Fly Fables

Ancient tales get a hip-hop makeover.

Cleveland art
Old-school beats back even older-school fables in Karamu’s Hip-Hop Aesop. The production gathers 10 of Aesop’s classic tales -- including “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” “The Miser and His Gold,” and “The Tortoise and the Hare” -- and sets them to a cappella raps. “The [cast] breaks out with that LL Cool J and Salt-N-Pepa-type feel, throwing candy into the audience and grooving to ‘Rapper’s Delight,’” says director MC Spider.

Playwright J.E. Franklin updated each fable with 21st-century references, and composer Sheryl Robinson Pattilo wrote rhymes to accompany the stories. In the original “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse,” for example, two rodents eat a city feast of pastries and beer before being chased off by a pair of dogs. In Hip-Hop Aesop, the menu changes. “They’re talking about government cheese, with the country mouse telling the city mouse to eat beans, rice, and cornbread,” says Spider. There’s even a number featuring a rapper in a LeBron jersey who spits a rhyme with the Big Bad Wolf.

Still, the message remain the same. At the end of each fable, veteran Karamu actress Norma Powell takes the stage and emphasizes the story’s lesson. “There’s some movin’, there’s some groovin’,” says Spider. “But the morals are still loud and clear.”
Sundays, 1 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 4 p.m. Starts: Dec. 17. Continues through Jan. 7

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