Showing posts with label Puppets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Puppets. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Wonderheads from Portand, Oregon brought "Loon" to this years Fringe.  This life sized puppet acted out every scene in mime. A sad faced aging man stood at the beach with his mothers remains in a jar. He went to scatter the ashes and just got his hands and clothes covered in ash. He is faced with dating and when asked about his favorite person he wrote mom. There was a collective awww... from the audience.

Things look up for him when he falls in love with the moon. He pursues the moon with a child like ambition.  There is one magical moment where he has the moon cupped in his hands and his hands spread apart leaving the glowing orb floating in space between his hands. I still don't know how it was done. I haven't experienced that type of wonder and amazement since I saw a planetarium show about beings of light as a child.

Loon was the well deserved patron's pick for the green venue. It was funny, touching and heart breaking. When the actors came out for a bow after the show, I was surprised to discover that the old man was played by a young woman.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happy Memories

Jack Fields is working on a short film titled "Happy Memories" which combines puppetry and live action. He told me that Brian Feldman would be hatching from an egg on the day I went to sketch. John Regan III was behind the camera. Digital SLR cameras shoot quality video these days. Brian was perched on a crate covered with foam and a blue blanket. The wall behind him was painted as a blue screen so he could be composited onto another background in post production. He was dressed in long johns that had googly eyes pasted all over the surface. Whenever he moved the eyes wobbled. Jack was trying to get an eyeball hanging from an ocular nerve to look like it had popped out of Brian's eye socket. The adhesive didn't want to stick so the eye kept dropping off.

With costuming and makeup done it was time to shoot. Brian tucked his knees up to his chest in a fetal position and then Jack started wrapping him in aluminum foil. Jack stood back and shouted "Action!" Brian slowly extricated himself from the aluminum foil egg. Jack shouted "Cut!" He felt Brian had moved too slow, so he explained the pacing he needed. Brian was wrapped in aluminum foil for another take. This time the timing was perfect. They shot one more scene where Brian looked at a puppet held by Jack in shock and horror.

I don't know the story behind "Happy Memories" but I can't wait to see the final product. Jack's puppets are an intricate banquet for the eyes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shooting Orlando Live

After spending 82 hours on the streets of downtown Orlando, Peter Murphy went straight into shooting a video broadcast of Orlando Live. The show began at 10 pm at the City Arts Factory. Cameras were set up in the hallway entry. There was the frantic activity of getting ready with time running out. Wires snaked everywhere in the hallway. Singer, songwriter, Britt Daley who was setup right outside the entry gave a live performance. Peter looked tired, his eyes glassy, but he lit up once the cameras started rolling.

His first interview was with Hannah Miller. Hannah is a puppeteer and she had several of the puppets she made for an upcoming show titled "Gift of the Magi." One puppet hung from a light. A stagehand was concerned the light might topple with the added weight, but Hannah assured her that the puppet was extremely light. The conversation quickly turned from the world of entertainment to the experiences Peter had on the streets of Orlando. He discovered that Hannah volunteered for an organization called iDignity, which finds identification papers for the poor. Without IDs it is impossible to get a job. The organization's mission is so simple and yet empowering, allowing people to take control of their lives.

Hannah had wonderful ideas about how to revitalize downtown by allowing street performers to work and improving the downtown culture through art. The only big business downtown at night now seems to be the sale of alcohol. Just then a gaggle of college girls started yelling and screaming because they saw the cameras. As Hannah walked back to her car, some jerk snatched a puppet out of her arms ripping it in the process. When she got to the parking lot space she had paid for, she found her car had been towed. She spent the rest of the night trying to find her car and extricate it from the impound lot all the way out by the airport. The towing pirates even made her wait an additional 40 minutes before they showed up to the lot. Rather than holding a grudge, she had this to say, "I'm going out of my way every time I leave my house for the next week to be super, super nice to everybody. I think Orlando needs it."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Kindness of Ravens

There was a mad rush to get things finished opening night of Macabre Vignettes #3 Snow. There was the enraged search for an electrical chord which involved throwing things out of the way and then a mad flash of black Duck taping the wiring down. Audio equipment was being moved from downstairs to the balcony in the final moments. Seth Kubersky announced, "5 minutes to open house!" A few dancers who were still dressing and applying make up said, "Thank you 5." That didn't leave me with much time to finish my sketch. Below they were working on a dance routine that involved interacting with a large raven. The dancer held two lines that manipulated the birds sharp talons. As they rehearsed, Genevieve Bernard walked quickly by getting ensnared in the near invisible lines. "My bad." she said. There was no harm done. It seemed like there were too many loose ends for the show to open on time. Leah called for a 5 minute extension. The pulse in the room quickened. Finally Seth shouted out, "House 0pen!" People started to drift in. I had a few more watercolor washes to add and I slapped them down. Showtime!

