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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, March 9, 2000

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
A scene from "A Flight of Dragons."

Dragons ready for flight


By Betty Shimabukuro


IMAGINE that St. George was a weenie. Further imagine that the fierce, fire-breathing dragon he supposedly slayed was just a good actor.

OK, now picture the two of them conspiring to commit fraud: The dragon terrorizes a maiden (coincidentally, the object of George's affections), George rides up, a mock battle ensues, the dragon fakes mortal injury and flees. George becomes a hero.

Could've happened that way. Just as dragons could have been real.


Bullet What: "A Flight of Dragons"
Bullet When: 8 p.m. today-Saturday and March 16-18. Matinees at 2 p.m. Sunday and March 19
Bullet Where:: Ernst Lab Theatre, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Bullet Cost: $8 general; $6 students, seniors, military, faculty/staff; $3 UH Manoa students
Bullet Call: 956-7655

Such is the point of "A Flight of Dragons," opening at Ernst Lab Theatre tonight.

The production is a series of playlets dealing with various bits of dragon lore -- the myth of dragon-slaying heroes such as St. George being one of them. Linking the sections is a lecture-video presentation that has a group of academics attempting to prove dragons could indeed have flown over the Earth.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Jennica Nishida plays a firebreathing dragon.

"Dragons" opens with a dragon dance outside the theater, then moves inside for a multimedia presentation of puppets, masks, poetry, video, even a "pyro scene" (involving a dragon cutout, a long black pipe, a long-nosed lighter and an igniting powder).

Producer Sandra Finney, an associate professor of theater and dance at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, adapted several short stories to create this piece. "I planned it a year ago, before I knew this was going to be the year of the dragon."

That was convenient.

"Dragons" explores fire-breathing, magical blood, the tendency to devour maidens -- "They're usually old and tough ... not to mention hard to find," one dragon complains -- and, most important, dragon flight.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Sara Hatfield and Jonathan Sypert control a puppet dragon
and Grant Okubo and Cyndi Char-Nicholson control a puppet
St. George in a scene from a play about dragons.

"Every animal has its specialization and the specialization of dragons is flight," Finney says.

Dissecting these elements leads her on-stage academics to conclude "it's just as possible they could've existed as not existed."

"Dragons" is not for young children. Although the puppets and other effects might appeal, the stories are too complicated. Finney recommends it for adults and children over age 12, especially "kids who enjoy language."

It's language that ranges from the high-brow speak of the lecturers to the low-brow words of the players:

"Is your name George?" the dragon asks, upon meeting the little knight.

"Yes," says the knight, "but don't let that bother you."

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