Mar­tial arts, Chi­nese opera bring ‘The Bal­lad of Mu Lan’ to life

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - ISLAND BEAT - By JEFF HANSEL Email Jeff Hansel at jhansel@hawai­itri­bune-her­

An original adap­ta­tion of the Chi­nese epic poem, “The Bal­lad of Mu Lan” is sched­uled to be per­formed in Hilo this month.

“It’s not the Dis­ney ver­sion,” said Becky Dunning, man­ag­ing direc­tor of the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, a pro­fes­sional act­ing com­pany of adults.

The play fol­lows Mu Lan, who dresses up as a boy to take her father’s place in the army. Pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial says it is con­sid­ered a “new take” on an an­cient Chi­nese leg­end.

Tra­di­tional mar­tial arts and Chi­nese move­ment is an in­te­gral part of the per­for­mance. So, too, are styles of Chi­nese opera, “but very mod­i­fied,” Dunning said.

Typ­i­cally, Chi­nese opera in­cludes high­pitched falsetto voice. How­ever, the “Mu Lan” per­for­mance has been al­tered to of­fer some­thing “more pleas­ant for con­tem­po­rary au­di­ences,” Dunning said.

The “girl power” play in­cludes five the­ater staff per­form­ing at 7 p.m. Fri­day, Oct. 20, at the Univer­sity of Hawaii at Hilo Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter. All seats are $10. Dunning said the Honolulu Theatre for Youth also will per­form for pre­vi­ously sched­uled stu­dent field trips to the Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter Oct. 18-20, lead­ing up to the cap­stone pub­lic per­for­mance that Fri­day evening.

Au­di­ences have re­sponded en­thu­si­as­ti­cally to per­for­mances, Dunning said.

The Honolulu Theatre for Youth, she said, typ­i­cally per­forms six to eight pro­duc­tions yearly. The pro­duc­tions are cho­sen specif­i­cally for their per­ti­nence to stu­dents in Hawaii. Dunning said more than 100,000 stu­dents are served by HTY an­nu­ally.

“Our goal is to make sure that ev­ery child in Hawaii has the op­por­tu­nity to see live the­ater,” she said.

The Honolulu Theatre for Youth has set a goal of per­form­ing at least two shows on all six ma­jor is­lands an­nu­ally.

“We want the kids on ev­ery is­land to have the op­por­tu­nity to see the acts,” Dunning said.

“Mu Lan,” she said, is a good ex­am­ple. She said it’s de­signed to be of in­ter­est to par­ents and chil­dren.

“It’s a great show. It has a lot of hu­mor and ac­tion,” she said.

Cour­tesy pho­tos

‘The Bal­lad of Mu Lan” in­cludes en­er­getic stage ac­tion.

When Mu Lan dresses up as a boy to take her father’s place in the army, she has lots to learn.

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