STORY WRITTEN BY RITA CHARLESTON
For Digital First Media
“The Jungle Book,” a world premiere by Greg Banks, continues at the Arden Theatre Company’s Arcadia stage, 40 N. 2nd St. in Philadelphia, through June 21.
Based on the work of Rudyard Kipling, the play is directed by King of Prussia native Matthew Decker. “This is not your Disney movie version but is based on the actual writings of Kipling,” said Decker.
“The Jungle Book” introduces Mowgli, a child lost in the Indian jungle where he is adopted by Baloo the Bear, Bagheera the panther, Shere Kahn the Bengal tiger, the python Kaa, and all the beasts who call the mysterious wildernesses home and teach the man-cub how to navigate the laws of the jungle. READ A REVIEW HERE.
Decker has directed five plays at the Arden and this is his third children’s play. He says, “Arden’s Childrens’ Theatre is known for presenting classic stories in new and imaginative ways, and ‘The Jungle Book’ is no different. In this play, the jungle comes to life through the use of movement, light and inventive sets. As the director, I get to work with the actors as well as everyone else involved in the play’s production.”
Additionally, he said, “In this production the young audience members get to play a huge part in helping to create the landscape of the jungle. We hope to spark their imagination even further by bringing some of the children up on stage to sit on pillows around the actors and actually become part of the adventure.”
Originally planning on becoming a writer of children’s books, Decker eventually changed his mind and decided to concentrate on acting, until he directed a play and ultimately found his true calling.
“But because I was an actor first, I think that helps make me a better director,” he say. “I’m able to relate to some of the challenge the actors face and help them deal with them.”
Decker received his training at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Atlantic Theatre Company. In addition to his work at the Arden, Decker is co-founder and resident director of Theater Horizon, where he developed their Autism Drama Program. He’s also received a Barrymore Award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical.
“I’m definitely enjoying directing ‘The Jungle Book,’” Decker says. “The moral lessons associated with Kipling are certainly present in this play, including courage, loyalty, tradition and honor, with emphasis on the fact that we should accept everyone’s difference, no matter what they may be.”
IF YOU GO
What: “The Jungle Book”
Where: Arcadia Stage, Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia.
When: Now through June 21
Tickets: Single tickets range from $18 to $36.
Info.: Visit www.ardentheatre.org or call (215) 922-1122.