“…puppetry, projections, dance and live music, will capture the imagination of the audience.” That was Michael Ross, Managing Director of Baltimore Center Stage, talking with DCTS about Mary Zimmerman’s The White Snake which will open the company’s newly renovated Head Theatre.
Acclaimed director Natsu Onoda Power has had a long history with the play.
“I remember Mary talking about it while she was in rehearsals for its first production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She mentioned that she was casting a number of Asian women in it and I joked that I wanted a walk-on role for it,” Power says. “I am drawn to this play because it is a tale of great friendship, love, and acceptance.
It is about people (and non-human entities) who fully recognize their differences, and still choose to accept and love one another. Some of the narrations of this play are so beautiful that people were already sobbing at auditions. It is an amazing experience to hear this text read out loud every day. It is an honor and AND a frightening experience to direct the play written and directed by my best friend and mentor (for the last 20 years).”
The cast includes Aimé Donn Kelly (White Snake), Eileen Rivera (Green Snake), Joe Ngo (Xu Xian) and Peter Van Wagner (Fa Hai), plus ensemble of Caitlin Cisco, Samy el-Noury, Lucy Lavely, Brett Messiora, Pooya Mohseni, Linden Tailor, Damian Thompson, Jason Kao Hwang, Joshua Ziemann and Yukio Tsuji.
“It is an energetic, diverse, and fun ensemble. And by ‘diverse,’ I don’t mean we have different skin tones and differently-sounding last names, but I mean that we have a wide range of training, backgrounds and performance styles,” Power says. “That goes for our on-stage actor-musicians too. They are an amazing group that teaches me new things every day.”
Power first met music director Jeff Song a few years ago while directing a show in Boston (he was an actor in it) and she immediately thought of him when Baltimore Center Stage approached her about the project.
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The White Snake
February 24 – March 26, 2017
Details and tickets
“Jeff and his quartet have an incredible dexterity and playfulness that are making this show come alive,” she says. “I asked them to compose a DC go-go inspired number in one of the scenes… it ended up being a kind of hybrid ‘faux-go,’ but it is not ‘less than’ go-go, it’s just a kind of eclectic, fun music.”
The story originates from an ancient Chinese fable, and follows the tale of animal spirits White Snake and Green Snake, who take human form as a beautiful woman and her sly servant. White Snake soon falls passionately in love with a poor fisherman, but their relationship is reviled by a conservative monk and tragedy lurks behind their newfound happiness.
“Ironically, I have never seen this show, though I have seen practically every other show Mary has directed in the last 20 years,” Power says. “Mary is someone who writes in words and images. So much of the stage actions/images are described in the stage directions — I am following some and not others, but not because I am trying to do anything different—the mechanics of our set/stage/ensemble simply don’t allow for some of the same stage directions. I will also say that my very talented ensemble is beautifully making it their own. I am the least-contributing factor here.”