‘Dragon’ tells a Chinese tale well with puppets

  • By Alice Kalso / Special to The Herald
  • Thursday, March 29, 2007 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

SEATTLE – Things aren’t always what they appear to be.

A wizened monk turns out to be a marauder. And an aged hermit is really a dragon in disguise.

These characters appeared on stage last weekend at the world premiere of Seattle Children’s Theatre’s “Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like.” Designed for children ages 5 and older and their families, and featuring an assortment of puppet characters, this play took theatergoers to ancient China, telling a compelling story of an orphan’s desire for greatness.

The play continues through June 10 in Seattle.

On all counts, this production was excellent. Seattle playwright Bret Fetzer succeeded in expanding Jay Williams’ fairy tale-type picture book into an engaging script, lacing it with liberal amounts of humor and beefing up the characters. Puppets worked well. They visually increased the size of the relatively small stage in the Eve Alford Theatre, adding to the sense of majesty.

They also captured the essence of the play’s multiple characters. Thanks to puppet coach Douglas Paasch’s training of the amazing four-member cast, the focus is on the puppets, rather than the actors, from the minute the play begins.

The action starts at the gates of the Chinese city of Wu, where orphan Han (Khanh Doan) ekes out a living as a gate sweeper. At his side is his only friend, his pet pig, Ping.

In the course of his day, Han meets some interesting characters including a crazy old hermit woman who threatens to move the city, a conniving merchant who temporarily swindles Han out his meager possessions and an aged monk who has an important message for the mandarin. Along the way, Han asks himself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Perhaps a soldier, perhaps a mandarin.

At the mandarin’s palace, the ruler shows himself to be addle-headed and self-centered. The monk announces that the Wild Horsemen, a band of bloodthirsty barbarians, are on their way to attack Wu. Minutes later, the supposed monk rips off his disguise to show himself as a wild horseman. The mandarin decrees that all of Wu should pray to the Great Dragon for help.

At the end of the first act, Han once again meets the old hermit woman who proclaims, “I am the great dragon.”

A stirring second act finds Han aligned with the hermit woman who pleads her case to the mandarin in vain. He doesn’t believe she is the Great Dragon. Later, because of Han’s hospitality toward her – he shares his last bit of food and water – the old woman agrees to save the city. She reveals her true dragon form.

By the end of the play, with the city saved, a courageous, generous Han is certain of what he wants to be when he grows up: Not a soldier, nor a mandarin, but a dragon.

This was a fine performance. Kudos go to Tristan M.T. Dalley for her design of puppets and the set, which uses cloth banners and two-dimensional flats, evocative of Chinese painting. Lee Dombroski’s costumes take the viewer back to ancient China. Finally, director Rita Giomi keeps the production flowing along nicely.

Talk to us

More in Life

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay walks into the Prohibition Grille along Hewitt Avenue in Everett Wednesday Dec. 5, 2012 while reportedly filming an episode of Kitchen Nightmares at the Everett restaurant. (Mark Mulligan / The Herald)
Even more films and TV shows filmed in Snohomish County

Readers point out projects previously missed in this series, from reality television to low-budget indie films.

Daniella Beccaria / for The Herald

15-month-old Kantu attempts to climb a pumpkin at Stocker Farms in Snohomish on Sunday, September 20th, 2015. Stocker Farms offers a U-pick patch, farm animals and a corn maze.
Best pumpkin patch in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied, here are the results.

The city of Mukilteo is having a naming contest for its new $75,000 RC Mowers R-52, a remote-operated robotic mower. (Submitted photo)
Mukilteo muncher: Name the $75,000 robot mower

The city is having a naming contest for its new sod-slaying, hedge-hogging, forest-clumping, Mr-mow-it-all.

Local musician Alex Johnston, whose newest album "Daylight Fooldream" pairs with short film he made with help from his partner Mikaela Henderson, sits with his morning coffee on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at Narrative Coffee in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Folktronica musician shoots 37-minute visual album on iPhone in Everett

Alex Johnston, 31, describes his music as ”if Coldplay and Bon Iver had a love child.”

Death of parent with child. Piece of paper with parents and children is torn in half.
Helping children cope with the hard realities of divorce

I’s important to set aside one’s feelings and find a way to make this challenging transition as comfortable for children as you can.

In Belgium, each type of beer has its own glass – whether wide, tall, or fluted – to show off its distinct qualities.
Rick Steves’ Europe: Bruges brews lift a weary traveler’s spirits

The Belgian city is a mecca for beer lovers from around the world.

Children’s author Barbara Herkert to lead Story Time at Edmonds Bookshop, Friday September 29th, 9:30-10:00 am!
Author to read her new kids book at Edmonds bookstore

Author Barbara Herkert will read “This Old Madrone Tree” Friday at Edmonds Bookshop.

Flowering knotweed Persicaria amplexicaulis firetail in the morning light.
Save for one infamous variety, fleece flowers are easy to fall in love with

This long-blooming, easy-to-grow perennial comes in many desirable varieties. But watch out: One is an invasive knotweed.

Can he get the fare difference refunded after he was downgraded?

American Airlines downgrades Thomas Sennett and his family to economy class on their flights from Boston to Phoenix. Why isn’t it refunding the fare difference?

Most Read