Review: Tiny Ninja Theater
TheaterMania, 4/9/03
"There's something irresistibly charming about seeing Shakespeare's works performed by miniature plastic figurines."

Article: Small Actors Make Big Splash
Dramatics, 4/03
"As Yoda says, ‘You do or you do not; there is no try.’"

Review: Theatre Pick for Week of March 4, 3/4/03
"You think you've seen every twist on The Bard’s work humanly possible..."

Article: Fringe Hit Tiny Ninja Theater Returns to NYC
Playbill Online, 2/9/03
"Trevor Bigfoot as Mercutio — whose death scene has to be seen to be believed"

Article: Best of Charleston 2003
The Charleston City Paper, 1/03
"Readers Pick for Best Piccolo Spoleto Event"

Review: Shakespeare in a Shoebox
The Washington Post, 1/11/03
"Once you've seen its Romeo & Juliet, you'll want to come to back for figurine versions of Hamlet or Othello or whatever else." — Peter Marks

Review: Action Figure Genius
The Charleston City Paper, 10/02
"Quick, clever, and chock full of surprises, more than one audience member claimed that it even outperformed the hit interpretation of the Scottish play." — Colleen Reilly

Review: Freeze Frame
Creative Loafing Charlotte, 10/2/02
"I heartily recommend being among the lucky few when Weinstein & Co. return to Charlotte or Piccolo Spoleto." — Perry Tannenbaum
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Review: Tiny Version of Macbeth is Giant Entertainment
The Charlotte Observer, 9/22/02
"Fresh, funny, ingenious and original." — JoAnn Grose

Review: Tiny Ninja Theater
Hairline, 8/02
"Four Stars: Tiny Ninja Theater is a fantastic and unorthodox show which represents what many love about the Edinburgh Festival." — Simon Ferguson

Review: Bard Takes a Flyer
Sunday Herald, 8/25/02
"Four Stars: Shakespeare is as equally at home among the ridiculous, of course." — Tim Abrahams

Review: Tiny Ninja Theater presents Macbeth
The Scotsman, 8/19/02
"Must be seen to be believed. " — Paul Rhodes

Review: Macbeth
Three Weeks, 8/17/02
"If a definition of the Fringe is originality and artistic expression, then this 35 minute abbreviated version of Macbeth, with tiny plastic ninjas as a cast, must surely rank as an ultimate example." — Paul Cochrane

Review: Mr. Smiley Face Macbeth
The Guardian, 8/10/02
"Weinstein plays it dead straight and speaks the text rather better than some classically trained actors I have heard." — Lyn Gardner

Review: Mini-Cawdor Steals Hearts
The List, 8/8/02
"a marvel of theatrical innovation" — Catherine Bromley

Review: No Drams Required
Edinburgh Guide, 8/3/02
"This is the only one I’m recommending to all my friends and the only thing I think I’ll make a return trip to!" — Annabel Ingram

Article: Ninja-cized Bard
Charleston Post & Courier, 6/1/02

Article: Tiny Ninja Theater Returns to Charleston
The State, 5/31/02

Review: Action Figure Genius
The Charleston City Paper, 5/29/02

Review: Tiny Ninjas Take On Shakespeare's Giant Roles
Charleston Post & Courier, 5/29/02

Article: Oh Tiny Romeo
The Charleston City Paper, 5/02

Article: What's The Buzz
The Charleston City Paper, 5/02
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Article: Where to Celebrate Valentine's Day Solo
Time Out New York, 2/14/02
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Review: Massaker im Spielzeugland
Taz Bremen, 1/22/02
the babelfish translation

Article: Best of Charleston 2001
The Charleston City Paper, 1/02
"Best Use of Plastic Figurines in a Performance" jump to the good bits

Article: Shakespeare de Plástico
Revista 2K, 6/22/01
the babelfish translation

Piccolo's Prices Too Steep for Local Festival
The State, 6/10/01
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Spoleto Festival at 25
The New York Times, 6/5/01
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Tiny Ninjas Put Twist on the Bard
Charleston Post & Courier, 6/2/01

Tiny Ninjas Project Big Illusion
The Charleston City Paper, 5/29/01

Review: No Small Jokes, Just Small Actors
Charleston Post & Courier, 5/29/01

Article: Immediate Art
The Charleston City Paper, 5/01
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Article: Serious Shakespeare Takes But An Inch
The Charleston City Paper, 5/01

Review: Sightlines: Tom Waits in the Toilet
The Village Voice, 4/27/01

Article: All Is But Toys
Stage Directions, 3/01
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Article: The Bard's New Band of Merry Men Perform Macbeth
American Theater, 12/00

Article: Off-Off color: Toy Story
Time Out New York, 11/9/00
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Review: Street of Blood, Tiny Ninja Theater presents Macbeth
NEXT Magazine, 9/15/00
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Article: Is That a Ninja That I See Before Me?
Playbill Online, 8/30/00

