A Chinese cloud dragon saves the city of Wu by chasing gold-seeking robbers (who are attired in rice bags) out of town with all the bluster and flamboyance a dragon can muster.
A Chinese cloud dragon saves the city of Wu by chasing gold-seeking robbers (who are attired in rice bags) out of town with all the bluster and flamboyance a dragon can muster. "Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like" is a wild frolic, a theatrical extravaganza with twists and turns fitting a dragons tale.
Opening night for this Taos Children's Theatre performance is Friday (April 12), 7 p.m. at Enos Garcia Elementary Auditorium, 305 Don Fernando Street. Additional performances are planned Saturday (April 13) at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The cast will also perform the play for Enos Garcia Elementary students in grades one to five, supported with curriculum guides.
Local veteran actor-director Karen Thibodeau, who heads TCT, worked with the Academy of Performing Arts to produce the play. According to Thibodeau, the show includes the talents of students from 10 different Taos schools. The cast of 27 young actors come from Anansi Charter, Enos Garcia Elementary, Taos Charter, Vista Grande High, Taos High, Taos Middle School, Ranchos Elementary, Taos Academy and Roots and Wings, among other schools.
The play is based on a Ho Tai story from China. According to Thibodeau, Ho Tai is the beloved figure of Chinese folklore, the laughing Buddha. "Even today many people rub the round belly of his statue for good luck," she said. "This happy figure can be seen in Chinese restaurants to bring everyone good fortune."
Taos actor Jim Avery brings his talents to the stage, playing the round-bellied good luck Ho Tai. Appearing as Mandarin Chao Cheng is Shanti Jones, along with the youthful talents of Selena Aragon as Matchmaker Two for One, Jesus Rosales as Lost Man Yin, Arriana Gonzales as Princess Song Li and Rowan Higdon as Han.
Student actor Reyanna Martínez said, "I like almost everything about this play. My favorite part is when the cloud dragon comes in and makes all the robbers vanish." Jesus Rosales, who plays one of the mischievous robbers, said, "I enjoy playing the robber. We get to put rice bags on our heads, get chased by a dragon and play with our friends - what could be better?" Kaely Tafoya plays Princess Haily. She likes her part because she gets to "break rules to help the city."
Kiera Armijo, who plays one of the robbers, said she loves to be "inside the rice bag and the onstage staff fight." Eva Goins, also a robber, said she likes "sneaking around stage trying to steal gold." Eight-year-old Angelina Reed plays Ting, one of the gatekeepers. She said she is "having lots of fun."
Actor Alma Lightman is a natural storyteller who, according to her mom, likes to circulate in restaurants where the family visits and tell jokes to unsuspecting patrons. Director Thibodeau said Alma is "a tiny standup comedian." Lightman plays Ha Ha, one of the robbers. She said about her role, "I get to be dragged on to the stage. My costume is nice, but it's hot, and I think it's fun. I met some friends." She added that people who come to the show "will think it's pretty funny."
Selena Aragón described her experience with the play more philosophically than her castmates: "There are a lot of funny scenes in the play. People come together because of bad things. The lesson is if someone new comes around, don't judge them, don't judge a book by its cover - welcome them in."
Layla Martínez said she loves being able to sing and perform, and "the costume is so cool, it's very glittery and stuff." Rowan Higdon, who plays Han, describes his character as "the gatekeeper, very poor, he is an orphan who works for four bowls of rice and four cups of tea." Higdon added, "Any play by Karen is fun. I sing in this part which I haven't done before. The play has a very interesting timeline. There is politics, humor, the robbers are hilarious, and, I got a group hug from the cast on my birthday!"
Michelle Roaque of Academy of Performing Arts choreographed the Celebration Dance, the high point of the production, with authentic ribbon sticks, scarf fans and twirling parasols, plus a dragon. The set design by Thibodeau incorporates Chinese silk hangings for the Mandarin's palace. Costumes of Wu are created by Randolph Grey Thorne III, assisted by Erica Reeve and Taos Youth Ballet. They feature oriental headdresses drawn from 200 B.C. Grey has designed for Taos Children's Theatre for the past 20 years. Christopher Heron is the director of the robbers. Victoria Ortiz co-directs. Production sponsors include the New Mexico Arts, Taos Community Foundation, the Jones Family Fund, Chevron Mining Foundation and Taos businesses.
Tickets are $10, $8 seniors and teens, and $5 for children 12 and under. For more information, call or text (575) 758-0027.
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