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November 9, 2007 - Many people think of flying carpets and giant blue genies when they think of "The Arabian Nights." The fall production offering from the Aquinas College Theatre Program, however, offers an intriguing and passionate glimpse into the many other folktales that comprise the Arabic text. The adaptation by acclaimed Chicago director Mary Zimmerman allows the audience to experience tales other than Sinbad and Aladdin, stories that resonate as strange and familiar at once.

"The Arabian Nights was never meant to be children's literature," says Randy Wyatt, Interim Theatre Director for Aquinas College. "These are tales from folklore stretching over hundreds of years and many different cultures, including Persian, Egyptian, Arabic and Indian. They deal frankly with gender issues, human nature, political power, sensuality and the many incarnations of love. They are some of the most adult tales you will ever read, and also some of the most exotic."

"The Arabian Nights" is Wyatt's directorial debut at Aquinas. "I chose the piece because of its spectacle, its storytelling - which Zimmerman always incorporates into her work - but also because of the reminder that the culture that has lasted for centuries and was the cradle of civilization is also the culture we're currently at war with." Wyatt sees the piece as an "extended sensitivity seminar" created and presented by Sheherezade, who must spin tales nightly in order to keep her fiancé and captor King Shahryar distracted from killing her by the end of the night. "Shahryar is enraged to the point of madness over the infidelity of his first wife, and it takes Sheherezade one thousand and one nights to restore his humanity through the power of story."

With a cast of twenty-one, the play is one of the larger undertakings the department has had in its relatively short history, but Wyatt feels the program is up for the challenge. "We're using some very fine actors from the community such as Evan Heird and Sarah LaJoye. We’re utilizing many of the skills the students already bring to the table, such as acrobatics and playing violin. We have original music and choreography and instrumentation - it's really a tour de force. I'm very excited to be heading up such a marvelous project."

"The Arabian Nights" opens November 29 at the Aquinas Performing Arts Center at 1607 Robinson SE in Grand Rapids. Shows run through December 2 at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors and $4 for Aquinas students. More information is available by calling the box office at (616) 456-6656.