Thursday, April 8, 2010

The best zoo drama, bar none

A scene from the Emory staging of "Hominid." Photos, above and below, by Daniel Weiss.

Most actors dream of Broadway, but Adam Fristoe is thrilled about his debut at a zoo on May 27. The star of “Hominid” will be playing a human, who is really a chimpanzee, at Burgers Zoo in Arnhem, Holland.

"The audience will be able to walk nearby and see several of the actual chimpanzees from the story that inspired the play," says Fristoe, an instructor of theater studies at Emory.

Burgers Zoo is the site of the true-to-life chimpanzee murder-suicide drama observed several decades ago by a young Dutch psychologist, Frans de Waal. De Waal went on to write his seminal book “Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes.” He is now director of the Living Links Center at Emory’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center.
Adam Fristoe, center, in a scene from the Emory production.

Theater Emory commissioned the play “Hominid,” written by Out of Hand Theater and Ken Weitzman, and based on de Waal's books. Last year, “Hominid” was performed on campus in a co-production of Out of Hand and Theater Emory.

“We hope to affect people’s imaginations by linking science and art,” says Fristoe, who is co-artistic director of Out of Hand Theater.

Listen to a podcast on "Hominid" by Public Radio International:

A European tour this summer takes "Hominid" to Germany and several places in the Netherlands, in addition to Burgers Zoo. The European shows, in collaboration with a Dutch company called “The Lunatics,” will be large outdoor spectacles.

"We're going to build a chimp colony compound at each of the locations, complete with a moat and a three-story steel tree that shoots sparks when it gets electrified," Fristoe says.

All of the European dates are expected to draw large crowds, but Fristoe says he is most excited about bringing "Hominid" to Burgers Zoo. “It’s an odd journey for a story to take.”

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