Saturday, October 20, 2012

Interactive Puppetry

At the opening of the Handmade Puppet Dreams exhibit at City Arts Factory, Heather Henson, the founder of Ibex Puppet Company, had just opened a present from a friend. She held a sleek sculpture of a deer or ram or maybe it was an ibex. All the colorful tissue paper was on the floor, and a light breeze from someone passing by caused a sheet to move, begging me to play. I was reminded of a an interactive art performance by actress and puppeteer, Rebekah Lane, on October 16th as part of the Creative City Project. She staged her performances four times at different locations around Lake Eola. When I arrived she was stuffing colorful tissue paper into brightly colored shopping bags. She explained to me that the idea for the performance came about after she attended a recent puppetry workshop. She learned about the work of Albrecht Roser. She explained that there are two ways to approach a story. First you can write a story and then find the materials with which to tell the story. The other approach is to let the materials influence and mold the story.

I was excited at the prospect of a performance in public catching people by surprise. A small foot ladder held a wicker rattle, an iHome stereo player and some thin green wire strands.  The puppet show banner hung from a flaccid length of PVC. She eventually found an existing sign near her staging area to support the banner. She turned on the stereo, playing some Felliniesque music and she approached passers by to try and drum up an audience. First three then five people gathered. Her performance was in mime. She offered the five people the shopping bags with delight in her eyes. They riffled inside the bags looking for what she was offering. All the colorful tissue paper was in the way. Then she extracted a bright blue tissue from a bag. Playfully, she crumpled the tissue into a long worm-like shape. She crouched down and had the tissue crawl about in the grass and then look around quizzically. Others played along. Soon there was a procession of caterpillars in the grass.

They moved to the ladder where a tissue paper cocoon was built and suspended with the silky wire strands. The caterpillars went inside and later emerged. Rebekah took the newly emerged tissue and she lifted it up into the breeze. It floated and danced in the wind. Every one's tissues flew up in the air like graduation caps hesitant to return to any head. People ran after their creatures before they could be blown into the lake. Rebekah then folded her tissue, creating wings and her hand acted as the body and legs of a butterfly. A little girl was delighted when the butterfly landed on her head. There was an innocent Gelsomina joy in this performance that playfully asked people to imagine life in the colorful, and inanimate, while offering them the luxury of play. Sometimes we all need a little reminder that life isn't all about meetings and schedules.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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