I walked down the web encrusted staircase and ordered a Blue Moon at the bar. Then I put the sketchpad away and relaxed on a green couch . The show had already started with dancers wandering among the audience marveling at the environment. Bloggers Jana Waring and Mark Baratelli wandered in. The dancers were in their own world never interacting with audience members. Once a dancer held a hand out towards a man walking by. He hadn't noticed her and her longing gesture lingered. When the dancers moved among the ravens, one of the control wires got all tangled in a knot among the talons. The bird hung limply just a few feet in front of me. Finally I couldn't resist, I stepped forward and untangled the poor bird and then held the control line. A dancer leaped toward me and took the line smiling. However the bird had spun so many times that he couldn't be raised any higher. The dancer valiantly held the line but the bird would only loose altitude never going back up. It finally fell to the floor and was brushed aside by Leah. I admired the dancers for adjusting to such technical problems without missing a beat.

Over time the dancing was no longer enough to hold me. I needed some thread of story to keep me engaged. I never became involved enough to suspend my disbelief. Staging the large puppets was a problem since they were best viewed from the front. They would spend agonizing moments with their backs to the audience. I walked around the room incessantly, changing my point of view. Most of the audience however remained stationary unable to see the action or gesture of the puppets. Tamara Marke-Lars stated that the large creations were sculpture first and puppets second. She pushed the boundary between puppetry and art. Sometimes for me, art isn't enough if it doesn't support a solid story.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Murder of Crows

Alright, so they are actually Ravens but I felt Murder needed to be in the title. I returned to Macabre Vignettes #3 / Snow on the last day of rehearsals. Black ravens circled ominously over the Voci Dancers as the worked out the kinks to their dance routine. Once again Leah Marke was offering constant suggestions and encouragement. Each of the dancers was given a filament line that would control the height of one and sometimes two ravens. As they loosened the lines which were secured to the stylized trees, one raven dropped quickly grazing Melissa Medina's hair. She shrieked in surprise and then laughed loudly. This routine is complicated by the fact that the lines often limit possible movement because they come down at obtuse angles. Every movement of the dancers affects the movement of the ravens. They had to balance a fine line, being puppeteers and dancers all at once. Dancer, Amanda Oost Bradberry, who is now pregnant wore a large ravens head mask. This was a stroke of pure genius, she is beautiful in the outfit, her distended belly and wide stance complimented the form of the head. With her arms over her head she resembled an infant in her proportions.

The staircase to the second floor was now enclosed and surrounded by an immense spider web. I had to duck to climb the stairs. Macabre found object sculptures were now hung gallery style against the back wall. It was a humbling and frightening collection. Downstairs Tamara's mom was seated on a green cushion and organizing strings of Christmas lights. Tamara was high up on a ladder draping fabrics from lines. The environment she was creating had taken on so much form and structure since the last time I sketched. I doubt she ever slept. I know the true magic will happen as she creates and refines the final ten percent.

For the final dance routine, Leah let me sit right in the center of the action. Genevieve said, "This is only because you are at the rehearsals Thomas." The action happened all around me. In the beginning the dancers were suspended from bolts of green fabric which hung from the ceiling I-beams. They hung from their hips dangling horizontally like limp dolls. Laughing, Leah was revolving uncontrollably until Lisa Nakayama stopped her. The large hunchbacked blue puppet walked around me reaching longingly in the air his sad expression registering resignation. It took three puppeteers to move him . Suddenly all the dancers were crouched around me and one got caught in a fearsome exchange with the creature. I of course was struggling to catch a gesture, or moment in the action. I already had one sketch under my belt however, so I finally relaxed and enjoyed the performance.

Admission to Macabre Vignettes #3 is $20 cash at the door, at Urban ReThink (625 East Central Boulevard), which used to be the Urban Think bookstore. Doors open 30 minutes prior to curtain time. They suggest getting your ticket early and then catching a bite to eat at any of the fabulous restaurants in the neighborhood.
Show times are:
December 11 (Today!) at 8pm and 10pm
December 12 at 2pm and 8pm

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Macabre Vignettes #3/ Snow

I got up in the middle of the night I woke and walked blindly to the bathroom, my bare feet slapping on the cold tiles. Not wanting to blind myself I didn't bother turning on the light. Seated inside I stared at my wife's white bathrobe hanging from a hook on the door. As I looked, half awake, I saw a dark form move in the crevice of the sleeve. A large dark spider slowly crawled out. Part of me wanted to pull the robe from the hook and stomp on it, but I was transfixed, the two or three inch spider was only a foot from my face. As I focused my eyes I saw a strange cylindrical web resembling a CD storage case, which ran up the sleeve. It had a strange consistency like it was made of small compartmentalized soap bubbles. The spider crawled around the outer edge and when it got to the top, the web collapsed in on itself and the spider moved around inside. I began to question what I was seeing, so I finally flipped on the light. The robe flashed a bright white and I had to close my eyes. There was nothing there, no web, no spider. Yet, it had been so real! I turned off the light and as my eyes adjusted to the dark again, I saw movement in the shadows a second time. The spider was even more tentative, but soon it was out again moving swiftly over its diaphanous web. It seemed to know I was watching . I didn't bother switching on the light this time, I simply accepted this strange macabre waking dream. I returned to bed unable to sleep...

