I went to the final dress rehearsal for the Nativity at Pinocchio’s Marionette Theater in the Altamonte Mall. It was a few days before Christmas and the Mall was overrun with shoppers. I had to drive up and down about ten parking isles before I finally found a spot in the parking garage next to the movie theater. There was panic and road rage among the cars searching for spots. It was a freezing cold night and I added my windbreaker to my arsenal of coats. The security gate was closed when I found Pinocchio’s. I went to the backdoor entrance and started firing of texts to people I hoped were inside. With no return texts, I decided I might have to sketch the theater from the children’s play area. I set up my stool and was about to start sketching when I saw Sean Keohane open the gate to get in the theater. I scrambled, gathering my supplies and I ran to the theater just as he started lowering the gate. He saw me and reversed the motor.
Puppeteers were given dark olive green long sleeved shirts which would help blend them into the background as they worked the rod puppets designed by Jane Henson. Sarah Lockhard who plays the Virgin Mary wasn’t at the beginning of the rehearsal, so the smaller puppets used in the actual nativity scene rehearsed several run-throughs of that scene. Sean boomed out his lines as the voice of God from the back of the theater. God speaks in Latin, it turns out. Herod hatched his evil plot to kill the new born King using the three Kings as his henchmen. Joseph was shocked when he discovered Mary was pregnant and he understandably doubts her story of divine birth. He still vows to protect his young bride.
My favorite part of the play is when a banner is waved majestically over the manger. The puppeteer looks up at the banner making it wave in slow motion as if in a breeze using two rods. It is the puppeteer’s concentration and complete absorption in the process that I admire, and this was one moment where the puppeteer was in plain sight. Three musicians performed live, playing medieval music. The rest of the puppeteers remained hidden behind the stage front and faux rock work. They had knee pads on, yet several times I heard loud thumps back stage. Edna Bland iced her leg from one of those bumps during a break. There were two weeks of these back breaking rehearsals for two performances. Art isn’t easy.