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    The University of Louisville African American Theatre Program (AATP) will present the Yuan Dynasty play The Orphan of Chao at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and at the National Black Theatre Festival.
    AATP director Dr. Lundeana Thomas says the adaptation provides audiences with a fresh look at the 13th century Chinese classic drama, calling it “the Chinese Hamlet as seen through the eyes of African Americans.” She explains that the story “introduces elements of hip-hop and Yoruba themes of color, music and movement.” (The Yoruba culture of West Africa is known for its distinctive traditions involving drumming and dance.) “It is a story about family, sacrifice, loyalty, murder and redemption.”

    The production, which began in February, has picked up a richness that is bearing fruit just in time for its high-profile debut. “The play has evolved from the earlier performances at UofL,” Thomas says. “The audience will see a greater focus on the power of a mother’s love for her child that reaches from the grave.”

    The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival performances are free and begin at 8:30 p.m. July 19-24 in Central Park, 1340 S. Fourth St., in Old Louisville. Thomas and a cast of 13 players, mostly students, will then take to the road to perform at the National Black Theatre Festival as a featured original production August 2 and 3 in Winston-Salem, N.C.

    The AATP is part of the university’s Theatre Arts department. For more information, contact Lundeana Thomas at 852-8442 or

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    Photo: Courtesy University of Louisville

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