At Urban ReThink (625 East Central Boulevard), I crouched on the upper floor looking at the beautiful and grotesque sculptural puppet parts for Macabre Vignettes #3 / Snow. A soft babies head had its eyes sewn shut, a black bird perched menacingly inside a wooden box full of found mechanical objects. Below me Tamara Marke Lars, her husband and a third helper are struggling to hang a large birdlike puppet from a taught fly line. Tamara asks me if the line looks level from where I stand but I am indecisive. The space for now is disorganized, full of the bits and pieces that when assembled, will bring her unique vision to life. She is a master of the macabre and this unique show will most certainly fall outside any of your typical pedestrian Christmas offerings.
Tamara's sister, Leah Marke, was in charge of bringing the six or so Voci dancers up to speed on how they will be staged as they interact with the giant puppets. She was a whirlwind, constantly on the move coaching and inspiring her fellow dancers. She spoke on her cell phone trying to help a dancer that was lost. Her eyelids glittered as she was giving turn by turn directions to the rehearsal. Afterward, she picked up two huge chicken feet and shouted out, "Look here, I gots me some darn big chicken feet." Her affected southern accent caused me to laugh out loud. Turning to me, she finished with, "And you can quote me on that!" One of the dancers kept laughing with childish delight whenever Tamara would move a puppet she was working on. I shared her delight as I struggled to record the creative genius amongst the chaos. Tamara picked up the sickly looking blue child puppet from the rocking chair. In her warm, full arms the limp puppet looked like a frail cold Pieta.

I saw the Voci dancers rehearsing a dance that involved them wrapping themselves in fabric that hung from the ceiling. It took three puppeteers to move the large blue puppet. When they started grunting and playing boisterously the giant began to come alive. This show promises to be a surreal experience and I for one will not miss it.

Admission to Macabre Vignettes #3 is $20 cash at the door, at Urban ReThink which used to be the Urban Think bookstore.
Show times are:
December 10 at 8pm
December 11 at 8pm and 10pm
December 12 at 2pm and 8pm
*Doors open 30 mins prior to curtain

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adult Puppet Slam

Pinocchio's Marionette Theater in the Altamonte Mall (451 Altamonte Dr., Altamonte Springs) hosted a single evening performance of an Adult Puppet Slam. When Terry and I arrived there was a line to get in. Jeremy Seghers arrived right after us and we all joked about how we keep bumping into each other at events. When the crowd filed in the place filled to the point where there was standing room only. At first I sat on one of the small child sized benches but then decided to use my portable chair and sit against a wall so I could sketch puppets and some of the audience. Sean Keohane, the Executive Director of Pinocchio's, introduced the evening.
A Punch and Judy style show started off the festivities and had the audience laughing. Hannah Miller did a performance of "The Gift of the Magi." I had sketched Hannah as she built set pieces for this show. The marionettes that she built from scratch are absolutely magical, brightly colored and sparkle with sequins. An actual alligator head is used for one character. Hannah's boyfriend, Jack Fields had his own show as well called "The Loaf That No One Cried For." This rather hilarious performance also featured Brian Feldman as a humanoid who is concerned for the well being of a giant puppet that he drags on stage. A gourd shaped puppet that pops up from a bright patchwork quilt offers advice and orders Feldman around. When Brian climbed into the audience, he stopped next to Sultana Ali and stuffed his mouth with bread. The audience couldn't stop laughing during this performance.
After the Slam was over a number of us lingered. Brian and Hannah disappeared into Pinocchio's Playland in order to look over some rather legal looking documents. They were married in February as a demonstration that a straight couple, who don't even know each other, can get married while gay and lesbian couples who are in love and have lived together for years are denied the right to marry. As Brian and Hannah talked behind closed doors, rumors circulated about a possible annulment. The rumors remain just that, since the couple did not confirm or deny anything.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Gift of the Magi

