The Mettawee River Theatre Company, founded in 1975, creates original theater productions which incorporate masks, giant figures, puppets and other visual elements with live music, movement and text, drawing on myths, legends and folklore of the world’s many cultures for its material. The company is committed to bringing theater to people who may have little or no access to live professional theater. Each year Mettawee presents outdoor performances in rural communities of upstate New York and New England as well as performing in the New York City area.
Artistic Direction/Ralph Lee
Under the Artistic Direction of mask maker, designer and director Ralph Lee, the Mettawee River Company experiments with means of presenting masks, puppetry, mythology and theater in ways that can lead an audience to experience the powerful relationship between human beings, their ancestry and the natural environment. In his design and direction, Mr. Lee seeks to create vivid theatrical moments with economy and elegance. This search for an evocative simplicity of image and Mettawee’s commitment to making theater accessible to the widest possible audience through its outdoor performances give this theater company its particular character.
Awards and Exhibitions
Two Mettawee productions have received American Theatre Wing Design Awards: THE POPOL VUH PROJECT in 1995 and WICHIKAPACHE GOES WALKING in 1992; six Mettawee productions have been nominated for American Theatre Wing Design Awards. In 1991 Mettawee was the recipient of a Village Voice OBIE Award. The Company has received two Citations for Excellence from UNIMA, the international puppetry organization.
In 1996, Mettawee’s Artistic Director Ralph Lee received a New York State Governor’s Arts Award for his contributions to the artistic life of New York State. Also in 1996, Ralph Lee received a Dance Theater Workshop “Bessie” Award for sustained achievement. A retrospective exhibition of Lee’s work took place at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in the winter/spring of 1998. The three-month exhibition attracted record-breaking crowds.
Outdoor Performances and Residencies
Mettawee’s outdoor performances take place in town parks, historic sites, hay fields and public lawns of upstate New York and New England. In addition, our productions have been presented at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, LaMama E.T.C., The Bowery Poetry Club, Central Park’s Summerstage, St. Mark’s in the Bowerie, the 1991 New York International Festival of the Arts, a four-week tour of Alaska, and residencies at Amherst College and Prescott Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. In the fall of 2000, our production of Moliere’s PSYCHE was presented at the Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.
The Mettawee River Company has received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts from 1980 to the present and the New York State Council on the Arts from 1978 to the present, with additional grants from the Bickford Foundation, Meet the Composer, the Henson Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, the Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Agostino Foundation, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.