East meets West

A weekend of Chinese culture at LICM

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The magical and endearing Monkey King, the lovable character in the classic Chinese story, “A Journey to the West,” is a favorite of visitors to Long Island Children’s Museum’s current traveling exhibit, “Monkey King: A Story From China.” The museum is celebrating the Monkey King’s stay with varied activities that highlight Chinese cultural traditions this weekend.

Museum-goers can sample a staple of Chinese cuisine – spring rolls – at a culinary workshop, Saturday, Nov. 21, 1-3 p.m. Sunday features an authentic performance of Chinese opera by Chinese Theatre Works, along with a demonstration of the fascinating art of traditional Chinese opera face painting,

Chinese Theatre Works has been a popular performance group at LICM over the years; their varied programs offer audiences a sampling of Chinese Theater art forms. In October they presented performances of shadow puppetry, and in December they are premiering a new program of traditional hand and glove puppetry.

This weekend see excerpts from the renowned Peking Opera, on Sunday, Nov. 22, in a program that introduces families to traditional Peking Opera. The company will present selections of scenes and episodes from the classical repertoire, designed to hold the interest of both Chinese opera connoisseurs and Western audiences less familiar with this art form.

The 1:30 p.m. program will open with an explanatory talk in English, followed by opera excerpts sung in the original Chinese by CTW’s company of classically trained performers. They’ll perform in full stage makeup and exquisitely embroidered silk costumes, with traditional musical accompaniment. The visually stunning show will include classic scenes from well known operas, including “Monkey King Steals the Heavenly Peaches,” a scene represented in the popular multi-sensory, hands-on exhibit at LICM that runs through Jan. 3, 2010.

Audience members will be introduced to the symbolism of the movements, props, costumes, makeup, and staging of traditional Chinese opera to familiarize them with the excerpts that will be presented to them.

Following the stage program, CTW performers will present a demonstration (3:30 p.m.) on the traditions and techniques used in Chinese opera face painting. The colors and patterns used by the stage performers are selected to indicate the character’s personality, age, and other characteristics. All actors are trained to paint their own faces.

When: Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 21-22. $10, adults and children over 1 year old. $9 seniors. Additional fees for theater and special programs apply.

Where: Long Island Children's Museum, Museum Row, Garden City.

(516) 224-5800 or www.licm.org.