African-Amazin'

Powell Symphony Hall is overtaken by giant shadow puppets

This Sunday afternoon, an ambitious melding of music, theater, dance and storytelling at Powell Hall promises to give children and their parents something at which to marvel.

The Creation of the World is the name of a piece presented by a troupe known as the Underground Railway Theater. The piece is chiefly a puppet show utilizing "gigantic" (their word, not ours) shadow puppets to tell a tale out of ancient West African mythology and is one of the group's signature acts.

If that alone doesn't sound intriguing, throw in Yoruban dancing, live drumming, narration by Wes Sanders and, oh yeah, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performing the jazz-inspired music of the composer Milhaud, conducted by David Amado.

But that's not all, folks. "The Chenoo Who Stayed for Dinner," a work by Peter Schickele, a.k.a. P.D.Q. Bach, is also presented. The shows are introduced by KMOX-AM's Carol Daniel and son P.J. (The Symphony's Family Concert series has been calling on local media personalities and their children to emcee these events.)

For about an hour before the hall darkens at 2 p.m., the lobby becomes an extravaganza of fun stuff for kids. The St. Louis Science Center is trundling over some hands-on exhibits, musicians demonstrate their instruments, the Puppet Guild of Greater St. Louis performs and the Build-a-Bear Workshop people expand their lucrative empire of do-it-yourself custom-stuffed-animal-making.

The multimedia shadow-puppet performance is the kind of collaboration among different types of artists that is exciting for audiences of all ages. As exemplified by last week's Thin Girls Dancing "video ballet" by St. Louis Community College-Forest Park's James Hegarty, performances that combine traditionally stratified arts have about them the scent of the future.

The Creation of the World is performed by the Underground Railway Theater, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Amado, and others at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 19, at Powell Symphony Hall. Activities for kids begin at 1 p.m. Call 534-1700 for tickets.

 
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