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‘Issun Boshi’ and giant puppets bring Japanese children’s story to USU stage

December 6th, 2009 Posted in Arts and Life

by Cassidee Cline

LOGAN–Fall semester is winding down at Utah State University and the theater department kicked off winter break with their last production of this year, Issun Boshi. The Japanese children’s story of Issun Boshi, literally meaning “inch boy,” was adapted to the stage under the direction Nancy Hills, associate professor of costume design, and with the help of many theater students.

For theater major Robert Burdzy, Issun Boshi was the first play he was in. He said the cast and crew had been working on this play for about
six weeks. Burdzy played a guard in the play, manipulated one of the demon Oni’s legs and helped with the engineering and on-stage manipulation of the rat puppet.

Deniss Hassan, associate professor of scene design, was mentioned as the mastermind behind the engineering and design of the puppets, Burdzy said. A note from director Hills in the play’s program said Hassan had spent a part of his sabbatical studying puppet making in Prague, Czech Republic. The idea behind the play was to allow actors to interact with the puppets and manipulate the puppets’ movement onstage.

Jason Craig West, theater education major, played Issun Boshi and manipulated the small, one-inch Issun puppet. He said the production took a lot of time finding out how to work with the puppets. The show isn’t just about the actors, he said, it’s about the puppets, and the audience is what makes the show come to life.

“After working on the show for so long it loses it’s magic,” he said. ”We are reminded of that magic with when we have a new set of eyes.” West said having children in the audience also made the show more fun for parents and for the actors.

“The audience gives [the play] a new breath of life,” Burdzy said.

The story is about a boy who was named Issun by his parents because he is only an inch tall. Issun makes his way to the capital city battling a rat, koi and a hornet all twice his size. In the end Issun makes his way to the capital where an Oni, a demon, has attacked and threatened the villagers. Issun allows the Oni to swallow him and he kills the Oni by attacking it from the inside. When Issun comes out triumphant, he takes the Oni’s magical club that grants Issun’s wish to become a strong grown man.

“It’s been awesome,” Burdzy said. “It was absolutely so much fun.”

Issun Boshi was performed in the Morgan Theater on the university campus from Dec. 1-5. The next play produced by the theater department will be Love’s Labour’s Lost by Shakespeare and will be performed in February.


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