News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Young Life: It’s ZooZoo!
BY COLLETTE CAPRARA
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
A giant penguin vying with an audience member for a theater seat? An oversized anteater flicking a morsel from a patron’s pate? A rambunctious polar bear petting the theater-goers? All are possibilities when ZooZoo comes to the Hylton Performing Arts Center this Sunday.
“At a performance, anything can happen,” said Jerry Mouawad who co-directs the production with his wife Carol Triffle. “A kid could say anything, a person in the audience could do anything and our actors are prepared to interact with it all!”
The fascinating, fast-paced show features larger-than-life costumed characters and incorporates bits of the performances that Mouawad and Triffle have produced since they first launched the Imago Theatre company in 1979. In a wordless but hilarious production, these talented and powerfully athletic actors invest their energy and prowess to convey their characters with unblemished authenticity.
They perfectly demonstrate the animals’ movement—from waddling penguins to hopping rabbits and leaping frogs. With universal appeal and no language barrier, Imago Theatre productions have thrilled audiences of all ages throughout North America, Asia and Europe.
The dynamic directors are closely involved with every aspect of the show.
As Mouawad explains, “Carol and I are hands-on all the way from the conception and development of a character, to casting a clay model for a creature’s mask, to choosing what case it should go into when the show goes on the road.”
At the same time, he credits the entire cast for the success of Imago Theatre’s productions.
“We do the design and some of the details, but the actor has to bring it to life. It’s a collaborative effort. I describe it as an ensemble production, meaning that everyone who is participating is highly integral to the process.”
The facile, lighthearted nature of Imago’s productions belies the tremendous investment of time, effort and skill in the creation of every portion of a show, each of which may take anywhere from six months to five years to develop.
The pantomimed performance weaves together scenarios of humorous animal interaction—for example, Mr. and Mrs. Hippo in pajamas, battling for bed-space.
Inspiration for specific characters comes from a wide variety of sources, such as an object falling over in the street, a person riding on a bus, or a dream.
“We might even be in the midst of a rehearsal when something goes terribly wrong but then triggers an idea for a character and is really something wonderful in disguise!” Mouawad said. “It’s about keeping your eyes open and not determining what you think should be on stage but being alert for anything in the world that speaks to you.”
The awe-inspiring productions of the Mouawad/Triffle team should come as no surprise, given that Carol was trained by the renowned master of mime Jacques Lecoq and Jerry by one of his students.
“The audience can view the show on three different levels: as an artistic performance, as visual art [moving sculptures], and as slapstick and illusion,” said Mouawad. “Hopefully, they will see it on all three of those levels, though they might not realize it at the time. It’s certain that they will experience something that they’ve never seen before.”
What: Imago Theatre ZooZoo, part of the Hylton Family Series
Where: The Hylton Performing Arts Center, George Mason University, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas. Free parking is available in the lot next to the Hylton Center.
When: Sunday, April 22, 2 p.m.
Cost: $15 adults, $5 children
Tickets/reservation: 888/945-2468, hyltoncenter.org
Collette Caprara is a local writer and artist.