Puppets Like Football Too!

Rehearsal puppet put together and strung on a control!

Rehearsal puppet put together and strung on a control!

I created this rehearsal puppet for Malevolent Creatures about a month ago, with no idea that he would become such a fun tool for improvisation. Throughout our rehearsals, whenever there was a break, someone would pick him up, give him a funny voice and start a conversation. Eventually we decided that (outside of the world of the play) he was French. And since the World Cup is in full swing, it was inevitable that the puppet would get pulled into our many arguments about who was going to win the day’s games. Clearly, puppets love football just as much as people. Here is a short video of our puppet explaining his views, as performed by Elizabeth Dapo.

Not-So-Malevolent Rehearsals

Since we are devising this show rather than working from an existing script, rehearsals are a mix of discussion, improvisation and lots and lots of laughter.  A reminder that our work-in-progress showings are June 26/27 at 7pm at GALA Hispanic Theatre! Tickets are free and you can reserve your spot here. A few photos of the team in action:

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Improvising a set with items in the room.

Carol reacts to a rehearsal puppet.

Carol reacts to a rehearsal puppet.

Sometimes you think better when everyone is on the floor.

Sometimes you think better when everyone is on the floor.

Rehearsal puppet in pieces.

Rehearsal puppet in pieces.

Rehearsal puppet put together and strung on a control!

Rehearsal puppet put together and strung on a control!

Rehearsing Under the Canopy

In celebration of Under the Canopy, which opens tomorrow at the Athenaeum in Old Town Alexandria, VA here are some rehearsal photos:

The anchor point for the titular canopy, in the center of the stage.

The anchor point for the titular canopy, in the center of the stage.

One of the three ladders that make up the set with leaves, flowers and vines.

One of the three ladders that make up the set with leaves, flowers and vines.

Cast members Nora Achrati and Betsy Rosen work with the objects and puppets to bring the rainforest to life.

Cast members Nora Achrati and Betsy Rosen work with the objects and puppets to bring the rainforest to life.

Fabulas Mayas Rehearsal

A few pictures from the rehearsal process of Fabulas Mayas at GALA Hispanic Theatre:

The setup behind the shadow screen, with projector and puppet tables.

The setup behind the shadow screen, with projector and puppet tables.

One of the backgrounds for shadow puppets, drawn by Amy.

One of the backgrounds for shadow puppets, drawn by Amy.

Cast member Jose Pineda, trying out one of our percussion instruments.

Cast member Jose Pineda, trying out one of our percussion instruments.

Playing with a shadow puppet on the projector.

Playing with a shadow puppet on the projector.

The cast, director and stage manager who somehow all managed to wear blue on the same day.

The cast, director and stage manager who somehow all managed to wear blue on the same day.

 

 

 

 

Sculpting a Story

One of the most common questions from audiences after seeing Cabinets of Kismet is “Where did you get the idea for the story?” While I’ve talked a little about Shaun Tan before on this blog, I’m going to try and outline the process of creating the story for this play, because it was a rather unusual journey.

Genna and Amie with Lightbulb Head. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Genna and Amie with Lightbulb Head.             Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

The initial seed of the story came from conversations between Genna, Lisi, Nikki and myself about Tan’s work. We all read various books and stories by him and came to the conclusion that the themes we were most interested in exploring were those of alienation and outsider status, as well as the journey of accepting change and dealing with fear. We each created prototype puppets with various objects and paper and somewhere along the line, I think I came up with the initial idea of having a character who escaped from one world into a very different other one. We called him Kismet and based his look on a magnifying glass photo holder with alligator clips that Lisi had.

Most of the puppets were created before the specific moments of the story, which is the reverse of how we usually work. Once we had a cast of puppeteers, we ended up doing a few sessions of improvisation with the object characters, to figure out what each could do best, and how they could express various emotions and states of being. Then our director Carmen Wong put those various segments in order or arranged them on the set and we worked out the timing so that everyone had a sequence. We ended up each taking 2-3 principal characters, although we also switch off a lot to make things easier. With object puppets like this, it doesn’t work as well to say “Be sad” because the features of the puppets don’t change. They have to move or perform an action to express that sadness, and that of course is different for each object. Breaking down all the emotions and reactions of each character into tiny specific actions for the puppets was a long and very time-consuming process.

Kismet escaping across the drawers. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Kismet escaping across the drawers.                  Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

In the end, I think we probably could have benefited from having more audience input. Because of scheduling and various cast changes, we didn’t have a chance to ask people to come and give feedback during rehearsals and I think that would have been very helpful. Object world was much intentionally much busier than Paper world, and therefore a little harder to follow (especially if you came in late). Just for fun, here is an excerpt of a ‘script’ written by puppeteer Amie Root, detailing her movements just before the destruction of Object world. I think it gives a good sense of our approach to our movements and characters.

When Genna perches over Cecilia, enter with Demon Bird to terrorize Mophead. Fly off SL around the garage unit and hover by the theater unit until Amy is set for handoff of bird. IMMEDIATELY pull swirl dancer from her drawer behind theater unit. Quietly as possible, unwrap the jingle chain, set her and the telephone cord on top. QUICKLY strike the jingle chain. IMMEDIATELY go to nurse at garage unit and enter when Kismet calls. Freak out over zoom. Hand off to Genna. 

Kismet Rehearsal Videos

Our puppets Kismet and Mophead taking a break on the set.

Our puppets Kismet and Mophead taking a break on the set.

We’re heading into our last few rehearsals before tech starts later this week.  New faces, new movements and even some new puppets! We have loaded our cabinets, drawers and lots and lots of paper into the Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint and are figuring out how Kismet’s story fits into this space. Looking back over the past months of rehearsal, here are a few (very tiny) videos of our experiments and ideas from this crazy journey.

From the Rehearsal Room #2

We have four weeks until The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet opens. Tickets are on sale now and we are excited about the story that is coming to life! Here are some recent pictures of rehearsals, all taken by Sarah Gingold.

Mophead and KismetGenna and Heather

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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