What Can You Do With a Broken Umbrella?

So many things, if you are a puppeteer! After taking apart LOTS of umbrellas for various puppet projects this winter, we have a much better understanding of how they work–and why they break so easily! Fortunately we can use the broken pieces in many different ways. Here are a few of them:

We take large broken umbrellas apart and use the spokes as controls for shadow puppets.

We take large broken umbrellas apart and use the spokes as controls for shadow puppets.

An in-progress shot of a puppet from Cabinets of Kismet that uses the joints of a broken umbrella.

An in-progress shot of a puppet from Cabinets of Kismet that uses the joints of a broken umbrella.

And here it is again a little further along!

And here it is again a little further along!

 

 

Under the (Artistic) Influence

A shadow box by Joseph Cornell.

A shadow box by Joseph Cornell.

Shaun Tan is clearly our biggest influence in creating The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet. However, now that we have been working on this story and these characters for a year and a half, we are recognizing other artistic influences that have lingered in our minds and imaginations. Here are a few of them:

Joseph Cornell: Mainly an influence on me and Nikki; Genna doesn’t particularly like Cornell. For me though, his boxes evoke cabinets, the building blocks for Kismet’s world. His combinations of paper scraps, photographs and found objects are by turns whimsical, lonely, mysterious and chaotic, all moods that I hope to evoke at one point or another in Cabinets of Kismet. 

One of the dresses that inspired Genna.

One of the dresses that inspired Genna.

Alexander McQueen: When we first started discussing this story and the aesthetic we were hoping to create, everyone brought in art books and catalogues to page through, in hopes of discovering images that would inspire the look or sensibility of a puppet. I had the exhibit catalogue for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty lying around and Genna was inspired by several of the outfits pictured. His use of materials such as animal bones and skulls as well as layers of translucent fabric is echoed in a couple of Genna’s puppets use similar treatments. She says she was drawn to McQueen’s work because “…I like the gothic and the macabre. I find darkness to be fascinating.” Look for puppets with those qualities when you come to see Cabinets of Kismet!

Figures by Kandinsky.

Figures by Kandinsky.

Wassily Kandinsky: By the time we started re-thinking Paper World this winter, the look had moved further away from reality and into the realm of the abstract. I started looking at the shapes in paper cutouts by Matisse, but soon focused on the work of Kandinsky. While his work is much more colorful than, well, anything really in Paper World, his lines and shapes have an energy and rhythm to them that I hope to emulate in the shadow puppets that appear and disappear in our show. Keep an eye out for similar creatures when you come see Cabinets of Kismet in April!

From the Rehearsal Room #1

Rehearsals this month have been taken up with some strength conditioning (puppetry can be strenuous!), lots of experimenting with puppets, discussing the storyboard and story elements in detail and some puppet building. We will be sharing more insights into the process (including interviews with our cast, video and more) but here are some photos of early meetings in February:

Amy and Genna's puppets encounter each other.

Amy and Genna’s puppets encounter each other.

Russell, working with the Swirl Dancer puppet.

Russell, working with the Swirl Dancer puppet.

Building Kismet #4

Our efforts have been focused on paper puppets for the past few weeks. With the help of Matthew McGee and puppeteers Heather Carter, Amy Kellett and Russell Matthews, we’ve created some new citizens of Paper World, out of scraps from SCRAP DC, local printers and the contents of the recycling bin.

Any guesses as to how these components might fit together to form a paper puppet?

Any guesses as to how these components might fit together to form a paper puppet?

Big or small, everything is made from paper!

Big or small, everything is made from paper!

Not too many tools needed--just a glue gun and scissors.

Not too many tools needed–just a glue gun and scissors.

Two paper friends, ready to be animated by puppeteers.

Two paper friends, ready to be animated by puppeteers.