Revisiting Saudade

As part of our preparation for this tour of Saudade (which starts on Friday!) we were able to bring in photographer Liza Harbison to take some shots of the shadow puppets. Here are a few:

 

Five Firsts: Wit’s End Puppets in 2015

It’s been a busy year here at Wit’s End Puppets; a year filled with new work and new friends and collaborators! Here is a list of our top five ‘first’ moments from the year.

IMG_23095. First crankie!
Ever since I saw Katherine Fahey’s amazing crankies, I’ve wanted to tackle constructing one ourselves. It was a thrill to work with Katherine this year on our shadow play Saudade. 

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4. First Fringe show in way too long!
Our very first show using the name Wit’s End Puppets was back in 2010 for the Capital Fringe Festival. We had a wonderful time working with banished? productions on their piece I Thought the Earth Remembered Me for this year’s festival.

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3. First video shoot!
It was a whole new world for us, incorporating puppets into a gothic, lush set for a music video with She Monster Productions.

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2. First City Arts Project grant! 
We are thrilled that DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities decided to award us a grant to tour Saudade around the city in collaboration with the American Immigration Council and GALA Hispanic Theatre. If you would like to help support this tour and send us to even more places, you can donate here!

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1.First International performance!
Traveling to Winnipeg for the Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival was an amazing opportunity. We met so many incredible artists and teachers; people who work every day to help immigrants and refugees in Winnipeg. It was an honor to share our art with them and hear their thoughts and stories.

Here’s to a 2016 that’s just as rewarding and exciting!

Peacocks and Puppets

Although we mainly work with puppets for the theater, last month we had the opportunity to work on a short film project with She Monster Productions up in New York City. It was a video for the song ‘The Waltz’ by Ian Axel and featured several Muppet-style puppets alongside human actors. The puppets were provided by us and the New York based puppet company Puppetsburg. Set partly in the city and partly in an afterlife with a decaying, ornate feast, the video follows two women as they find each other, are separated through death and then find each other again.

Puppetry for film is very different than for the stage, and although our arms got tired, it was fun to try moments over and over again, with no thought for an audience’s patience or sight lines. Everyone connected with the project was creative and eager to try new things. And we got to meet a peacock! His name was Dexter and he wasn’t all that thrilled with tons of people and puppets invading the apartment where he lives, so while it would have been fun to have the puppets try and interact with him, we resisted. Here are some photos of the shoot. We will share the video when it is finished!

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Emily and Cecilia resting between shots.

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The feast table, set with all kinds of odd objects.

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Cecilia taking a quick nap behind the table.

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Puppets with one of the actors. They  look cute, but they can be dangerous!

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Peacock! Say hi to Dexter.

Puppets and Clowning

Some of my colleagues from this trip to Armenia.

Some of my colleagues from this trip to Armenia.

After getting back from Winnipeg, I had just a short break before leaving on another international trip, this time to Yerevan, Armenia with a group of clowns and artists led by Patch Adams. Adams, the founder of the Gesundheit Institute, is a clown, activist and speaker. He saw our show Cabinets of Kismet in 2013 and we have been in touch since then, talking about the possibility of using puppetry on one of these trips.

It was a new and different experience to be working with puppets in an entirely improvised setting, without words (I don’t speak any Armenian) and usually without story. Our group visited hospitals and orphanages in four different Armenian cities, encountering children of all ages. I found that the puppets usually worked best in a hospital setting, or where children had limited mobility. In these kinds of places, we were moving from room to room, often on our own or with just one other person. The intimacy of small numbers meant I could take the time to introduce the puppet, play and let the child try it out for themselves.

Clowning and puppetry have a lot in common. An emphasis on physicality, over the top reactions and wordless interaction are hallmarks of both art forms. Just as the children laugh at the surprise of an adult in a colorful wig or giant false bottom, they laugh at the surprise of a puppet appearing out of a bag or box. I had never worked as a clown before and so I didn’t have as many familiar ‘bits’ or planned interactions to fall back on, but I found that the puppets worked well as an introduction to many kids, especially those who were shy at first.

I brought only hand puppets on this trip–a sock puppet, basic glove puppet and tiny mouse finger puppet–thinking that they would be easiest for the kids to understand and manipulate. If I have the opportunity to do this kind of work again, I’d like to bring some object puppets (similar to what we created for Kismet) and see if kids respond to that. Part of the fun of puppetry is often taking familiar objects and turning them into personalities, with or without words. It would be great to see what kids in other places come up with using that style of puppet.

Summer Collaborations

It is finally SUMMER! We are thrilled to be working on several collaborative projects this month with other companies in and around DC. We will be updating this space with process photos and information on public performances, so check back often!

IMG_2727Our first project is called Drift, and is a caja lambe-lambe show created by Cecilia as part of I Thought The Earth Remembered Me, a promenade piece by banished? productions. We have been friends with the banished? team for quite some time (artistic director Carmen Wong directed our show Cabinets of Kismet in 2013) so we’re thrilled to get to play with this new show of theirs for the Capital Fringe Festival. Comprised of five separate segments that run the gamut from dance to music, to storytelling and food, the show is a reflection on belonging within tangible or invisible kingdoms in our environment. This piece will take be presented at the ARTillery in the Brookland neighborhood of DC and opens July 12. Check out the Fringe website for more details.

