The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 24, 2014

MSSU's 'Bear Prince' adapted by faculty member from Mexican folk tale

JOPLIN, Mo. — The audience probably won't appreciate how they are getting to see the world premier of a play this weekend. But that's OK, because the play's message of friendship and devotion, combined with upbeat music, interesting dancing and a unique story, should thrill audience members, said director Jim Lile.

And Lile said the cast and crew of an upcoming children's production at MSSU will enjoy every second of it.

"When kids are coming to the show, there is so much energy in here," Lile said. "When we get moving and the lights get going, kids go crazy."

"The Bear Prince" is the story of a girl who has to find her husband in order to rescue him from a witch's curse.

Ninfa, the girl, is forced to marry a bear in order to save her father. When the bear becomes a handsome prince at night, Ninfa is thrilled and overjoyed. But a promise to never tell the bear prince's secret gets broken, and that ends up sending the prince far away, thus sending Ninfa on her quest.

The play, written by assistant professor of theater Daniel Williams, is adapted from a Mexican folk tale. Lile said the story has elements of "Beauty and the Beast," but is largely a fresh story for audience members of all ages.

"It's nice to do something a bit unfamiliar, off the track," Lile said.

Because the cast and crew is the first group to ever perform the play, Lile said they all get a hand in writing it. As rehearsals have turned actions into words, they have figured out how to adjust both of those elements for better effect. Lile said one of the crew members is keeping track of every change made to the script to present to Williams, who would get to decide whether other theater groups take on the play.

"It certainly is stageable," Lile said. "It has cool characters of different ages. A younger cast could play this, too."

One of those characters is also relatable to "Frozen," the recent Disney animated feature film that has drawn acclaim for its portrayal of a female lead character.

There is plenty in the play for parents as well, Lile said. The play uses Hispanic motifs and music, and features spoken Spanish in parts.

It will be performed for area students Wednesday through Friday, then opens to the public on Saturday and Sunday.

Want to go?

"The Bear Prince" will be presented at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Taylor Performing Arts Center, located on the campus of Missouri Southern State University. Tickets: $1; 50 cents for children 12 and younger. Details: 417-625-3190.

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