Our holiday tradition continues! The creative team behind Aladdin: A Musical Panto puts their signature touch on the adventures of young Arthur as he discovers what it means to become a king. With their magic and hilarious antics, Merlyn and the Dame of the Lake guide our hero on a quest to save the land from the dreaded Red Dragon.
Approximate run time is 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission. This show is best enjoyed by ages 5 and up.
On Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 we will be offering a sensory-friendly performance of Arthur and the Tale of the Red Dragon: A Musical Panto. Sensory-friendly performances are designed to create a theatre experience that is welcoming to all families with members (children or adults) on the autism spectrum or with other sensory sensitivities. Learn more or buy tickets here.
Have Brunch with your Favorite Panto Characters!
Join us at 11:45AM at The Farmhouse Bistro for brunch before the December 7th, December 14th, and December 21st Sunday matinees and meet your favorite Panto Characters! View the full menu here.
Arthur: Jon Mulhearn Merlyn: Christopher Patrick Mullen* Sir Pellinore/Red Dragon: John Jarboe* Sir Grummor/Red Dragon: Mary Tuomanen* Sir Ector: Tom Teti* Kay: Alex Bechtel* Dame of the Lake: Mark Lazar* Morgana Le Fay: Kim Carson* Archimedes: Susan McKey* Isaac the Stag/Accolon/Lancelot/Druid: Marc LeVasseur* Torch Angler the Fish/Balin/Guenever/Druid: Liz Filios* Antonio the Burro/Vortimer/Druid: Jake Blouch*
Director: Pete Pryor
Assistant Director/Choreographer: Samantha Bellomo
Composer and Lyricist: Michael Ogborn
Music Director: Ryan Touhey
Drummer: Kanako Omae-Neale
Set Design: James F. Pyne, Jr.
Costume Designer: Marie Anne Chiment
Lighting Designer: Lily Fossner
Puppet Choreographer/Designer: Robert Smythe
Production Stage Manager: Kate McSorley Fossner*
Sound Designer: Michael Hahn
Dramaturg: Gina Pisasale
Line Producer: Zak Berkman
* Member, Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers.
The scene is set in the magical medieval Panto-land of Nrevlam. (Hint: like Merlyn’s life pattern, the solution of this location’s name is puzzled out backwards.) It is a world full of jousting knights, stag hunting parties, a Questing Beast, and magical wizards. But the dreaded Red Dragon controlled by the evil Sorceress Morgana threatens the land. Nrevlam must find a king to unify and lead them fast! Enter Arthur, or “Wart” as he’s been nicknamed. Wart is set to be a squire for his older brother Kay, but he dreams of becoming a dragon slayer. He’ll soon learn that he’s destined to be much more. Wart serendipitously comes under the tutelage of the wizard Merlyn and his magical animal friends who teach him that there’s more to life and leadership than showy feats of strength. With the help of the Dame of the Lake, they guide Arthur through quests involving beliefs, discernment, burdens, and a certain sword named Excalibur fixed in a stone, always dodging the constant threat of the Red Dragon’s rage. When Morgana makes a decisive grab for Excalibur and rule of the land, Arthur must take what he’s learned and fight for the good of Nrevlam.
Our young intrepid hero. He is brave, loyal, and a little confused.
A wizard living backwards in time. At the beginning of the play he is very old. He becomes younger as the story progresses. He is magical, mystical, a great teacher and a little confused.
A well-aged dotty knight of Nrevlam
A getting-on-in-years yet bombastic knight of Nrevlam
Kay’s father and the man who raised Arthur. A caring man but restricted by court ideals and the way things should be. His intentions often get muddled.
Arthur’s big brother with all that entails.
Dame of the Lake
The keeper of Excalibur. Arthur’s mysterious and motherly guide. Our beloved Dame.
Morgana Le Fay
An evil diva. Wants to control everything and most importantly destroy Arthur. She has magical powers over all men and owns the will of the Red Dragon.
Merlyn’s wise owl that looks after both Arthur and Merlyn. Fastidious, exact and helpful in clearing up the inevitable confusion.
Isaac the Stag, Torch Angler the Fish, & Antonio the Burro
Magical animals in the Forest of Nrevlam. Each has their own lesson to teach Arthur about how to be a leader.
A chivalrous and honorable knight of Nrevlam.
Eager with eyes for Nrevelam’s future king, whoever it may be.
Accolon, Balin, & Vortimer
Morgana’s prisoners. They have endured it all.
WHAT IS A PANTO?
By Lee Devin and Gina Pisasale
“I’ve always thought it a wonderful form, because it can include anything the theatre is able to give a welcome to.” ~Ian McKellen on Pantos
Coming out of the commedia dell’arte, the Twelfth Night holiday (with has reversal of roles as a tradition), the Festival of Fools and Epiphany, the Christmas Panto is today the most popular theatre form in Great Britain. In a single year, 19 pantos played in London and 187 in the rest of the country.