Our second project of the summer reunites us with friends at Arts on the Horizon in Alexandria for the workshop of a brand-new baby theater piece called Space-Bop. Created by Tia Shearer-Bassett and with music composed and performed by Christylez Bacon it brings our youngest theater goers into the world of outer space. We are excitedly researching rocket ships and astronaut suits right now, along with stars and comets. If you have children under the age of two, keep an eye out for an announcement of workshop performance dates when you can bring them to see our space-inspired puppets.

Winnipeg Photos

Some photos of our trip to Winnipeg this month for the Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival:

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The entire show of Saudade. Everyone was very impressed by our packing abilities!

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The poster for the festival.

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Genna sorts control rods before a show.

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The puppets (60 in total) laid out ready for a show.

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We performed in the gym at the NEEDS center, a community space for newcomers. Our fantastic sound guy, Hassaan is at the computer.

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Talking with the kids at the NEEDS Center after the show.

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The rivers of Winnipeg are beautiful in the sun.

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Cecilia and Genna at the opening dinner of the festival.

 

We’re Going to Canada!

Wit’s End Puppets is taking to the road! Or the plane, as a matter of fact. We have been invited by the good folks at the University of Manitoba’s Mauro Center for Peace and Justice to perform Saudade at the Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival in May.

This is the first time we have been able to take a larger show to an out-of-town event, so we are extremely excited! Since we wrapped up our INTERSECTIONS run, we have been making some changes to the show, adding puppets, polishing scenes and revising sounds to better achieve the effects and images in our minds. We received lots of excellent feedback from our audiences at the Atlas, and have been considering how best to incorporate audience suggestions. The show has a new ending, several interludes that break up the stories of our three main characters and we are working towards creating recorded monologues to begin and end the show that will feature the voices of many of the people whose stories were captured and shared in the script. Here are a few pictures of the progress we’ve made so far:

Amy is carefully placing the tiny paper birds between these two silhouettes.

Amy is carefully placing the tiny paper birds between these two silhouettes.

A new scene added at the end of show.

A new scene added at the end of show.

The ending images were all cut in one long big piece this time.

The ending images were all cut in one long big piece this time.

We have to carefully cut off the bottom edge to make sure everything matches.

We have to carefully cut off the bottom edge to make sure everything matches.

A Huge Thank You

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A first glimpse of our crankie!

Saudade would not have been created without the help and support of many, many people who agreed to be interviewed about their experiences as immigrants to the DC area. Some of these people also helped us record sound clips for the show; others contributed their memories, stories of challenges they have faced and of course, moments of saudade. For reasons of privacy, we are only identifying people by their first names, but we want to acknowledge everyone and say a huge thank you for your help!

Sonia – Stephanie – Eiko – Sebastian – Ruth – Santiago – Ana – Juliana – Ottoniel – Eddy – Victor – Juan – Seare – Yolanda – Yanira – Oscar – Anamaria – Fernando – Nurya – Alexei – Genevieve – Grimaneza – Cintia – Rosario – Miguel – Svetlana – Nurbiya – Benta – Souad – Natalia – Hoummad – Noelya – Marisabel – Julio – Zohar – Emi – Diego – Johanna – Andrea – Doyoung – Fabiola – Artemis – Savana – Erick – Emma – Victoria – Omar – Arie – Susana – Medina – Amanda – Mehdi – Rashad – Sandra – Birol

SAUDADE Audio Clip

 

Saudade7Saudade was based on a series of interviews with immigrants to the DC area from all over the world. Among other questions, I asked everyone about moments when they felt ‘saudade’–the feeling of longing for a place or person you once had that is now gone. Here is a very short audio clip in Portuguese of one of the interviewees from Brazil talking about times when she feels saudade.

Meet Emily Marsh

We’re super excited to welcome Emily Marsh to the Wit’s End team as a puppeteer! She will be performing in Saudade at the Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival at the end of February.

_AB17224Emily MarshPrintEmily Marsh is a singer, actor, puppeteer, and teaching artist based on the east coast. In 2013 she graduated with a BFA in theatre performance from Virginia Commonwealth University. Emily also received training at the Dah Theatre International School, an experimental theatre company based out of Belgrade, Serbia. As a puppeteer Emily has performed all over the midwest as a part of Madcap Puppets, a puppet company based out of Cincinnati OH. She has also performed with Brooklyn Puppetry Arts and interned with Lone Wolf Tribe, a puppetry companies based out of NYC.

IMG_2253As an actor Emily has performed both internationally (Cibiu International Theatre Festival) as well as locally (Imagination Stage, Capital Fringe Festival, KP Educational Theatre) Favorite credits have included Emily’s self-produced solo show Transfixed By the Dahlia performed as part of the United Solo Festival in NYC, and Beirut at Shafer St. Playhouse in Richmond VA. Emily is very excited to be a part of Wit’s End Puppet’s premiere performance of Saudade. When Emily isn’t playing pretend or wiggle dolls, she enjoys causing a ruckus and eating breakfast for dinner.