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Theatre brings Jungle Book to life

Theatre brings Jungle Book to life

The PSU Theatre will bring the pages of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" to life in an original adaptation of the classic children's tale Oct. 28-30 in Pittsburg's Memorial Auditorium. The performances, each night at 8 p.m., will feature drumming, chanting and even an aerial monkey ballet, according to director Cynthia Allan, chairperson of the PSU Department of Communication.

Allan, along with Linden Little and Megan Westhoff adapted this coming-of-age story about Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves and hunted by the villainous tiger, Shere Khan, for the stage. The story incorporates a narrator as each scene "turns a page" of Mowgli's adventures in the jungle. The authors kept the Kipling poetry and language as close to the original literature as possible, according to Allan, with only a few changes made for story clarity.

The production, which features 22 actors, is a collaboration that brings together the PSU Theatre program with the PSU Department of Music and aerial dancers from the Midwest Regional Ballet. From the Department of Music, Jim Clanton wrote an original drumming and chant score and Stella Hastings provides the musical direction. Aerial dancers from the Midwest Regional Ballet will play the role of the Bandar-log monkeys, with choreography by Kaye Lewis.

"'The Jungle Book' strikes a deep chord with many people," said Allan. "To be part of creating something like this from the ground up with the quality of these collaborative artists is truly unique. I've admired the work of my theater, dance, and music colleagues and for all of us to be working on the same production is a phenomenal experience. I can't imagine a more creative and vibrant atmosphere for students."

"The Jungle Book's" central character, a boy named Mowgli (Morgan Beach), learns jungle law from Baloo (Jonathan Eastman), the faithful bear, and Bagheera (Angella Curran), the powerful and loyal black leopard. Other characters include Kaa (Amy Rowland), the deadly rock python, Shere Khan (Nick Born) the killer tiger, and a whole bevy of obnoxious monkeys who tout their "most excellent selves." Through his journey to adulthood, Mowgli learns that the lessons of the jungle - Wisdom, Strength, and Courtesy - are the skills he will need as an adult in the human world.

In addition to the performers, several artists have important roles in staging this ambitious production. Lisa Quinteros is in charge of costume design, Doug Bennett is leading the set design, Jason Huffman and Deidre Galloway are providing the sound design, and Megan Westhoff is responsible for the property design. The production also features student designers Michelle Rhoades as assistant costume designer and Drew Porter as lighting designer.

The play runs nightly at 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, October 28-30, in Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are $9 for the general public, $5 for persons under 17 or over 65, and are free to PSU students, faculty, and staff with a valid PSU photo I.D. Tickets are available through the PSU Ticket Office at 620-235-4796 or at the door approximately 30 minutes prior to curtain.  Reservations are strongly encouraged.