Hip-Hop Mini Opera Provides Fresh Take on “Pinocchio”

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Photo courtesy of Nasher Museum of Art

What would Pinocchio look like if he came to life in America in the future?  You can find one incarnation at “5P1N0K10” (pronounced “Spinokio”), a free Hip Hop puppet show/mini opera set to open at Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University 10:30-11 a.m. and 11:30-noon Wednesday, March 30 in Durham.

5P1N0K10—dubbed a hip hopera—tells the tale of a robot-boy who wants to become human in an Afro-futuristic take on Carlo Collodi’s Classic “Pinocchio” tale. In this futuristic world, where robots are used for war, engineer Jeghetto creates the android 5P1N0K10, who goes on to fight for humanity with b-boying (breakdancing) and hip-hop.

Photo courtesy of Nasher Museum of Art

“He is not a soldier he is just a breakdancer and artist,” says Pierce Freelon, a Durham-based hip-hop musician, who is among the show’s creators. “5P1N0K10 is just a kid growing up in America, and the challenges he faces are those that African Americans have historically faced and continue to face.”

Freelon, a dad of 6- and 7-year olds, says the show is entertaining and educational for children, using puppets as well as projections of musicians of merit. “We are pulling video clips from important artists, like Nina Simone, who are making cameo appearances in the play,” he says.

Although 5P1N0K10is designed for all ages, parents are cautioned that it does contain mild fantasy violence of the kind you might find in Star Wars/Pokémon.

Freelon says the idea for the mini opera emerged when he met puppeteer Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins and saw him perform with his puppets. “I was amazed at his puppetry and he told me his idea for 5P1N0K10.”

Pipkins and Freelon wrote the script for the show, which includes an original score written by Omari Hall (H-iro) and Freelon. Pipkins works the puppets, and Freelon is the narrator.

The first showing of P1N0K10 at the Nasher on Dec. 30, 2015 drew crowds, so they decided to put it on again. This version goes all hip-hop, whereas the debut also featured jazz.

Photo courtesy of Nasher Museum of Art

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