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St. Louis by Sarah Boslaugh

A Thousand Cranes

Also see Sarah's review of Kokoschka: A Love Story

A Thousand Cranes, a play for children by Kathryn Schultz Miller, was performed by the Imaginary Theatre Company at the Loretto-Hilton Center in Webster Groves on February 10, 2007. This play lasts only 45 minutes, but within that length of time manages not only to tell the story of Sadako Sasaki, a 12-year living in Japan in 1955, but also to convey the horror of war and the devastation wrought by atomic weapons. Director Jeffery Matthews has fashioned a moving presentation out of very simple materials: four actors, a basic set, and a few simple props.

The story of A Thousand Cranes centers on Sadako, played by Christena Doggrell, a lively girl living in Hiroshima with her parents, played by Meghan Brown and Alan Knoll. Sadako's favorite activity is running with her friend Kenji, played by Jason Contini, who is helping her train for an upcoming race. Sadako was two years old when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Her grandmother was killed in the explosion but Sadako and her parents survived, apparently unharmed. Then one day Sadako is running with Kenji when she becomes dizzy and falls down, gets up and falls down again. The cause of her sudden illness turns out to be leukemia, also referred to as "the atom bomb disease" because many Hiroshima survivors developed it as a result of exposure to radiation from the bomb.

The title A Thousand Cranes refers to a Japanese legend that anyone who makes one thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish. Kenji visits Sadako in the hospital and teaches her how to make an origami crane, and tells her the legend: she is immediately taken by it and sets to work making cranes. This activity gives her both hope and peace, and as she is dying, Sadako sees her grandmother again and flies on a crane's back to heaven, an illusion beautifully realized in the ITC production.

Sadako dies before completing her one thousand cranes, but her friends and classmates finish the task for her. This story, which has been told several times in different forms, became popular worldwide, and Sadako lives on today as a symbol of all the children killed by the atom bomb. A statue of Sadako was placed in the Hiroshima Peace Park in 1958, and people today still send or bring paper cranes, which have become a symbol of peace, to be placed before the statue.

The Imaginary Theatre Company is the resident professional touring ensemble of the Repertory Theatre of Saint Louis, and specializes in productions for young people. This production of A Thousand Cranes, which is recommended for grades 5 and up, is available for touring January 10 through April 7, 2007. For information, contact the company at 314-968-7344 or mail@repstl.org, or consult their website at www.repstl.org/itc.

Cast
Sadako: Christen Doggrell
Mother/Grandmother Oba chan: Meghan Brown
Father: Alan Knoll
Kenji: Jason Contini

Direction: Jeffery Matthews
Scenic and Costume Design: Dorothy Marshall Englis
Stage Manager: Brian Peters
Director of Education: Marsha Coplon
Artistic Supervisor: Jeffery Matthews


-- Sarah Boslaugh

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