Nanda brings ninja theater to the Craterian Theater

The troupe employs acrobatics, stage combat, circus arts and comedy in its singular show
Nanda performs well-rehearsed choreography to audio cues and special effects.Photo courtesy of Joshua Sage

If J.R.R. Tolkien, author of "The Lord of the Rings," wrote a silent stage adaptation of the blockbuster hit "The Matrix," featuring choreography by Jackie Chan and physical farce by The Three Stooges, the product would look something like Nanda's full-length production, "The Jacket."

The performance arts troupe, based in Port Townsend, Wash., incorporates acrobatics, martial arts, stage combat, dance, pop-culture parodies, slapstick comedy, juggling and other circus arts into a one-of-a-kind, multimedia theater show.

If you go

Who: Nanda

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9

Where: Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford

Tickets: $22, $25 and $28 for adults and $15, $18 and $21 for ages 18 and younger

Call: 541-779-3000

The Seattle Times calls Nanda "funny, smooth and dare-devilishly inventive."

Nanda, featuring brothers Kiyota and Tomoki Sage, Chen Pollina and Misha Fradin, who lives in Ashland, will present "The Jacket" at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford.

The four members have been best friends since childhood. Fradin says that as kids there was a "positive rivalry" between them as they tired to "one up" each other doing various backyard stunts.

"We've all known each other since we were 1 and 2 years old, so a lot of the stuff we do (now) we did growing up in the backyard, like learning to do flips on the trampoline," he says.

Nanda was designed to be a one-time performance, part of a fundraiser to sponsor the Sage brothers at a dance competition in Los Angeles.

"After that, we were like, 'Oh, people liked this,' " Fradin says.

From there, the act grew organically. Nanda was asked to tour with the vaudeville group New Old Time Chautauqua in 2005, and in the years since has performed its action-packed vignettes at festivals, fairs, schools, theaters, private and corporate events throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico as well as on the bricks at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. (Look for a video of the latter performance on YouTube.)

Over the past couple years, the Nanda ninjas expanded one of the acts, "The Jacket," into a story-based feature and, this year, took it on tour.

"The Jacket" is the story of a mystical garment, crafted by an ancient people, which "gives the wearers ultimate magical powers but also makes them power-hungry mongers," Fradin says. The forces created by the garment throw the world into chaos. In order re-establish harmony, the jacket is locked away until it is discovered in present day and worn, in turn, by an adventurer (think Indiana Jones), two Japanese assassins and a CIA agent.

"The whole mission with 'The Jacket' show and with what we're doing in the theater is to create a performance that is much like watching a movie but in the theater," Fradin explains.

The show's plot is played out using body-syncing to audio cues rather than dialogue. The soundtrack to the show and audio cues were all composed, recorded and produced by Nanda, and every movement is timed perfectly to correspond with the sound effects.

"Everything about our show — every moment of it — is choreographed," Fradin says. "I don't think there's a single moment that's left to chance.

"It's a lot to handle."

Tickets to the show at the Craterian cost $22, $25 and $28, or $15, $18 and $21 for ages 18 and younger. Tickets can be purchased at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., Medford, and or by calling 541-779-3000.

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