There is a Japanese myth in which the Shinto goddess Amaterasu is so enraged by her brother Susanoo, she secludes herself in a cave, causing the world to be cast in darkness. It doesn’t seem like the obvious source material for a children’s musical but The Cat, the Sun, and the Mirror by Robert A. Anderson and Edward C. Sullivan updates the story through the eyes of a film noir-flavored feline detective. When the sun fails to rise over his village one morning, Cool Cat sets out to find the cause and set things right.
A new production of the show by Teatro Benefito is geared toward both children and adults and can be seen only on July 16 at Canteen 900 in Kingston. All proceeds from the performance will benefit Wyoming Valley Children’s Association of Forty Fort, a nonprofit organization serving the needs of pre-school children with special needs.
Teatro Benefito is a new company that evolved as several creative individuals came to meet at the innovative multi-purpose former tobacco factory at 900 Rutter Avenue revitalized by David Koral.
Robin Shudak of CatzEye Studio used to work for Koral back in 1996 when Koral’s Clothing was still operating on Market Street. The writer and her husband and business partner Damian Catzanza arrived for a meeting with Koral about possible ways they might utilize the venue as the building owner was finishing another meeting with playwright Robert Anderson and his wife Rose, a fabric artist. Koral would later admit to overlapping the meetings on purpose, Shudak said.
"We didn’t set out to do this – it just happened– We all wanted to do something creative," she offered
United by this shared desire to contribute to the cultural landscape of the Valley rather than just sit around and lament its deficiencies, they began meeting for breakfast every Friday. Anderson’s initial thought was that they might do a show to benefit those affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan back in March. He proposed his play The Cat, the Sun, and the Mirror, which was well received in its debut in 2006 at the New York State Theatre Institute, and that he’d like to have more people see.
One week director Naomi Hatsfield Baker, an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Wilkes University, joined them at the table. Abby Billeck Singh of Canteen 900, the restaurant that is the keystone of 900 Rutter Ave., suggested they might benefit one or another of the region’s local charities instead. Koral offered the space, the WVCA signed on as beneficiary, and Teatro Benefito took form. The company’s name was one of the last pieces of the puzzle to be placed, traced Shudak. Anderson suggested the Italian for theater and a made-up word, clearly derived from the American "benefit."
This first production has been an experiment for the collaborators to get their feet wet. Not knowing what kind of reception to expect, they scheduled only one performance and now are concerned there might not be enough space. Reservations are strongly urged, Shudak said.
Teatro Benefito intends to produce more culturally creative events to benefit local charities in the future. They have discussed options including art exhibits and literary readings in addition to plays. One of the group’s goals, said Shudak, is to provide a forum for local artists working across the artistic spectrum.
- alicia grega
The Cat, the Sun, and the Mirror is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 16. Refreshments will be available for purchase. Tickets are $12 or $6 for students and children. Call 338-2547 for reservations or for more information.