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.

Workshop Photos

Puppets are not for the faint of heart. Photo by Patricia Germann.

Puppets are not for the faint of heart. Photo by Patricia Germann.

We had a fantastic two showings of Malevolent Creatures a few weeks ago. If you were unable to join us, here are some photos of the puppets and the process. Check back soon for more information about the next development stage of this show!

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream & Penny Plain

worldBoth of these shows were presented as part of the Kennedy Center’s World Stages Festival in March 2014. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bristol Old Vic with puppets by Handspring Puppet Company.

Perhaps as a result of their collaboration with Handspring, Bristol Old Vic presented a version of Dream that connected the characters and their story to objects, humble materials and craftsmanship. The set was an immediate hint that this was not going to be your usual, run-of-the-mill Shakespeare production. Ladders, stools, lattice and paint drops gave the feeling of being in a workshop, and one actor wandered about onstage handling wood and tools with ease.The costumes were rough work clothes, with few differences between the mechanicals and the nobles, while the actors playing Oberon and Titania carried large sculpted masks and in Oberon’s case an oversized jointed hand. The mechanicals used large blocks of wood as props in their rehearsal, which by the final performance of Pyramus and Thisbe had been carved into rough representations of the doomed lovers. Even the woods of Athens were displayed literally–the actors held up planks of wood for the lovers to hide behind and travel through during their scenes.

In keeping with the rough aesthetic, the puppets used for Puck and the other fairies were somewhat motley in style and appearance. Puck was played by three of the mechanicals, each holding a different object (mallet, fork, metal can, etc) that they brought together to form the head, body and appendages of the character. The exact setup might be different each time, but the hobgoblin could move like lightning simply by having all the objects zoom off in different directions, which was very effective whenever Oberon called for his servant. Peaseblossm and company were slightly more grotesque, with exaggerated features and only one or two body parts made from objects similar to Puck. Bottom’s transformation, like the woods of Athens, took Shakespeare’s text quite literally, with an over-the-top visual gag that the actor pulled off with aplomb. The transformation mechanism, along with fully realized versions of Oberon and Titania used in the final dance, were the only puppets that seemed to be created in a woven cane style similar to the War Horse puppets.

There was one small mystery: in the publicity photos for the show, the lovers each had a small puppet of themselves. Onstage, these were nowhere to be seen. I didn’t miss them; it made sense that puppetry was used for the otherworldly characters, with rough imitations  by the mechanicals as part of their own play within the play. The large masks and hands made Oberon and Titania larger than life, while Puck’s transformative qualities were superbly created (and recreated) by his collection of objects. This production of Dream brought the audience fully into the darkness and strangeness of the woods and the fairies’ world.

Penny Plain, Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes.

In the Terrace Theater, a smaller scale, yet arguably more epic story was on display in Penny Plain, an original show by Ronnie Burkett from Canada. Set in a future world that is disintegrating fast, the story centers on Penny Plain, an old woman in a boarding house full of odd characters who has only her dog for company. But Geoffrey has decided that he wants to be a man, not a dog and at the beginning of the play heads out into the world, leaving Penny by herself. As news clips are heard that detail the food and money shortages, the environmental disasters and the desperation of humanity, Penny and the rest of the people in the house try their best to survive.

Burkett performed Penny Plain, solo, controlling over 20 marionettes alone or in pairs, around the two levels of the set that depicted the boarding house. Some characters had two different puppets, one to appear on the upper floor and one with longer strings to appear on the lower. The style of both the writing and the puppets was naturalistic, with brilliant touches of the macabre. Burkett switched voices expertly throughout the rapid-fire dialogue, punctuated by heavy pauses. The themes of change, human nature and survival are heavy, but satire helped to undercut the serious tone (a scene with two US refugees from the south was especially delicious). Burkett built the tension in the story expertly, alternating gruesomely funny sequences with poignant conversations until the entire audience was riveted. Directly after the final blackout, I heard someone behind me heave a sigh of relief, as though being released from a magic spell. This show was a brilliant example of the power of pure puppetry.

-Cecilia Cackley

Announcing INTERSECTIONS 2014!

IntersectionslogoWe are thrilled to announce that BOTH our collaborative projects this year will be presented as part of the Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival 2014!

Under the Canopy by Arts on the Horizon and Fabulas Mayas, co-produced with GALA Hispanic Theatre will each have multiple performances as part of the fifth year of INTERSECTIONS. This festival seeks to connect the broadest possible audience with the most exciting new ways of making community-inspiring art. With performances for all ages and audiences, from music to dance to circus to storytelling and new plays, there is truly something for everyone. Tickets go on sale January 9, so we hope you will join us at Atlas Performing Arts Center on H St. NE from February 21-March 8 to see our shows and some of the other amazing work at the festival. As we get closer, we will have more information here or you can also check out the festival website.

What Was the Point of That?

Our Personal Puppet Show, whose point is to make you smile, and wonder a little.

Our Personal Puppet Show, whose point is to make you smile, and wonder a little.

This is Washington DC, so the first question you usually get upon meeting new people is “So, what do you do?” When I say I’m a puppeteer, two words are frequently heard: “Really?” and “Why?” A few weeks ago, performing the Personal Puppet Show at Fenton Street Market, a gentleman who sat down to see the show asked me afterward “What was the point of that?” At the time, I responded “To get you to smile–hey, look, it worked!” but I’ve continued to think about his question, as it’s one that I think many people seem to have about puppets and art in general.

Does art have to have a point? Can art exist on its own, free of any agenda or intention? Is that even possible? I wonder, because it seems that so much content created nowadays (digital and otherwise) is meant to make us THINK. Entertainment for children includes Important Information To Know and newspapers and websites abound with infographics and charts and statistics which will help you better understand the world around you. Not to say that any of this is bad. But sometimes, I think it’s important that art gives us a little break from all that. A space to smile, and let your mind wander. That, for me anyway, is the point.

Press Mentions

Kismet hitches a ride on Jellybird. Photo by C. Stanley Photography

Kismet hitches a ride on Jellybird.                     Photo by C. Stanley Photography

The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet has been getting attention in both print and online media, thanks to interested writers and some very kind reviewers! Below, a selection of mentions from the past few weeks.

Jacqueline Lawton, one of D.C.’s most accomplished dramaturges and playwrights, was kind enough to profile us on her blog.

Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post Weekend section, wrote a fantastic preview article about Kismet.

Reviews have been coming in over the past week from DC Theatre Scene, Maryland Theater Guide, DC Metro Theater Arts and The Washington Post.

Check back soon for a post on some of the comments we’ve been hearing from audiences!


Upcoming Library Shows

Genna performs Granny Annika in 'Anansi and the Dancing Granny.'

Genna performs Granny Annika in ‘Anansi and the Dancing Granny.’

Just a quick note to say that if you haven’t seen our show Anansi’s Appetite, we will be performing at two local libraries in the coming weeks. This is an interactive show suitable for ages 2 and up, and is great for families to enjoy together!

March 23, 2013 10:30am at Rockville Memorial Library

April 6, 2013 11:00am at Bethesda Library

We hope to see you there!

Mount Pleasant Children’s Puppet Hour

If you missed the world-premiere performance of Coyote Places the Stars at the Smithsonian American Art Museum a few weeks ago, don’t worry. We will be reprising the show (without the workshop) at the semi-annual Mount Pleasant Children’s Puppet Hour, on Saturday February 16, at 4pm. There will be five different puppet shows, as well as live music, taking place at St. Stephen’s Church, 1525 Newton St. NW.  The shows are appropriate for all ages and the suggested donation is $5. We hope to see you there!

Puppet hour poster