As part of 4th Fest, on July 4th, Thunder Hag and A_Scissors will present a puppet show titled, "Gift of the Magi." Hannah Miller is the artist who is designing and building all the puppets and set flats for the show. The performance will be at 8Pm to 9PM at Lake Ivanhoe. This will be an ambient marionette show where you can see the puppeteers.
CrocoGirl who is a gator that was partially transformed into a human is on of the major characters in the show. Hannah Miller explained that when she was drilling holes in the gator head, she was treated to the most horrendous smell. The set flats Hannah was working on had a blue sequin sky with light blue wisps of clouds. As I sketched she was working on adding a wood grain look to the tree trunks ising golden string held in place with hot glue.
The story begins with a girl who lived in the Everglades. She looks out over the glades and falls in love with a pair of eyes that are always watching her. She performs for the eyes and grows to expect that constant loving gaze. One day the eyes disappear. Distraught, the girl petitions the moon to help her find the loving eyes again. To help her on that quest, the moon transforms her into a bird. She flies over the Glades searching for the eyes she loved.
The eyes belonged to a Crocodile and she was transformed as well becoming part human but retaining her animal instincts. The bird settles on a branch just above the Crocogirl. Crocogirl still desires the bird but that desire has more to do with hunger rather than high minded ideals of love.
Hannah has only has 4 days left till showtime and there is so much that she needs to finish before showtime. Jack Fields and Jessica Earley will be helping with the performance on show day and Brian Cunningham will be performing music he wrote specifically for this show live.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 3 Puppeteers

It turns out that Jack, one of the 3 puppeteers from Pinocchio's Puppet Theater in the Altamonte Mall, had written a comment on my blog that he had been at a number of events that I had sketched, but he was always on the opposite side of the room and so he wasn't in any of those sketches. In the first sketch of the puppeteers I didn't sketch Jack because he was the furthers away and he might have been out of view because he was working the curtains or getting a puppet. April told me about how disappointed Jack would be so I had to do another sketch to be sure I caught Jack. He is usually on the platform at stage left so I walked backstage to draw on that side.
Jack is the puppeteer who worked Frosty. Frosty has the amazing ability to separate all his body parts during his dance number. In the sketch Frosty is off in the wings at stage left watching the dancing reindeer's who do a lively can can number.
The final show is a bit over an hour long but with fits and starts the rehearsal was well over 4 hours. Much of this is because the lighting had to be figured out for each number. Endurance, patience and a playful spirit seem to be the attributes needed to be a good puppeteer. The cast affectionately referred to April as stumpy which implies that long arms are also a plus. She got to perform as the acrobatic monkey which is one of the more challenging and fun puppets to work. She can swing through the air with the greatest of ease and she is able to flip up and sit on the cross bar.
Space backstage is very cramped. Sometimes the puppeteers have to crawl under the platforms in order to untangle puppets or work the back stage curtains. It is easy for a puppeteer to bump their head on all the exposed beams. April who works the MC of the show had him stand and look up at the huge puppeteers looming above him. he made a comment as if this were the first time he had realized that they were there. It was quite funny.
The true magic comes from hearing the reactions from the children. The puppeteers can hear the audience response and they feed off of that energy. April was saying that the last audience was screaming for more of the dancing panda. She also wrote me that in a recent performance of Holly's Follies the arms fell off of several characters. The children screams not in horror but delight.
One of the final acts was set to the music of "Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year". I had heard this music over and over again at the Trees rehearsals. It seems the most wonderful time of the year is fast approaching. Brace yourself. Santa's Holly Follies runs through November 29th check the website for show times.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Santa's Holly Follies

Hanna Miller through facebook had informed me that the Holly's Follies were about to start rehearsing in Pinocchio's Marionette Theater in the Altimonte Mall. I was told to stand in a back hallway of the mall and then call on my cell. Sean Keohane opened the door I was standing near which had no doorknob. I was shocked that all the walls inside were red. We entered the theater and the stage is intricately decorated with red and gold paint. There were tiny chandeliers and small benches for the children. Sean took me back to stage left where there are steps for the puppeteers to climb up 15 feet to a boardwalk. He then took me over to stage right where there was a glass window and all the unused puppets were gathered together waiting to go onstage. We had to move some boxes and Tupperware storage containers so I could sit close and start my sketch.
The sketch shows April and Hanna on the boardwalk manipulating puppets which are on stage behind all the waiting puppets. Jack the third puppeteer is probably on another boardwalk working the curtains. The rehearsal went on for about four hours. Lighting was being worked out by Richard who was sitting out in the theater with a light board on a bench in front of him. The show involves many changes of sets with curtain drops and a huge cast of puppets. Hanna informed me that they don't even have all the puppets yet and there are only a few more days of rehearsals before they start performances.
Several times the performance had to be stopped when puppets got tangled together. One of the kings got his strings tangled in his own crown. When things like this happen the puppet will be forced to move in a strange stilted way but the show must go on. While one puppeteer is working a puppet another might be called on to flick on a black light or drop a new curtain behind the set. It is a complicated process in a tight space and I don't know how they keep it all straight. For hours they bent forward at the waist manipulating the strings. I have no doubt muscles were sore by the end of the night.