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.
A new scene added at the end of show.
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.
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
The puppets for Saudade are designed by Katherine Fahey, a Baltimore-based artist and puppeteer. They are cut from poster board and pieces are connected with fishing line joints and operated with either wooden or metal rods. In this short video, I’m creating a puppet of a teacher character. It’s a process that takes a lot of time, patience and precision with an X-acto knife.
Saudade 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.
Building puppets is usually a painstaking process and even more so with shadow puppetry. The tiniest details make a huge difference and (at least for me) there is a lot of agonizing over whether or not a silhouette will make sense to the audience. For Saudade, much of the action happens on a crankie, a long roll of paper with black silhouettes of settings and characters. Creating the silhouettes for this involves several steps:
1. Set up this opaque projector so I can play with the size of the image. The taped out square is the size of the screen.
2. Project the image and fit it to the screen. This only works when it’s dark out, meaning I do a lot of this very late at night, after rehearsal.
3. Trace the image in white pencil onto black tyvek, which is very thin but strong paper that won’t tear easily. Important when you have so many tiny little details!
4. Cut out the image! Now it’s ready to go onto the background roll and eventually into the crankie.
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.
Emily 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.
As 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.
We’re in full puppet-building mode right now for Saudade, our next original puppet play which will premiere as part of the Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival in DC at the end of February.
This piece is all shadow puppets, which are being designed by Katherine Fahey, a crankie artist from Baltimore whose work we’ve been in love with for awhile. Here’s Katherine at one of our design meetings, looking mischievous:
Saudade will use a setup similar to our piece Coyote Places the Stars in the sense that it uses multiple screens, but visually it will be much, much bigger. You can see Genna here, posing with the PVC frame she’s been working on to support all the screens:
While not a traditional linear story, this play draws on the experiences of immigrants to the DC area, many of whom I had the pleasure of interviewing last summer through a partnership with REEP, an adult education program that is part of the Arlington Public Schools. Now I’m finally getting to cut out puppets of characters inspired by these incredible people, who bring so much to our communities here in the DC area. We’re looking forward to sharing their stories with you, too.