Thursday, December 27, 2012
I went to the Henson's Pineloch warehouse on December 12th to sketch a rehearsal of The Nativity. Rehearsals were held most weeknights for two weeks from about 7:30 to 10pm. All of those rehearsals were for two performances on December 22 at Pinocchio's Marionette Theater in the Altimonte Mall. The oldest story in Christian history was made new in this retelling with live music, and the gorgeous puppets from IBEX Puppetry and the Jim Henson Company. This puppet production was spearheaded by Jane Henson, the wife of Jim Henson of Muppet's fame. Jane helped Jim in the early days of television production but then abandoned puppetry to raise her family. He youngest daughter, Heather Henson helped her bring this production to life.
The warehouse was cavernous, filled with boxes and bins full of foam, fabric and assorted puppet parts. There were woodworking benches and large kites suspended from the ceiling. If you were to imagine Santa's toy factory, this would fit the bill. I decided to sit behind the table where the performing puppets were stored. Gabriel with his gossamer wings dominated the table. A dark sinister and conniving Herod stood beside him, visible through his transparent wings. Mary, Joseph and the three kings also waited to begin their performances. A train rumbled by adding an industrial edge to this period piece.
From this angle, I could see the puppeteers who had to crouch down behind the stage setting to stay out of the future audience's view. Sean Keohane, the director corralled the cast and explained how important the telling of the story would be. It was something parents could share with there children. Sarah Lockhard worked with the Virgin Mary rod puppet. Her face expressed every emotion as she moved the puppet. It was fascinating watching actors become lost in the subtle performers. The word, marionette, means “tiny Mary” and was derived from the puppets used in medieval mystery and miracle plays.