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'The Jungle Book' gets a thoughtful update

EnActe is presenting "The Jungle Book: Rudyard Revised," Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at Palo Alto's Cubberley Theatre.
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EnActe Arts presents "The Jungle Book: Rudyard Revised," a modernized retelling of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book." Screenshot from trailer courtesy EnActe Arts.

At this point "The Jungle Book" is more associated with happy-go-lucky singing animals from the animated 1967 Disney film than the actual late 19th-century book of the same name that was the movie's source. But Sunnyvale-based theater company EnActe Arts took "The Jungle Book" back to the page — and made some updates for modern audiences that aim to return the story to its South Asian roots.

EnActe is presenting "The Jungle Book: Rudyard Revised," Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at Palo Alto's Cubberley Theatre.

The company adapted stories from the book by British author Rudyard Kipling. The stories, set in a tropical forest in India, tell of how human boy Mowgli is raised in the forest by wolves and grows up with a family and friends made up of anthropomorphic animals.

This revised telling was a year-long project of EnActe Conservatory, the company's advanced theater program for youth and adults. A team of writers of all ages worked on the script, looking at how to tell the stories from a contemporary sensibility. As Vijay Rajan, script consultant for the production, said in the show's video trailer, “the most problematic thing with 'The Jungle Book' is that the original basically espouses that people belong with their own kind. And that was the ultimate message we wanted to eliminate in 'Rudyard Revised.'”

Additionally, with tigers now an endangered species, the show updates the notorious tiger Shere Khan from a villain to a more empathetic character.

EnActe Arts co-founder and Artistic Director Vinita Sud Belani directs "The Jungle Book: Rudyard Revised." The production features a special guest appearance by dancer Anita Ratnam, who has traveled from India to perform in the production.

The show's music by saxophonist and composer George Brooks brings together jazz and Indian classical music and the choreography by Aparna Sindhoor and Anil Natyaveda of Navarasa Dance Theatre combines classical Indian dance and martial arts.

EnActe has also partnered with the Centre for Wildlife Studies, based in Bangalore, India, to share information about tiger conservation and highlight their work.

After completing its run in Palo Alto, "The Jungle Book: Rudyard Revised" will be touring the Bay Area this fall, with stops in San Francisco (Nov. 11-13 and 18-20) and San Jose (Dec. 2-4 and 9-11).

"The Jungle Book: Rudyard Revised" runs Sept. 30, 7 p.m., Oct 1 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. at the Cubberley Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Tickets start at $25. For more information, visit enacte.org.




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About the Author: Heather Zimmerman

Heather has been with Embarcadero Media since 2019. She writes and edits arts stories, compiles the Weekend Express newsletter, curates the community calendar, helps edit stories for the Voice and The Almanac and assists with the Express newsletters.
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