Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

‘Chitra’: tale as old as time


You may not have heard of Northwest Children’s Theater’s latest, Chitra: The Girl Prince, but the tale has been around a long time – as the narrators, the gods Madan (Heath Hyun Houghton) and Vasant (Sudipta Majumdar), explain during the setup. “This story is like 5,000 years old,” says Madan.

The title character’s full name is Chitrangadha – which was the name of the dance-drama written in 1892 by Rabindranath Tagore, based on the ancient legend. It came to NWCT through the passion of Artistic Director Sarah Jane Hardy and her co-director and co-choreographer for this play, Anita Menon. They worked closely with first-time playwright Avantika Shankar, who adapted the ancient tale for NWCT audiences.

“Chitra: The Girl Prince”: dancing, adventure, and an ancient tale. Photo: David Kinder

While the time and place of the play and its origins are far away from Portland, the story – about a young woman torn between love and success – resonates today, when girls and women still find themselves choosing between traditional expectations and their own ambitions and desires.

Alisha Menon, who previously appeared with NWCT in 2015’s The Jungle Book, gives Chitra both strength and vulnerability. She is also a mesmerizing and beautiful dancer – and dance is a large part of this production. (Her mother, co-director and choreographer Anita Menon, is also a renowned dancer.)

Alisha Menon is fantastic when Chitra bickers with her second-in-command in her father’s military, Raje. If the bickering feels especially real, that’s because Raje is played by Avish Menon, Alisha’s younger brother – so they may know a thing or two about squabbles. “I think you just won an argument,” Chitra tells Raje. “Now what?!” he replies.

The gods are also a strong point of the production, with Majumdar providing a healthy dose of skepticism and plenty of raised eyebrows at Madan’s wilder ideas. And Houghton (who also portrays Chitra’s father, the king) is a natural comedian. He will delight audience members of all ages, but is a particular favorite among children.

The play and the acting are strong throughout, but they pale in comparison to where this production most excels: the dancing. Chitra: The Girl Prince starts with a fantastic group of dancers – Alisha Menon among them, and she stands out even before you realize she will be Chitra – who perform several enchanting dances to both start and end the show. The entire cast participates in several song-and-dance numbers that will have the audience wanting to dance along. Luckily for the kids in attendance, they will be invited to get up and dance toward the end. (My own daughter cannot stop talking about the dancing or the gorgeous costumes, designed by Mary Eggers.)


Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

Everything – set, lighting, dance, and story – comes together for Chitra: The Girl Prince and brings this magical tale to life on the stage. Even young audience members will relate to it. Despite the singing, dancing, gods, and a cultural setting unfamiliar to many in the audience, my 5-year-old daughter told me after the play that Chitra is “the most real-life play we have ever seen.” That’s a strong endorsement, and I couldn’t have said it better myself.


Chitra: The Girl Prince continues through Feb. 25 at Northwest Children’s Theatre. Ticket and schedule information here.

Be part of our
growing success

Join our Stronger Together Campaign and help ensure a thriving creative community. Your support powers our mission to enhance accessibility, expand content, and unify arts groups across the region.

Together we can make a difference. Give today, knowing a donation that supports our work also benefits countless other organizations. When we are stronger, our entire cultural community is stronger.

Donate Today

Photo Joe Cantrell

DeAnn Welker is a writer and editor and a lifelong Oregonian (the sixth generation in her family to be born here). She has three daughters who share her passion for the arts, especially TV and theater. As a journalist, she has written or worked for The Oregonian, Oregon ArtsWatch, Television Without Pity (RIP), TODAY.com, MSNBC.com, and the Anchorage Daily News. She also spent a season working in marketing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Now she spends her days working from home as a proposal manager and most of her evenings and weekends driving her kids somewhere. She also volunteers as a Girl Scout leader for her daughters' troops. She lives in Tualatin with her three daughters, her boyfriend, and their smooth collie, Percy. When she's not at the theater, you'll find her reading, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, or watching TV (usually a reality show like Big Brother or The Challenge or rewatching Friends).

Triangle Productions presents Eleanor starring Margie Boule Portland Oregon
Pacific Maritime Heritage Center Prosperity of the Sea Lincoln County Historical Society Newport Oregon Coast
Newport Performance and Visual Arts Centers Newport Oregon Coast
Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon
City of Hillsboro Walters Cultural Arts Center She's Speaking Live! Hillsboro Oregon
Grace Goudy Distinguished Artists Series Willamette University Salem Oregon
Portland State University College of Arts William Shakespeare Measure for Measure PSU Portland Oregon
Portland Chamber Orchestra Young Artist Competition University of Portland Free Event Portland Oregon
Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon
Portland Art Museum Virtual Sneakers to Cutting Edge Kicks Portland Oregon
Tilikum Chamber Orchestra Lake Oswego High School Fairy Tales and Folk Songs Lake Oswego Oregon
Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon
Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon
Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
White Bird Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon
Northwest Dance Project Sarah Slipper Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
Corrib Theatre Contemporary Irish Theatre Portland Oregon
Seattle Opera The Life and Times of MalcolmX McCaw Hall Seattle Washington
Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
White Bird Dance Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall Newmark Theater Portland Oregon
High Desert Museum Sensing Sasquatch Indigenous Art & Knowledge Bend Oregon
Oregon Cultural Trust donate
We do this work for you.

Give to our GROW FUND.