KU student troupe to stage 'Jungalbook'

Sunday, February 2, 2003

Kansas University's Theatre for Young People will stage Edward Mast's "Jungalbook" this week and next.

The story, based on Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," chronicles the life of Mowgli, a boy raised in the jungle by animals after his parents are killed by Sherakhan, a tiger. Mast, who loved Kipling's tales of loyalty, adventure, and betrayal, adapted the stories into play form in 1982 and won the 1991 Distinguished Play Award from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education.

The KU-TYP production is directed by Dennis Christilles, associate professor of theatre and film, who also designed the sets, costumes, and masks used in the play. Lighting designer is Jennifer Luck, Lawrence graduate student. Choreographer for the production is Hannah Ballou, Topeka senior.

Performances for children in grades first, second and third of Lawrence and Douglas County schools are Monday-Wednesday and Feb. 10-11. The public performance will be at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall.

Although Mowgli knows he is different from the animals, he thinks he's a wolf and has no fear in the jungle, not knowing Akela, the leader of the wolf pack, has been protecting him from the evil Sherakhan all these years. When Akela is killed by the tiger, Mowgli is forced to decide whether to kill Sherakhan, which is against the "Law of the Jungle," or leave the jungle forever to join the man village.

"Jungalbook" is at times comic, but Christilles wants the TYP production to have a sacred feel to it, not of a specific religion, but something tied to a kind of collective mythology.

What: "Jungalbook," presented by KU Theatre for Young People.When: School performances are Feb. 3, 4, 5, 10 and 11. Public performance is at 2:30 p.m. Feb. 9.Where: Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall.Tickets: $6 for the public, $3 for students, $5 for seniors. Buy them at University Theatre, 864-3982; Lied Center, 864-ARTS; SUA Office, 864-7469; and online at www.kutheatre.com.

Christilles said the animals wear masks of gold with abstracted features like the mask of Agamemnon or the lion's head found at Mycenae.

The actors wear simple garments with a hint of identifying color -- orange and white for the tiger, black for the panther, gray for the wolves. Six of the animals will be depicted by puppets of various types and sizes, including the elephant, python, monkey, vulture, hyena, and the buffalo. The humans will be represented by large puppets as well.

Christilles' setting represents the jungle as a cage or a series of cages. He is using sacred music of India in the play. The animals' movements are inspired by Indian dance.