Discover South American Folklore in the Hilltowns

Mettawee River Theater Company to Perform New Outdoor Production in Western Massachusetts
Beyond the High Valley: A Quechua Story

Beyond the High Valley: A Quechua Story is a Peruvian folk tale where Imposing Condor and Resourceful Hummingbird do battle, to be performed by the Mettawee River Theater Company in both Shelburne Falls and Cummington, MA. This free outdoor theater production will incorporate masks, giant figures, puppets and other visual elements with live music, movement and text, drawing on myths, legends and folklore of the world’s many cultures for its material.

Beyond the High Valley: A Quechua Story is based on a beguiling folk story of the Quechua people, descendants of the Incas who inhabit the Andean highlands and tropical regions of Peru, Beyond the High Valley will be offered to the public at two free outdoor venues in Western Massachusetts:

  • Friday, 07/31/09 at 8pm in Shelburne Falls, MA on the Buckland-Shelburne School lawn
  • Sunday, 08/02/09 at 8pm in Cummington, MA at Pettingill Field (off of Main Street)

In Beyond the High Valley, the unlikely opposing forces are a willful giant condor and an intrepid little hummingbird. At the onset, the condor spies a young woman tending her family’s llamas in a meadow. He sweeps down from the sky, transforms into a dashing lover and carries her off to a rocky crag. Her rescuer is a creature of dazzling ingenuity, a plucky hummingbird. The production will incorporate a range of puppets and other visual elements realized on many different scales, expressing the vast distances, radiant sky and rugged, vertical thrust of the fierce and beautiful highland terrain.

About the Mettawee Theatre Company

Under the Artistic Direction of mask maker, designer and director Ralph Lee, the Mettawee River Theatre Company, founded in 1975, creates original theater productions that incorporate masks, giant figures, puppets and other visual elements with live music, movement and text, drawing on myths, legends and folklore of the world’s many cultures for its material. The company is committed to bringing theater to people who may have little or no access to live professional performances.

In his design and direction, Lee seeks to create vivid theatrical moments with economy and elegance. This search for an evocative simplicity of image and Mettawee’s commitment to making theater accessible to the widest possible audience through its outdoor performances give this theater company its particular character.

About Artistic Director, Ralph Lee

Ralph Lee first created puppets as a child growing up in Middlebury, Vermont. He graduated from Amherst College in 1957, and studied dance and theater in Europe for two years on a Fulbright Scholarship. Upon returning to the United States, Lee acted on Broadway, off-Broadway, in regional theaters and with the Open Theatre. During that period he started creating masks, unusual props, puppets and larger-than-life figures for theater and dance companies, including the New York Shakespeare Festival, Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre, the Living Theatre, the Erick Hawkins Dance Company, Shari Lewis, the Metropolitan Opera and Saturday Night Live.

In 1974, while teaching at Bennington College, Lee staged his first outdoor production, which took place all over the college campus, and featured giant puppets and masked creatures. That same year he organized the first Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, which he directed through 1985. For his work on the parade Lee received a 1975 Village Voice OBIE Award, a 1985 Citation from the Municipal Arts Society, and in 1993 he was inducted into the City Lore People’s Hall of Fame.

Two of Lee’s Mettawee productions have been honored with American Theatre Wing Design Awards: The Popol Vuh in 1995 and Wichikapache Goes Walking in 1992. Under Lee’s direction, Mettawee also received a 1991 Village Voice OBIE Award and two Citations20for Excellence from UNIMA, the international puppetry organization. Additional awards to Lee include a 1996 Dance Theatre Workshop Bessie Award for “sustained achievement as a mask maker and theatre designer without equal,” and a 1996 New York State Governor’s Arts Award in recognition of his many contributions to the artistic and cultural life of New York State. In 2003, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, one of the nation’s most prestigious honors. In 2008 Lee served as the Jim Henson Artist-in-Residence at the University of Maryland at College Park. He is currently on the faculty of New York University.

For more information about the Mettawee River Theatre Company, visit the company’s web site at www.mettawee.org; call (518) 854-9357 to confirm specific performance dates.

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