Monday, January 18, 2010

The PuppetSlam Mini-Tour, Part II: Brookline

After the late night drive back to Boston from Providence with Little's Creatures' Jon and Hakim, a shower, some sleep (I had been up just over 20 hours straight), breakfast and lunch, I had to get to work on cutting Arlecchino Am Ravenous into Arlecchino Am Abridged since the 32 minute one man play I performed at Blood From a Turnip on Friday night was not going to fit into the alloted ten minute slot at the PuppetSlam on Saturday night. Essentially, I had to sit down, go over the script and cut anything that wasn't absolutely necessary for telling a story with a coherent narrative. Very quickly, I realized that meant cutting Arlecchino's prayers for food as well as his trips to heaven and hell. The blasphemous theophany was gone, and while I managed to keep a few routines that of my own invention, I had felt that it had the journey was what made Arlecchino stand apart from the material that had inspired it: the traditional lazzo of La Fame dello Zanni ("The Starving Zanni") that I had first encountered by way of Dario Fo.

Nonetheless, because of the need to fit within time constraints forced me hew closer to tradition was, still informed by my own personal interpretation of that tradition, it was a great lesson in flexibility.

As Puppet Showplace primarily serves family audiences, most of their shows are matinées and this gave us a much longer period between load-in and show time. In fact, as I arrived, just a little before 4pm, a number of families were already exiting. This allowed me to catch some of a Q&A that Heidi Rugg (of Barefoot Puppets) was giving to an audience of young people who were interested in how she created a puppet show, from writing, to puppet and stage design. She would perform a piece in the Slam later that evening entitled "Alas, Poor Yorick" which was a puppeteer's reflections on mortality knowing that her puppets may outlive her.

The earlier load-in time gave us time for a tech-rehearsal and a more relaxed preparation for the show. Jonathan, who was hosting the evening, tested out some jokes with us as we ate sandwiches.

The show was dedicated to Kathleen Conroy Mukwashi, the out-going Artistic Director. She had essentially recruited me for the evening's show and she's a great puppeteer in her own right.

I got some very favorable feedback both during intermission and after the show, including from people with intimate familiarity with the commedia idiom, but the next day I would be attending kathak class where I knew I would be experiencing a healthy level of humility.


With the exception of Baby Oil, all the performers from the previous night's show at Blood From a Turnip performed at the Slam.

Kyle MacKesey performed his first ever puppet show!

Diane Kordas performed broad political satire with a shadow puppet retelling of Chicken Little. Her husband, Bob, provided accompaniment on banjo.

Paul Sedgwick (no relation to Jim) presented an excerpt from his full length play The Banjo Lesson. The segment told the story of the banjo's origins in the Jola akonting.

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