Ambassador Theater Hopa Tropa!By Courtney Ferguson • Oct 19th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Flashpoint-Black Box Theater, Washington DC
Through October 25th
Reviewed October 16th, 2009
Hopa Tropa! What is that you ask? It is the latest production written and directed by Bulgarian playwright Lilia Slavova, as part of the Kids Euro Festival taking place in Washington DC. Primarily aimed at children, this show is an experience for audience members of all ages. The show is an exciting look into Bulgarian culture and folklore performed through song, dance, and puppetry. Performed by four actors and spoken entirely in Bulgarian, three of the actors were American and had to face the challenge of learning the language, culture and puppetry in order to successfully pull off the show. They did their job well considering one woman in the audience who was Bulgarian claimed she had been completely fooled into thinking that all four of the actors were actually from Bulgaria.
The show was very energetic and funny, set up perfectly to keep children engaged and interested the entire time. The show went through two stages; in the first the actors played a series of traditional Bulgarian games, and in the second there was the puppetry. The puppetry was an element of the show that shone completely on its own. Julia Tasheva, the only Bulgarian actress in the show as well as Master Puppeteer led her fellow actors in creating an amazing array of characters. Unlike any form of puppetry I’ve ever seen, all four of the actors worked together using various objects such as wooden spoons, gourds and blankets to transform them into a single puppet. One actor would be controlling the hands, the other the foot, another the head, and all the while moving as one.
There was a dynamic about Julia Tasheva’s performance that indicated skill and knowledge. Vocally and physically she was very proficient in creating characters and voicing the puppets. Alex Vernon gave an energetic performance and was given a chance to display his improvisational and comedic chops when he voiced one of the puppets and interacted with the children. Ben Gibson gave a charismatic performance, playing clumsy and cute. Sarah Olmsted Thomas also gave a very charismatic performance.
The set was designed by Antonio Petrov who created a beautiful and colorful set reflecting the vibrancy of the show that coincided beautifully with the traditional Bulgarian clothing worn by the actors. Musical Arranger Petko Kolev composed a series of upbeat traditional songs, some of which had a very pop like contemporary feel to them. Ivan Dimitrov choreograhed a series of traditional dances that were performed throughout the show. In the end the audience had the chance to get off their feet and join the actors in dancing a traditional Bulgarian dance, a good way to keep the energy going and end with a bang!
Children are the target audience for the show, which is easy to forget since the fascination of the puppetry bought out the giddiness in everyone. Throughout various times in the show children are bought on stage to interact and play with the actors. There is always something entertaining about seeing young children being thrust on stage in hopes that they will say or do something cute and funny, and they do. This show is a must for children, as well as parents who will surely be just as captivated by the beauty and vibrancy of Bulgarian culture.
It all happened really over night! I was give the chance to be part of the Euro kids festival and most important to do it in Ambassador Theatre I went…crazy! I was so excited about the opportunity that in a few seconds I decided everything about the show. It seems I have been waiting for that chance! I knew what I wanted to direct, the idea was born in a few seconds, the name ever faster. What is more stimulating than the chance to introduce your own culture to American audiences, and even more, to American children? I have been directing shows from all over the world, but now I was given the chance to show the folklore side of my own culture. I used to dance in a children folklore group, sing in children’s chorus in my country, and I studied puppetry in the institute of Dramatic Arts. This, plus my years of teaching kids (30!), all put together made sense to me. The idea to also have American actors doing it was uplifting! Dances, songs, games, sounds, traditions, rituals, and colorful costumes, plus authentic objects that are part of our near past, all that material inspired me to write a play with almost no words. For me, the images are enough to tell a simple story! I want the show to cheer our patrons; take them on a journey to my beautiful country-Bulgaria. The best way to educate children is through playing, that’s how they learn the best and retain the longest. Let’s take our children on a short trip to a lovely little country where the traditions are still alive! I am one lucky, lucky director! I have the best actors who with the enthusiasm and not only some of the best in this business, but they all are my dear friends as well!
Come and enjoy a taste of Bulgarian culture! -Lilia Slavova
- Julia Tasheva, Master Puppeteer
- Sarah Olmsted Thomas
- Ben Gibson
- Alex Vernon
- Director: Lilia Slavova
- Set Design: Antonio G. Petrov
- Choreography: Ivan Dimitrov
- Stage Management: Amanda Grossman
- Puppet Design: Julia Tasheva
- Musical Arrangements: Petko Kolev
- Lights: Stephen Shetler
Disclaimer: Ambassador Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/4249.
Courtney Ferguson is currently a student in the theatre arts program at Howard University pursuing a B.F.A in acting. Her plans are to go on to grad school to study Voice and Speech. Her credits include work on and off the stage, and she can be seen in the upcoming production of The Laramie Project with the Providence Players.