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Release: Immediate

Children's Theatre Company performs 'Wondrous Tales of Old Japan' Oct. 6-9 in Hancher

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Children's Theatre Company, America's leading producer of theater for young audiences and families, will present "Wondrous Tales of Old Japan" at 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, Oct. 6-9, in the Loft of the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium. The Loft is an intimate setting in which the audience is seated on the Hancher stage. The 7 p.m. curtain time was arranged to accommodate families with young children.

"Wondrous Tales of Old Japan" dramatizes three folktales in the larger-than-life style of Kabuki, the highly stylized musical theater spectacle whose history can be traced back for centuries. Kabuki uses exaggerated, almost cartoon-like speech and movement; elaborate costumes, make-up and masks; and a percussive musical accompaniment that provides sound effects, punctuates the action and heightens moments of particular drama or comedy.

The centerpiece of the trilogy is "The Adventures of Momotaro, the Peach Boy," which follows the adventures of a magical boy and his animal companions.

To create "Wondrous Tales of Old Japan," the artists of the Children's Theatre Company collaborated with Kabuki artist David Furumoto and master taiko drummer Kenny Endo, both of whom have been associated with the National Kabuki Theatre in Tokyo.

Furumoto is considered the leading American authority on Kabuki. A native of Hawaii, he works both as an actor and as a professor of drama specializing in Asian theater.

Endo began his training in western drums but then discovered taiko, the Japanese drum once used for village communication and now used in festivals and rituals. Endo was the first foreigner to earn a master's degree in the art of classical Japanese drumming, which has been made popular world-wide by the drumming ensemble Kodo.

In addition to presenting the evening performances in Hancher, the Children's Theatre Company will be in residence in the Iowa City schools, working with all the sixth-grade and combined fifth/sixth-grade classes.

Hancher Director Wally Chappell, whose career includes research in Japanese theater and directing a youth theater, presented a Kabuki workshop to help the teachers prepare for the residency. Graduate-student artists from the UI Arts Share program will also present workshops for the elementary-school students on the role of folktales in cultures.

The school groups will attend matinee performances of "Wondrous Tales of Old Japan," which will be followed by question-and-answer sessions with the artists.

The project was developed with the Iowa City Schools as part of the sixth-grade focus on the study of ancient cultures.

The Children's Theatre Company, which is headquartered in the Twin Cities, has been called "the flagship of North American children's theater." During three decades of performances and educational activities, the company has developed an international reputation for staging innovative original works and spirited adaptations of the best in children's literature.

The company's tours have included regular stops at Hancher Auditorium, performing works including "Strega Nona," "Animal Fables from Aesop," "Two African Tales," "The Adventures of Pippi Longstockings" and "Raggedy Ann and Andy."

Hames Mobile Homes is the corporate sponsor of the public performances of "Wondrous Tales of Old Japan," through the UI Foundation. The Children's Theatre Company residency is supported by the Heartland Arts Fund.

Tickets are $20 ($16 for UI students and senior citizens, and $10 for audience members 17 and younger) from the Hancher box office. All tickets have been sold for the Friday, Oct. 9 performance. Tickets remain available for the other three performances.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

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