Now in its 39th season, the Mettawee River Theatre Company will present their production of ‘THE DANCING FOX: Wisdom Tales of the Middle East’ at Beggs Point Park in Essex on Wednesday, July 23 at 8:00pm. Admission is free. Please bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on. For additional information, call 518-962-4663.
In case of rain, the performance will be held at The Masonic Lodge, in Essex.
This performance is sponsored by Essex Initiatives. Made possible, in part, by the Essex County Arts Council CAP Grant supported by the Essex County Board of Supervisors.
About the Show
THE DANCING FOX, a reprise of a 2003 Mettawee production, is gathered from the shared folk traditions of Jews and Arabs, including the writings of Sufi mystics, along with fables and folklore of the region. In these tales we encounter some clever foxes, dim-witted fish, a vengeful snake and other colorful creatures, as well as a number of wise and foolish humans. New perspectives emerge from the comic twists and tragic turns of their adventures. A variety of masks, puppets and giant figures will be used to flesh out the particular realm of each tale.
According to Mettawee Artistic Director Ralph Lee, “Eleven years ago, when asked what THE DANCING FOX was about, I would reply, ‘Folk stories found in both the Jewish and Arab traditions.’ ‘Oh, how timely!’ was often the response. Eleven years later, same question, same answer, and, ‘Oh, how timely!’ Well, I guess our previous production didn’t change the course of history in the Middle East, and it won’t this time, either, but the stories are still rich with delicious humor, uncanny insights, and sharp barbs, ready to jab you into painful laughter as they hit home.”
THE DANCING FOX is written by Dave Hunsaker, who was the playwright for Mettawee’s THE NORTH WIND in 1985, PAPYRUS in 1986 and THE HEROIC AND PATHETIC ESCAPADES OF KARAGIOZIS in 2004. The production’s score is by Neal Kirkwood, who has composed scores for Mettawee productions since 2001. Veteran Mettawee performers Tanya Barfield, Rob McFadyen and Jan-Peter Pedross will be joined by Jon Froehlich and Rachel Kodweis, with accordionist JP Schlegelmilch. The production is directed and designed by Ralph Lee, with costumes by Casey Compton.
THE DANCING FOX is recommended for audience members eight years and older.
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.
For more information about the Mettawee River Theatre Company, including a full schedule of this summer’s outdoor tour, visit the company’s web site at www.mettawee.org.
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.