MAYA MASKS: Marie Ponce encounters a masked hero.

Isaac Hernandez

MAYA MASKS: Marie Ponce encounters a masked hero.

Boxtales Brings Us The Hero Twins

Maya Story Told with Masks and Movement

3 Reasons to See The Hero Twins at Center Stage Theater

The pre-Columbian peoples of Central and South America engaged in a number of strikingly intense, high-stakes cultural practices, and none more so than the Maya ballgame that is today known as ulama. Played with a heavy rubber ball (the Maya discovered rubber) inside a large stone court with sloping walls, this seriously hard-core sport required players to strike the ball only with their hips, and, most famously, would under certain circumstances result in the human sacrifice of the losers. For obvious reasons, the ball game has become a staple of middle school social science classes. All over America, 7th and 8th graders toil, writing essays that characterize these sophisticated ancient civilizations on the basis of what are often hysterically exaggerated versions of the game and its place within these cultures.

Leave it to Boxtales, Santa Barbara’s innovative and seasoned professional theater company for kids and adults, to recast the Maya ball game within its proper, heroic context. In The Hero Twins, the Boxtales show that comes to Center Stage May 25-26, the three performers who make up the group’s current lineup — Michael Andrews, Marie Ponce, and Matthew Tavianini — use masks, dance, music, movement, and dialogue to weave a story of evolution and human triumph. And, although the ball game is a big part of what happens in the story, it doesn’t receive the kind of sensationalizing treatment it sometimes gets elsewhere. Below, Andrews offers three reasons to see The Hero Twins. Call (805) 963-0408 or visit for tickets and info.

1. The Realness: The creators at Boxtales are demons for authenticity. Said Andrews, “We do more dramaturgy than anyone because we feel we owe it to the native peoples to get things right.”

2. The Heroism: “We need heroes today,” said Andrews. “There are always things in your life that feel like going into the underworld, and in order to do that, we need to see the great heroes of myth doing it, as well. These stories keep getting told because they are stories we need to hear.”

3. The Gnarliness: “We know what kids love, and kids love stuff that’s gnarly,” said Andrews. “Look at the original Grimms’ tales — they were full of terror and gore before they were sucked dry of their darkness by censorship. We are careful — we don’t want to have any criers, and we work to make sure that no one is too upset — but we also deliver the gnarly factor.”

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