Traditionally, pantos typically take a well-known fairy tales or other favorite children’s story and turn it on its ear. Favorite stories, which have inspired countless different Pantos, are Aladdin, Robin Hood, Cinderella, Dick Wittington, Jack and the Beanstalk, Mother Goose, Puss in Boots, Sleeping Beauty, Goldilocks and Snow White. These familiar stories form the basis for exaggeration, variation and topical social commentary, as well as outrageous jokes, humorous songs, sprightly dances and, sometimes, a strangely affecting love story.
The tradition has developed some fairly rigid conventions of plotting, casting and story. Here are some of the familiar elements that audiences at People’s Light have come to relish:
• The Dame: a boisterous yet benevolent matriarch played by a man in drag
• A hero (sometimes played by a woman); a heroine; and a stock villain
• A comic duo
• A basic story that explores themes of love, friendship, and good vs. evil
• Music, dance, and slapstick
• Audience participation: boo, cheer, even argue with the characters onstage
• Satire of local events, government policies, and famous people
• A “slosh scene” or “messy bit”: a slapstick routine with something wet, gooey, and/or slippery
• A “candy bit”: the actors throw candy into the audience, sometimes by the villain’s lackeys to get information about the hero
• Silly songs that the audience joins in singing
Since the 18th century, audiences have gathered in droves to enjoy the songs, jokes, costumes and treats of this Christmas celebration. At People’s Light, we’re having great fun joining this tradition, adjusting it to our culture and aesthetic, bringing it to our time and place. We don’t want to get all solemn, but these stories live in the hearts of us all, and beneath the fun and foolery they touch us in fundamental ways. We want to place these deep stories on out stage without losing the madcap, All Fools’ Day impulse that invented the panto back then and keeps it alive today.
THOUGHTS ON PEOPLE’S LIGHT PANTOS & THE PLAY
BY THE DIRECTOR, PETE PRYOR
"Arthurian legend is rife with great stories. There are many narrative threads to choose when creating a Panto from such rich material. However, the tale of young Arthur and his journey to become King is what interested us the most. Using the nascent leader’s mentoring process from Merlyn as a jumping-off point, we created a Panto that will be unlike any other. I am excited to be working on this project with co-author and the choreographer of every single PLTC Panto, Samantha Bellomo. We also will be bringing one of the foremost puppet artists in the United States to our creative team. Robert Smythe will create our monster, the nemesis of young Arthur, the dreaded Red Dragon."
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Pete Pryor (co-playwright & director) is the Associate Artistic Director at People’s Light and has directed the past six Pantos in addition to Mr. Hart and Mr. Brown, Noises Off, and Bach at Leipzig all at People’s Light. He also co-wrote Aladdin: A Musical Panto with Samantha Bellomo in 2012. His play Beautiful Boy was part of the Community Matters reading series and was produced at People’s Light in 2012.
Pete Pryor is a celebrated Philadelphia actor, director, teacher, and playwright. He has performed at the Arden, the Wilma, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Act II Playhouse, Theater Exile, the Lantern Theatre, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, and Azuka Theatre. His extensive work at People’s Light includes performances in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Doubt, Humble Boy, The Miser, and The Foreigner, among others.
Pryor is the recipient of two Independence Foundation Individual Artist Fellowship Awards. He has won four Barrymore Awards: Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play (Richard III at Lantern Theater Company), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play (Road at The Wilma Theater), Outstanding Director of a Musical (Cinderella at People’s Light), and Special Recognition for receiving a Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship, a prestigious distinction awarded to only 10 regional theatre actors across the U.S. each year.
He is the co-founder and former Producing Artistic Director of 1812 Productions in Philadelphia and has been the Resident Artist/Drama Instructor for the past seven years at the Pathway School, an institution dedicated to helping students with special needs achieve success and independence.
Samantha Bellomo (co-playwright & choreographer) is Resident Director at People’s Light where she has worked on over 30 productions as Director, Choreographer, or Fight Director. She has choreographed all of the Pantos since their inception in 2004. In 2012, she co-wrote Aladdin: A Musical Panto with Pete Pryor.
She has also worked with the Arden Theatre Company, Lantern Theatre, Delaware Theatre Company, Act II Playhouse, Mauckingbird Theatre Company, Villanova Theatre, and Delaware Shakespeare Festival. Most recently, she directed The Two Gentlemen of Verona at DSF, directed and choreographed the highly acclaimed Pride and Prejudice at People’s Light, and directed an all-female reading of King Lear with Revolution Shakespeare. She is a five time Barrymore nominee for Outstanding Choreography/Movement for Syncopation (Act II), Go Dog Go (Arden Theatre Company), Cinderella (People’s Light), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (People’s Light), and Treasure Island: A Musical Panto (People’s Light).
