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Dec. 9, 2004
Behind the Stage Door


Sanity is a playground for the unimaginative


GOOFY COSTUMES, hysterical comedy, split-second timing, unique musical performances, incredible physical theater and politics too much to ask? Not in the latest Dell'Arte holiday show, Three Pigs: A Comic Tail with a Twist.

The show takes place entirely within the brick house of the perpetually indulgent Mama Pig (James Peck) who introduces us to all nine of her piglets, as played by Betsy Cross, Michelle Seekamp, Suzanne Bakker, Elizabeth Klinger, Yongzoo Lee, Stephanie Roberts, Kali Quinn, Audrey Finkelstein and Adrian Mejia.Photo of Three Pigs: A Comic Tail with A Twist

Mama Pig leads the piglets though a wolf-preparedness drill, teaching them to reply "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin," but at that point, all similarity to the traditional English folk-tale ends and the imagination begins.

Using little more than some lights and sound, and their bodies and minds, the 10 actors transport us to the house of straw, the house of sticks and finally an incredible confrontation not with any real wolf but with our fears, our hopes and our dreams.

[Photo at left: As one of the three sow sisters, Michelle Seekamp, declares the existence of an animal conspiracy as her herd lookS on. (Photo by Carol Eskstein)]

My enjoyment was doubled by watching the universal appeal of Dell'Arte's brand of physical theater reflected in the eyes of children and their parents. Neither age was bored. The children roared when the piggies defied their mother; the parents sighed when Mama Pig had to deal with a particularly trying behavior. I found myself drawn in, not only by the piece, but also by the Dell'Arte style.

Having lived both inside and outside the Redwood Curtain, I know Dell'Arte is considered one of the finest theater companies and schools of physical theater in the world. It is unique in that it offers the only Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in ensemble-based physical theater in the United States. Consequently students come from around the world to study what Founding Artistic Director Joan Schirle describes as taking "the actor beyond the role of interpreter of a director's vision or playwright's words" and into a realm where actors become creators. Forced beyond being passive and obedient, they are expected to arrive in a more conscious and intelligent state.

Incidentally, you or I would have to be really conscious to live through some of the stunts performed almost as naturally as breathing by these highly talented second-year MFA students. They clamber up and down the staging as if it wasn't shaking like a leaf. They throw themselves and each other around. They raise issues of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all the while surrounded by a threat so severe that Mama Pig can almost not articulate it. I'll be laughing at the thought of Peck's "Woo... wooo... wooo" as well as the list of wolves and their local towns of origin, including the "Woo... wooo.... wooo from Woollow Creek!"

I wish I could tell you everything they did. But if I even could, it would take this whole newspaper the show moves so fast and flows so smoothly you won't believe it when it's over. And it won't really be over, will it? I expect, like me, you'll be thinphoto of pig from the play Three Pigsking about it for a long time to come.

You can still catch one of two more free shows of Three Pigs, either at McKinleyville High School on Friday, Dec. 10 or at the Eureka Adorni Center on Sunday, Dec. 12, both shows at 7:30 p.m. Donations of nonperishable food items for local food banks are requested; pick up advance tickets at Wildberries Marketplace or at Coast Central Credit Union.

After packing the houses for free all over two counties, the Pigs return to the Carlo Theatre in Blue Lake for the show's final run with paid performances Thursday, Dec. 16 through Sunday, Dec. 19, again at 7:30 p.m. Even here, tickets are a very reasonable $5 to $7.

Also this weekend and next, Dell'Arte's Youth Academy presents a comedic archeological adventure, The Gift of Monatuma , Friday, Dec. 10 ,and Saturday, Dec. 11, plus Friday and Saturday, Dec. 17 and 18, at the D Street Neighborhood Center in Arcata. All shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Call 668-5663 for reservations and more information about either show.



It's the last weekend for The Pirates of Penzance at the North Coast Repertory Theatre, 300 Fifth Street, Eureka with shows on Friday, Dec. 10 and Saturday, Dec. 11. Call 442-NCRT for tickets.

The World of Willie Wonka continues to delight and amaze with performances Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 19. Call 786-LIVE for tickets.

Falderal presents a musical story Portrait of Christmas ; showtime is 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees through Dec. 19 at Redwood Curtain Theatre, 800 Harris St., Eureka. Not for children under five years old. Call 822-7910 for tickets and more information.


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