Disney’s ‘’The Lion King’ returns to Benedum Stage; offers Autism-friendly performance

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TREE OF LIFE

The show’s two six-week engagements in 2004 and 2008 respectively, played sold-out runs at the Benedum Center.

“We’re excited to be coming to Pittsburgh,” Taylor said. “’The Lion King’ is a timeless piece and the story itself is timeless. I enjoy playing Mufasa. He is not too far from me because I am a father myself and I try to apply my own experiences to the role. Scar is the polar opposite of me. He wants to control everything but it’s kind of fun to play the character because it stretches me.”

Taylor auditioned for the show in 2002 in San Francisco. He took a Lion King Master Class, which taught him the South African language used in the show. He also learned how to work the puppets during a 4-6 week intensive.

One of the numerous types of puppetry used in the stage production of “The Lion King” Bunraku Puppetry is named for its creator, Uemura Bunrakuken. It is an ancient form of Japanese theater that started in the 16th century.

Master puppeteers that are visible to the audience control large puppet dolls while a narrator tells the story. The larger puppets, which can range in size up to five feet tall, are operated by three-man teams. The most experienced man, the only puppeteer allowed to show his face to the audience, operates the head and the right arm.

The other two puppeteers are completely covered with black cloth–one operates the puppet’s right hand with a rod and the other manipulates the puppet’s legs. Through movement and gestures and the audience’s imaginations great expressions can be achieved.

“At any point everyone is asked to be a specific animal and a person so the choreography is set to that,” Taylor said.

Julie Taymor, the show’s costume designer and mask co-designer, agrees with Taylor.

“When the human spirit visibly animates an object, we experience a special, almost life-giving connection,” Taymor said. “We become engaged by both the method of storytelling as well as the story itself.”

Tickets to all of the “Lion King” performances can be purchased through the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s web site at http://www.TrustArts.org. For additional information call (412) 456-6666.

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