Red Tiger Tales

Vashon Island’s UMO Ensemble is best known for combining rigorous physical theater techniques—such as clowning, aerial work, and masks—and unlikely subjects (including Mexican conquistadors, Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha Becomes the Buddha, the Rapunzel fairy tale). Shows can take a year or longer to gestate before they reach an audience. Sometimes UMO’s storytellers, like the Buffoons of El Dorado or the acrobatic Djools of Caravan of Dreams, are strange half-human creations. And sometimes, as in the new Red Tiger Tales, they’re just strange. “When we started on this project about four years ago, the characters in this show began as Zen monks who were red nose clowns,” explains director, Elizabeth Klobe. “That allowed us to treat solemn material with complete audacity. But … now we’re mixing up aerial and mask work with the clowning. That might offend some theatrical purists, but they’ll get over it.” And while the show began as a sampler of Zen parables (adapted by company member Lyam White), the stories draw from many different traditions, including Buddhist, Zen, and Sufi folktales. It’s “mostly Eastern, all pretty darn old,” says Klobe, who cautions that Red Tiger Tales isn’t all philosophical and serious. “If you’re not laughing, I haven’t been doing my job.” JOHN LONGENBAUGH

Thu., April 14, 7:30 p.m.; April 15-17; April 21-23, 2011

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