"Children of Paradise," a play with mime that draws its inspiration from the classic of French film, comes to life in a physically demanding new staging written and directed by Richmond Shepard. With music direction by Harrison Wade, and a cast of 14, "Children of Paradise" parts the curtains on a small French theatre in the 1800's, The Funambules, where Jean Baptiste Gaspard Debureau was the first mime to play Pierrot as the leading character, supplanting Harlequin.
The New York premiere of "Children of Paradise" plays its limited three-week run from February 7 to 24 at the Theater for the New City (Christal Field artistic director) 151 First Avenue. The opening is Sunday February 10 at 3pm.
"Children of Paradise" performs three consecutive weeks, from Thursday February 7 through Sunday February 24, with performances as follows: Thursday through Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm. For tickets, which are $25, call Smarttix at 212/868-4444, or go to www.smarttix.com
Unlike the 1945 film by Marcel Carné (with a screenplay by Jacques Prévert) that fictionalized the life of the legendary mime, this "Children of Paradise" is based directly on Debureau's life and career. The acrobatic mime-play features a company of 14 consisting of mimes, actors and gymnasts, all of whom are members of The Mime Guild.
Carné's classic was the only motion picture shot during the German occupation of France during World War II. Carné and his collaborators were allowed to make the movie as evidence that the Germans were not destroying French culture, and as long as it remained strictly apolitical. The film's covert messages of defiance notwithstanding, and the fact that its creative team harbored Jews working in secret, "Children of Paradise" was so costly and took so long to shoot, that no more such films were allowed.
The stage show includes three of of Debureau's complete mime pieces, which were written down by his son 170 years ago, parts of which were performed in the film.
An earlier version of the play, called "Pierrot," was performed at The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 1971, with Shepard playing Debureau. This is the show's New York premiere. Throughout the years Shepard has continued to teach and perform mime all over the world and at his eponymous theatre. Still performing at 83, Shepard is probably The World's Oldest Active Mime. His book "Mime: The Technique of Silence" is still widely taught in colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and the U.K.
The cast includes Chris Douros as Baptiste Debureau/Pierrot, Kendall Rileigh as his wife Columbine, and Marcus Watson as Harlequin. Also featured are Jonathan Hendrickson, Denise Whalen, Jenny Chang, Stacey Hull, T Valada-Viars, Alexander Merinov, Aaron Kaplan, Bruce Schaffer, Michael Siegell, NathaniAl Moore, Peter De Paula. Composer and music director Harrison Wade leads a band consisting of clarinet, violin, and keyboard.
"Children of Paradise" performs from February 7 to 24, at Theater for the New City, 151 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets). Tickets are $25, can be ordered in advance by calling Smarttix at 212/868-4444, or online at www.smarttix.com For more information visit www.childrenofparadise.net