Students get face-to-face with 'The Lion King' masks and puppets

Published on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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Michael Reilly, left, and Mark David Kaplan gave students and guests a face-to-face look at

Michael Reilly, left, and Mark David Kaplan gave students and guests a face-to-face look at "The Lion King" puppets and masks. They shared how the details were to mirror the African wildlife.


Michael Reilly, puppet supervisor, and Mark David Kaplan, the actor/dancer playing Zazu, led a discussion-style presentation of masks and puppets from Broadway musical, “The Lion King,” this morning at The Huguenot Mill next to the Peace Center in downtown Greenville.

Members of the community as well as students from The Pleasant Valley Connection heard Reilly talk about what went into the making of the masks and puppets.  The Pleasant Valley Connection is an organization whose mission is to improve the education, employment, health, well-being and community involvement of Greater Pleasant Valley residents and surrounding communities.

Reilly also described Julie Taymor’s (1998 Tony Award best director for a musical for “The Lion King”) vision of recreating the feel of the African Sahara in the design. Kaplan demonstrated the Zazu puppet and invited the children to look at it up close. The students were able to touch the puppets and masks and learned that many hours went into the making of them.

The children were particularly fascinated by the feathers on Zazu and the hair made of peacock feathers on the Simba mask. Students wanted to know how the colors were chosen, and Kaplan explained the significance of the colors used in the production. He answered questions about how the puppet operated, how to create realistic puppet movement, and how he worked with the puppet and researched bird movement so that he could make the Zazu character engaging.

Michael Reilly, originally from Toronto, trained at Danforth Technical Academy. In addition to working on “The Lion King” since 2000, he was also an original company member of the “Lord of the Rings” musical. Other shows include “Les Miserables”, “Phantom of the Opera”, among other productions over the past 25 years.

Mark David Kaplan has returned to “The Lion King” after touring in the original company.  He has appeared in plays and musicals, including “Off-Broadway: Forbidden Broadway” and premieres with Chicago Shakespeare, Marriott, Skylight, and Indiana Repertory.

"The Lion King" will be at The Peace Center in Greenville through July 8. Call 864-467-3000 or visit the website for tickets or more information.

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