parking is FREE on weekends. Metro: Red Line / Bethesda Station. For Information: call 301-280-1660 or visit www.imaginationstage.org.

Photo credit: Scott Suchman

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