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UofL's ‘The Orphan of Chao’ premiere will offer unique approach

by John Chamberlain last modified Nov 05, 2010 03:33 PM

Nov. 4, 2010

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. –The University of Louisville African American Theatre Program (AATP) and the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts are collaborating in an exchange program to help students learn more about each other’s culture and traditions in the performing arts.

 

The AATP, a program of UofL's Department of Theatre Arts, will present an original adaptation of the classic Chinese opera, “The Orphan of Chao,” at 8 p.m., Nov. 22-24, as part of the initiative. All performances are at the Thrust Theatre, 2314 South Floyd Street.

            The play is often referred to as the “Chinese Hamlet,” according to AATP director Lundeana Thomas, but will be presented quite differently on the UofL stage.

“The story will be told as seen through African American eyes, introducing elements of hip hop and Yoruba themes of color, music and movement,” Thomas said.  

In December, Thomas and others from UofL will visit the Beijing academy where they will work with a group of Chinese students who will travel to Louisville to perform during the annual Chinese New Year celebration Feb. 10-13. Thomas led UofL students in a Chinese tour in 2007 which led to discussions between the groups and a subsequent partnership between the institutions.  Thomas says she believes this is the first partnership that the National Academy has ever had with an African American group.

 

“I profoundly love the exchange,” Thomas said, “but it excites me as a director to meet the challenge of presenting a play from one culture to another. Surprisingly, it has helped me to learn more about my own.”

The play and exchange program has called for a unique approach toward creating the play and funding the initiative. The play has three directors. Assisting Thomas will be Obie Award winner Paul Carter Harrison, who helped students learn Yoruba theatre traditions, and Kathryn Ervin, theatre professor at California State University, who brought expertise on hip hop expression and movement. The play's costume design was directed by Daryl Harris, theatre professor at Northern Kentucky University, and scenic design was led by United Scenic Artist member Felix Cochren from Syracuse, New York.

“Everyone assisted in the adaptation of the story, including the cast,” Thomas said. “We will take a 13th century play from its Chinese setting to an ecosphere dome surrounded by a toxic wasteland in 2111.”

Thomas credits a combination of donors and supporters including UofL President James Ramsey and university deans, former students and colleagues from around the country.

Tickets are $10 or $20 based on seating location. Ticket sales will help support the visit by the Chinese students in February. For more information about the play, exchange or tickets, call 502-852-8443.

 

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