METTAWEE RIVER THEATRE COMPANY ‘OUT OF THE PAST: CELEBRATING 40 YEARS OF THE METTAWEE JOURNEY’
Grab a blanket, a picnic and head to Beggs Park for an entertaining evening of theater magic!
The Mettawee River Theatre Company comes to Essex on Wednesday, July 15th at 8:00pm in Beggs Park for its 2015 production, OUT OF THE PAST: Celebrating 40 Years of the Mettawee Journey. ** Rain location will be the Masonic Lodge located on Route 22 next to the Ferry entrance.
The production will include scenes and songs from four decades of Mettawee productions. There will be appearances by Aristophanes’ gluttonous dung beetle, as well as Brecht’s forlorn lovers in THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE. The world will be created on the back of a turtle; the great Irish sea god Mannanon will declaim the tragic tale of Phaedra; and Grandmother Earth will send Nanabozho off to get the world ready for humans, Archy the cockroach and his lowly associates will share memorable moments from their illustrious careers, and two long lost brothers will be reunited in VALENTYNE AND ORSON. All these encounters will incorporate an abundance of Mettawee’s signature masks, puppets and giant figures.
According to Mettawee Artistic Director Ralph Lee, “These headstrong characters have been clamoring to be let out of their boxes for another fling in front of their fans, so I finally decided to let them have their way. Here goes! I take no responsibility for their behavior.”
The production’s 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 and bass saxophone, hammered dulcimer, accordion and any number of rattles, bells and drums. A company of Mettawee veterans has come together for this summer’s retrospective production (dates indicate the performer’s first Mettawee year): founding member Stephanie Gallas (1975), Tom Marion (1987), Jan-Peter Pedross (2006), Kristine Lee (2008), Greg Manley (2008), Tanya Dougherty (2011) and Rob McFadyen (2012). The production is directed and designed by Ralph Lee, with costumes by Casey Compton.
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, including a full schedule of this summer’s outdoor tour, visit the company’s web site at www.mettawee.org.