Review: Oh, Forget the Money, Let's Dress Up and Play
The New York Times, 8/26/00
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Fringe Binge
Time Out New York, 8/24/00
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Review: Fringe Benefits
The Village Voice, 8/23/00
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Review: As The Bard Himself Might Put it..., 8/20/00

Review: Tiny Ninja Macbeth, Finally, Little Green Man, 8/18/00
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Article: Off-Off and Running
Time Out New York, 8/10/00
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Oh Tiny Romeo
Ninja Theatre, take two

By Colleen Reilly

Who knows wherefore theatre artist Dov Weinstein hitched his wagon to inch-high plastic ninjas, but the two certainly seem to be star-crossed. Hailing from New York, Weinstein notes, “I had noticed that there were these tiny plastic ninjas in vending machines all across the city, but no one was using them to perform classical theater. Something had to be done.”

Launched at the 2000 New York Fringe Festival, Tiny Ninja Theatre is now receiving international recognition. Having recently returned from a tour of Germany and Sweden, Weinstein and the Tiny Ninja Company are diligently preparing for their world premiere of Romeo and Juliet at the Piccolo Fringe at Theatre 99. This is a return date for Weinstein and the Ninjas, whose Macbeth astounded critics and audiences alike at last year’s Piccolo festival. As co-producer Jonathan Van Gieson states, “I think it’s fair to say that Charleston loved the ninjas, and the ninjas loved Charleston.”

Charleston certainly did love the ninjas at last year’s festival. Performances of Macbeth steadily sold out, and the limited seating only heightened desperate acts to get in to see it. “It was crazy,” recounts Theatre 99 house manager Katie McDonald. “People were in some kind of ninja frenzy.” This year has seen added performances of Tiny Ninja Theatre in the Piccolo Fringe at Theatre 99 schedule and some additional training for the Theatre 99 front-of-house staff. “Those ninjas have shown me a thing or two about crowd control,” admits McDonald.

Why the fuss? Well, this is not an ordinary puppet theatre. Performed on a table-top stage the size of a briefcase and viewed through binoculars, these plastic figurines pack a big dramatic wallop. This is not simply a theatrical performance, but some kind of strange and wonderful phenomena. Last year’s Macbeth was a Shakespearean triumph, conveying the suspense, tragedy, and humanity contained in the much abridged Shakespearean text. As Weinstein describes, “Tragedy is the ninjas’ strong point, but with Romeo and Juliet, we would like to explore a younger feeling.”

That younger feeling may require some new casting. And it seems there is potential that the famous Capulet and Montague rivalry has bled over to the ninjas and last year’s stars Mr. and Mrs. Smile. Weinstein himself has been quoted as saying, “This is Tiny Ninja Theater, not Arrogant Smile-Faced Prima Donna Couple Theater. Mr. and Mrs. Smile might do well to consider that there is no ‘I’ in company.” When asked about this statement, he quickly counters, “Many of the old ninjas will be returning, and although Mr. and Mrs. Smile will be making an appearance, they will not be playing Romeo and Juliet. They have a kind of maturity, a tragic flair, and the lead roles will require younger blood.”

Younger blood, or taller? Weinstein admits that taller ninjas, along with other new figures, will be gracing the stage in the premiere production. They will be joining a company of over 100 assorted dime store action figurines. And, although Weinstein himself is careful to keep out of the limelight, he admits he may be taking a more active role in this Romeo and Juliet. While he remains tightlipped about the final casting decisions, he admits, “People seemed to like watching me. We may really play with that dynamic in this production.”

He’s hard not to watch. A skilled puppeteer and experienced actor, Weinstein commands the stage of ninjas with an absolute and seemingly effortless power. He achieves his stagings with recklessly simple materials like cardboard, glue, and everyday household items. Ninjas are moved by hand or attached to mobile platforms and revolving playing spaces. Weinstein’s delivery of Shakespearean verse is impeccable, matched by a keen understanding of the complexity of Shakespeare’s imagery and rhythm. But there will be no two-hour traffic on this stage. Like Macbeth, this Romeo and Juliet will be generously abridged.

In spite of their abbreviated interpretations, it is clear the ninjas themselves have come to love Shakespeare’s words, reportedly hosting cabaret nights in which they stage the sonnets. Unavailable for comment, the ninjas did express through Weinstein their excitement about returning to Charleston.

In fact, it seems that this premiere of Romeo and Juliet was inspired in part by the company’s participation in last year’s Piccolo Fringe at Theatre 99. Macbeth audiences expressed an enthusiastic interest in seeing Shakespeare’s classic love story performed Tiny Ninja-style. The domestic tragedy is a bit of a shift from the high stakes of Macbeth, but Weinstein sees some similiarities. “The Macbeths possibly could be what Romeo and Juliet would have become had they lived. Their early courtship is that intense.”

Speaking of intense, the race for tickets is on. There are only 15 performances of Romeo and Juliet scheduled and seating is extremely limited. Don’t pull a Romeo and show up late. Missing this world premiere would be nothing short of tragic.

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