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A popular Turlock business owner, who had been a supporter of the LightBox Theatre Company from day one, asked about three years ago: “When are you going to do an Assyrian play?”
Well, the Assyrian play is happening as LightBox Theatre Company’s fifth season opens Friday (Sept. 27) at the Carnegie Arts Center with Gilgamesh: the Hero-y King.
After two years of development, this production will put a fun, kid-friendly spin on the ancient story based on The Epic of Gilgamesh. The script is commissioned meaning it is an original work, written by playwright Yokanaan Kearns, specifically for LightBox.
“I knew I needed an experienced playwright who wrote for kids’ audiences and who was proficient with the classics. I am lucky to have found (Kearns),” said co-founder & director Stefani Tsai.
This production is another example of what LightBox set out to do when they opened in 2015. One of its goals is to develop new works that reflect the history, stories, and culture of our diverse community.
Gilgamesh: the Hero-y King definitely connects back into the history and culture of the Assyrian community. LightBox hopes to accomplish what The Super Cilantro Girl did when it told stories relating to the Mexican-American heritage and its place in the Central Valley.
“Kearns’s adaptation takes one of the oldest epics ever written and makes it appropriate and approachable to contemporary audiences,” Tsai commented. “The story merges history with contemporary concerns that youth see in society today.”
This hero-y story — which also ties into Carnegie Arts Center’s latest “My Hero!” art exhibition — is about King Gilgamesh and Enkidu, a pair of enemies teaming up to fight a common foe and then became friends.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu fight, learn from each other, become friends, challenge each other to be better men, and slay the oldest most powerful monster in their world together. It teaches about friendship, commitment and loyalty.
Since its inception, LightBox Theatre Company had also produced popular works such as Pinocchio and The Jungle Book. It had staged versions of popular stories such as The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs and Cinderella Eats Rice & Beans.
However, LightBox believes it is important for the company to seek collaboration with local cultural groups to develop new works that highlight and celebrate the favorite stories from our community’s diverse population.
Tsai and the LightBox staff, through the assistance of local business owner David Yonan, worked with the Assyrian-American Civic Club of Turlock. They connected Kearns with a historian named Yousip bet Yousip, who provided some background stories and cultural input of how our local community may see the epic.
While no Assyrian-American actors were available to audition, Tsai was able to assemble a strong cast for Gilgamesh: the Hero-y King. Two of the four cast members are LightBox regulars. Ileana Ramirez is starring in her sixth LightBox production and Ron Daily (Gilgamesh) is back for his fifth. Theresa Ramirez, who was in last spring’s The Jungle Book, returns to join newcomer Jacob Gomez (Enkidu).
“I am thrilled to share this fresh and comical version of the epic with our audiences. It opens this important friendship story to our children and keeps the epic alive within our community for another generation,” said Tsai.
Gilgamesh: the Hero-y King opens Friday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. at Carnegie Arts Center in downtown Turlock. Shows run for two weekends with Friday nights at 7 p.m., Saturday performances at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
School performances, where hundreds of elementary school students visit the theatre as an educational enrichment experience, are scheduled for Oct. 1 and 2. Reservations are still available for sixth grade classes interested in expanding their ancient civilizations units.
For more information about the play, school performances and to pre-order tickets, please visit LightBoxForYouth.org. Tickets are also available at the Carnegie Arts Center Box Office.
Gilgamesh: the Hero-y King
Written by Yokanaan Kearns
Based on The Epic of Gilgamesh
Directed by Stefani Tsai
Show Dates and Times:
Friday, Sept. 27 @ 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 28 @ 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 29 @ 2 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 4 @ 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 5 @ 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 6 @ 2 p.m.
The show is 70 minutes without intermission
$12 General Admission
$10 C.A.C. Members
$8 Youth (ages 3-12)/Students with valid ID
Tickets available online at LightBoxForYouth.org & at the Carnegie Arts Center Box Office