Alive with love, magic and intrigue, “Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” at Adventure Theatre MTC (ATMTC) at Glen Echo Park offers a delightful look into Middle Eastern culture through retelling one of the traditional stories from the “One Thousand and One Nights.”
This version is adapted from the story by James Norris, Director Roberta Gasbarre said. “The play is a very old fashioned script based on the original by Antoine Galland in 1704. He said it was told to him by a trader; it was not a part of the original tales.”
Gasbarre is well-versed in children’s theater; with more than 35 years of experience in educational theater, she is director of the Smithsonian Institute’s Discovery Theater, which presents educational and cultural performances for young audiences.
A lot of research went into costuming and set details, and a lot of work on the actors’ language and gestures, Gasbarre said. In addition, she invited several people from Middle Eastern countries to view rehearsals to ensure the actors’ gestures and language were appropriate to the culture the story represents. Such attention to detail, she said, help with one purpose of this production, which is to foster understanding of Middle Eastern culture through storytelling.
Among those who consulted with the production team during the rehearsal process were Mimi Hassanein, senior program manager for the Middle Eastern community in Montgomery County; Sahar Fahmy, a consultant for the Montgomery County Office of Community Partnerships; Oman’s Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center; Vikrum Mathur, an ATMTC intern though Leadership Montgomery; and Nisreen Farhan, a member of ATMTC’s equity/diversity/inclusion committee, said Amanda Bradley, ATMTC’s communications director.
Artistic Director Michael J. Bobbitt hopes the show serves to share cross-cultural understanding. “We are really infusing as much Middle Eastern culture in [the show] as we can. It is steeped in the beauty and the richness, just the joy of the culture,” he said. “’Aladdin’ is one [show] that really gives us a chance to celebrate Middle Eastern culture.”
“There is a lot of confusion and prejudice surrounding people’s ideas of the Middle East, especially in today’s world,” Bobbitt acknowledged. “This is a fantastic opportunity for Adventure Theatre to not only celebrate the culture and people of the Middle East, but also to assist with the next generation’s understanding and celebration of our differences.”
Still, the show is a traditional love story. Aladdin (Ryan Carlo Dalusung), the son of a tailor, and Adora (played by Ariana Kruszewski), a princess and daughter of the local sultan (Thony Mena), fall in love and plan their future together. Their plan suffers twists and turns, mostly because the greedy Magician (Ahmad Kamal) tricks Aladdin into finding the magic lamp for him, hoping to gain great riches and the hand of Princess Adora.
With a cast of just seven characters, and a very small stage, Gasbarre uses puppets to fill in during crowd scenes. Andrea Moore, the show’s director of properties and the puppet consultant, also works in the property shop at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts. “The roles are written in the script,” Moore said. “If we had a bigger cast, it probably would have been real people.”
In designing the puppets, Moore said she used the look of souvenir puppets from the Bukara Region of Uzbekistan and made them larger for actors to carry on stage in order to swell the crowd when townspeople gather. “I was helped a lot by the director and set designer (Hana Sooyeon Kim) who had the spirit of the world [the play] was in,” she said.
“Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp” is on the Adventure Theatre MTC stage through May 21 in partnership with The Make a Wish Foundation. ATMTC has donated 100 tickets to the foundation for use by children and their families, will give the foundation a portion of the proceeds from Genie Lamp sales and is accepting donations for Make a Wish at the box office. ATMTC is located at 7300 MacArthur Blvd. in Glen Echo Park. For tickets, $19.50, call 301-634-2270 or visit www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org. View this event on CultureSpotMC here.
Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp Trailer