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Following the man-cub: 'Jungle Book' comes to local stage
Gainesville Theatre Alliance presents fresh version of Kipling classic Sept. 29-Oct. 7
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Josh Turner, playing Mowgli, performs on Wednesday during a dress rehearsal for the performance of The Jungle Book put on by WonderQuest: Gainesville Theater Alliance’s Theatre for Young Audience in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

A bear, panther and man-cub journey through the jungle to discover which is best: the Law of Man or the Law of the Jungle.

Audience members can travel to India in Gainesville Theatre Alliance’s latest production of “The Jungle Book.”

‘The Jungle Book’

When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29-30, 2:30 p.m. Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6-7

Where: Brenau University’s Pearce Auditorium, 500 Washington St., Gainesville

Tickets: $8-$15; www.gainesvilleTHEATREalliance.org, 678-717-3624.


The WonderQuest performances run Sept. 29 through Oct. 7 at Brenau University’s Pearce Auditorium, 500 Washington St., Gainesville.

The Jungle Book, a tale by author Rudyard Kipling, is well-known for the animated and live-action films by Disney. Kipling wrote a variety of stories for children; his “Just-So Stories” were full of tales about how animals got to be the way they are.

It is this poetry and language that Director Gay H. Hammond decided to bring to life in an adaptation rooted more deeply in Kipling’s original literature.

“We have included a great deal of Rudyard Kipling’s original language and poetry, such as the Hunting Songs of the Seonee Wolf Pack,” Hammond said. “We are always looking for the quirks which make it delightful and individual for the audience.”

WonderQuest previously staged Hammond’s adaptation 11 years ago. This production is doing things a little differently, according to Hammond.

“I have been inspired by Indian temple dancers and indigenous design for costumes, which was missing from the 2005 production. Plus, we have for this production female Baloo and Bagheera,” Hammond said.

The production designer’s took the opportunity to create a vast and colorful world for this play.

“We wanted the jungle to seem huge, and I wanted some elements of the Indian forest where the original story takes place,” scenic designer Emma Hoffbauer said. “I researched different types of jungles and ruins. I even took a field trip to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.”

Hoffbauer has worked with Hammond in the past, scenic designing last season’s Discovery Series production “The Raven and the Nightingale.”

Wildlife comes alive through costumes, according to costume designers Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay. They said they watched videos of how animals move and pulled out what features “popped to us.” They reflected the nature of the animal’s movements through sleek and billowy structured costume silhouettes.

Beyond the animals’ movement, family ties among the different animals was important to the Curley-Clays.

“We wanted to tie everyone together and reflect the theme of an underling universal value system. ... The wolf tattoos and Mowgli’s, for example, put them in the same family, but there are also aspects of color that group friends together,” Isabel Curley-Clay said.

The play will follow the man-cub Mowgli as he runs, jumps and climbs through his jungle home. He meets friends Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther. As they journey together, he comes across more creatures of the jungle, including a tiger named Shere Khan, whom he must save his animal friends and himself from.

“Portraying animal characters is the best training for an emerging actor,” Hammonds said. “The analytical process involves creating bold physical choices which express both the animal nature and the sentient, motivated character.”

Family performances are set for 2:30 p.m. Oct. 1 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6-7. A free Meet-the-Actors reception follows Sunday’s performance, and a $5 pre-show “Marvelous Monkey Jungle Party” for children ages 6 to 12 is set for 6:30 p.m. prior to the performances next weekend.

WonderQuest is the theatre for young audiences division of the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, the nationally acclaimed collaboration between University of North Georgia, Brenau University, theatre Professionals and the northeast Georgia community.

The Gainesville Theatre Alliance season can be found at www.gainesvilleTHEATREalliance.org. For more information call the Box Office at 678-717-3624.

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