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Arabian Nights—Storytelling is the Magic Carpet Ride

The approaching holiday season marks the return of a unique and enchanting annual tradition, Arabian Nights at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA. This coproduction of The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater weaves striking sets, a captivating cast, imaginative puppetry and a magical retelling of a selection of the ancient tales, appropriate and engaging for an audience of children and adults alike.


The Cast of ARABIAN NIGHTS. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography.

As the frame story to the vast collection of Middle Eastern and Asian folktales goes, a distrusting ancient Persian king routinely marries, and the next day orders the execution of his bride before she has a chance to betray him. Shahrazad is the first bride to outwit the king, saving her life and warming his heart by telling him a gripping story, with a lingering cliffhanger, for each of the following 1,001 nights. In the production, Shahrazad is the heroine storyteller, spinning tales of suspense, romance and hilarity, animated to life on the colorful, ever-transforming stage by the cast and puppeteers.


The Cast of ARABIAN NIGHTS. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography.

Arabian Nights puppets are not the hand-held type behind a mini-stage, but life-size, innovative and complex designs, like a polar bear constructed around one puppeteer while others manipulate his limbs and head. For a peek into the process, Central Square Theater posted the team workshopping the movement of this creature on their facebook page. It’s no wonder why stories and puppets delight us so much; just as the creators’ imaginations are tapped to give them life, the audience’s imaginations are stretched to believe them into life.


Alexander Cook and Andrew Tung in ARABIAN NIGHTS. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography.


Arabian Nights
November 14—December 29, 2013
Shows: Thursday—Sunday, 2am and/or 7pm depending on day
Location: Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA
Tickets: $20—$54 for adults, $20 for children under 18, discounted tickets for students and seniors

Parking: University Park @ MIT Garage, 55 Franklin Street. $5 with validation ticket, available at Will Call Counter. Additional Parking and Directions information.

Food: Snack and drink concessions available at the theater (credit cards accepted). There are plenty of nearby restaurants including the charming Café Luna across the street serving weekend brunch.

Check out these ideas for making and animating puppets to life at home: Puppet Play.

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