The laughing trees will be there, of course, but those who check out this month's Rainey Institute stage production of Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, will also find a few surprises in the adaptation of John Steptoe's acclaimed children's story.
"We went way beyond the book," says theater director Christopher Luciani, who has been teaching at Cleveland's Rainey Institute for 15 years. "We created a lot of new characters, stretched out the suspense."
An after-school program, the Rainey Institute offers performing and visual art classes to kids. Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, which will be staged May 20-22, is the institute's culminating production for 2011. The tale traces the rivalry between two African sisters as they race each other to a neighboring kingdom in hopes of marrying the king. As they encounter magical tests along the way, the sisters reveal their true selves. "It's simple but very ancient," Luciani says.
The production features more than 40 of the Rainey Institute's performing arts students, including 14-year-old Horizon Science Academy freshman Ativa Witten, who is looking forward to the challenge. "This is going to be my first role ever being mean," she says of playing Manyara, the evil sister. "I'm usually the nice one, so this is going to be a different experience for me."