Saturday, August 15, 2015

National Puppetry Festival 2015 (University of Connecticut) -- Day 5

August 14th, 2015

8am - Contemporary Shadow Puppetry

These days keep getting better and better. Today there was more of the technical stuff, but much more playing than yesterday.

We came in an hour early and were shown some basic shadow puppet craft. I didn't see any different technique from what Jim has shown me, but did get some ideas for different materials and methods for connecting rods.
Below you can see my septopus, "Lucky." He managed to slide his tentacles into almost every example that we worked on this morning. With the right set up in advance, this would be pretty cheap to do with large groups.
Next we spent some time using overhead projectors and slide projectors. I can see some possible applications for us, but they don't interest me as much as what we did at the very end of the session Actually, we stayed 45 minutes late, for which I will be eternally grateful.

Below is a wonderful light table set up that I WILL be using when I get back. We just need to build the table. Everything else we already have. Might need architectural vellum and a sheet of Lexan.

 We can do some stunning audience-side shadow puppetry or straight up live-feed puppetry. I've had some rudimentary ideas bouncing around in my head, but seeing these things done (and done really well) has thrown those ideas right into focus and it all seems so obvious. I think this could solve several problems in the library's Pooh Corner. Audience involvement/engagement being key. Also, no need to stumble around in the dark :)
 One thing we will have to be wary of is the ability to create a huge mess with all the objects available for scene/texture creation.

2:45 - The Orphan Circus by: Les Sages Fous (Trois-Rivières, QC)

The best puppet show I've seen... ever... so far ;) The design of the set, the acting and the manipulation were all expertly handled.
This excerpt from their website is even awesome just as text:
     The Orphan Circus is a haven for orphaned objects and puppets born strange.
     Among the debris of a scrap yard, between used oil cans, rusted sheet metal, and miscellaneous lost objects, Les Sages Fous invite you to a clandestine rendezvous. Two junk peddlers create a small circus of visual tableaux evoking the life of a cabaret troupe of derelicts and misfits. The dark alley becomes a outlet for dreams, a place where glitter and ash entwine, where magic and mystery is brewed in the trash cans. Underneath the dirt and the rust there are treasures to be found.

I hope you are aware that I don't take photos during the shows. Really bad etiquette at best, illegal at worst. So, while my workshop photos are mine, the photos and videos of these performances are (almost?) always ones that are available on a company website. I mention this because, Les Sages Fous displays their photos through a flash player that doesn't give you access to a URL. Normally this irritates me enough to not bother trying to promote their material. However, this is so good and not all the puppets are visible in the video. You may want to check out their pictures via their website.

Funny what people mess up. While their show is amazing and their video is well done, their photos are only so, so. They have good lighting, but I could definitely do better with the actual pictures. I'm not trying to find fault, it's just it was so good, I wish it was perfect.

reverse cascade
Not from the show :(

4pm - Reverse Cascade by: Red Ball Theatre

I was pretty tired when I saw this one. It felt long. I don't mean that a puppet show can't be full length, but if that is going to happen, you have to be sure that you provide the audience with exceptional variety AND a killer story. 

Also, if you are doing a show called reverse cascade and you feature juggling as a major theme in your show and your characters are little red juggling balls, you might consider using that particular juggling pattern in the show.

8pm - Late Night with Eugene O’Neill 

A variety show that is based on a late night talk show format and hosted by Eugene O’Neill himself (in puppet form) and co-hosted by Sonia Manzano (Maria on Sesame Street).

All the performers including the band are alumni or currently studying at the O'neill. A lot of inside jokes that I wasn't inside for.

10pm - Salmagundi Cabaret

I've been staying up late blogging, but I haven't actually taken in any of the late night shorts. There are events with names like Fringe, Potpourri, or the Salmagundi Cabaret... that are generally students or alumni getting a chance to show off some current or edgy piece of work--usually 5 minutes or less. Against Wendy's better judgement, I decided to stay up late at least one more time. Really glad I went because I got to see (for a third time) Sarah Nolen, an "almost" graduated puppet arts student. She appears to be some sort of puppet genius, really hard working, or perhaps both. Here is one of her bits manipulating a shower curtain and some shadows...