Bellomo is also teaching artist. At People’s Light, she designs and teaches the Teen section of the Arts Discovery Summerstage program and also leads and coordinates the Subscription Teen Engagement Program (STEP). She co-founded Dancing With The Students, a non-profit organization that offers ballroom dance instruction to 5th – 8th grade students in North Philadelphia and Chester, and teaches Ballroom Dance at Drexel University. For the past three years, she has also been a teaching artist for the Drama program at the Pathway School, an institution dedicated to helping students with special needs achieve success and independence.
Michael Ogborn (music and lyrics) was born and raised in Philadelphia He has written the music and lyrics for the past seven pantos at People’s Light: Treasure Island (2007-08 and 2011-12), Cinderella (2008-09 and 2013-14), Snow White, The Three Musketeers: The Later Years, and Aladdin. Michael’s work has also been produced at The Arden Theatre Company, The Wilma Theater, and 1812 Productions. He received Philadelphia Magazine’s 1992 “Best of Philly” Award for Cabaret Performer. His 2002 musical fantasia Baby Case received eleven Barrymore nominations and four awards, including Outstanding Music and Best Musical of the Year. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild Inc., the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, and the owner of Leydensong Music Company.
Robert Smythe (puppet design) is considered one of the foremost puppet artists in the United States and is widely acknowledged to have changed perceptions about puppetry and theater throughout America. As the founder and Artistic Director of Mum Puppettheatre, he has written, directed and performed over 20 original productions using puppets, masks and human actors. He has also directed and created work for the Arden Theater, the Wilma Theater, Interact Theater Company, the Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis, and the Independent Eye. He has created four original concert works with the Philadelphia Orchestra and one of them, Swan Lake, won the 2003 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Collaboration.
He has also won prestigious fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and awards and honors from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the American Center for the Union Internationale de la Marionnette. He has won four Barrymore Awards in the areas of choreography, design and education, and received Barrymore nominations for acting and sound design.
Smythe was the first American theater artist to visit Romania after the fall of the Communist government there. He has performed his work throughout Japan, Europe, North and Central America, and at many venues throughout the United States, including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Baltimore Theater Project. His work can also be seen at EPCOT Center at Walt Disney World and on Nickelodeon. He is listed in Who's Who in America.
SOME HISTORICAL CONTEXT: THE LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR
The Round Table experience a vision of the Holy Grail. From a 15th-century French manuscript.
The actual historical existence of King Arthur continues to be debated by historians. So how have we become familiar enough with Arthurian legend to name a Las Vegas hotel Excalibur and call JFK’s administration “Camelot”?
Tales of Arthur’s heroism and influence are central to the Matter of Britain, the collective body of medieval literature of Great Britain. The earliest literary references to Arthur come from Welsh and Breton sources. The earliest reference to King Arthur is in a stanza of a 6th century poem by Aneirin, one of the Cumbric kingdoms’ court poets. His Y Gododdin is a series of elegies for the warriors of Britain’s Early Middle Ages. The first published narrative account to mention Arthur by name as the hero of a dozen battles was Historia Brittonum, written c. 830 by the Welsh monk Nennius. It includes the “Six Ages of the World,” the “History of the Britons,” accounts of legendary figures, as well as highlights the cities and “wonders” of Britain. Geoffrey of Monmouth used Nennius’ work as his main source for his Latin work, Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain). This work, completed c. 1138, is an imaginative and fanciful account of British kings from the legendary Trojan exile Brutus to the 7th-century Welsh king Cadwallader.
Through the 12th and 13th centuries, a variety of Arthurian romances began to focus less on Arthur himself than on heroic knights such as Lancelot, Percival, Galahad, Gawain, and Tristan and love interests such as Guinevere and Iseult. The work of French poet Chrétien de Troyes had the greatest influence on the development of Arthurian romances in the 12th century. This includes the introduction and development of the knight Lancelot’s relationship with Queen Guinevere as well as the story of the Holy Grail. Medieval Arthurian romances culminated in Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory, a 15th century knight and landowner. Published in 1485, it was one of the earliest printed books in England. By the end of the Middle Ages, the appeal and interest for Arthurian legend waned and in 1634, Malory’s previously popular text went out of print for almost 200 years.
Romanticism and a Gothic revival of the Victorian era rekindled interest in medieval Arthurian romances. The most influential literary work to this Arthurian resurgence was Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Idyllis of the King, a reworking of the entirety of Arthur’s life published in 1859. In the 20th century, King Arthur established his current popularity with T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, published in 1958. White’s account of Arthur was the first to include narratives of his childhood and tales of how Arthur became king.