In early March, we shared the full story of Selkie, titled What the Waves Bring at Source Theater in DC. It’s the first time we’ve had all the puppets and prop elements before an audience, and we were lucky enough to have David Moss taking photographs. Here are a few:
Seth Langer and Amy Kellett operate the Selkie.
Ashley Ivy as John playing with Alannah, operated by Cecilia Cackley and Alison Daniels
The other selkies, played by Nina Budabin Mcquown, Anji Lambert and Alison Daniels.
We’ve been extra busy working on the next phase of Malevolent Creatures, so not much time to write a long post, but here are some photos of rehearsal as we get closer to refining the story of the Selkie. Enjoy and we hope you come see our workshop performance on March 2!
Genna Beth with a new puppet, the selkie in human form.
Angela and Nina rehearsing one of the group dances for the selkies.
Amy working out movement for Selkie with Seth operating her right arm.
Ashley, Seth and Amy work on Selkie’s dance with her husband John.
The Selkie puppet after rehearsal, looking a bit lonely!
As we endeavor to mount Malevolent Creatures: What the Waves Bring as part of Space4 with CulturalDC, a big build is underway in my studio space. When we did a 20 minute section of the piece last year I had the main selkie puppet constructed enough for use, but she was far from finished, and I discovered some problems during that workshop.
For one, the puppet has to be worn by our puppetress, Amy Kellett, who quickly discovered that the play we’ve written doesn’t have many “down” moments for Selkie. The lower legs of the puppet are Amy’s legs and the puppet is attached at the knees. Amy holds the puppets head and controls the movement of one arm, but it is actually taking A LOT of arm and back strength to keep the puppet from slumping down. This is a problem that my redesign/rebuild needs to address. I haven’t quite figured out yet how to handle it. I might reach out to a master designer in our area for some help.
Secondly I decided to put the puppet in a nude unitard because for some of the scenes she appears nude, but it didn’t end up looking like she was nude; it looked like someone wearing a nude unitard. In retrospect I think to myself “duh!” So I had to deconstruct the unitard and pull the material taut over each body part. This way it will look more like a nude woman. It’s very tricky pulling the fabric taut though. It wants to fold in ways that make it look like fabric. Learning to do this skin-job is a new challenge that I’m still figuring out too.
Puppetry is full of problem solving. I never seem to anticipate all the challenges that come up, but that’s part of the fun for me. I remember working on a show a few years ago in which I built a puppet whose head didn’t move from side to side because of the way I designed the shoulders. It was a total accident, and then I had to quickly figure out how to adjust that design. I came up with a design in which I inserted the neck dowel into the hosing that was the spine. I kept them together withelastic that ran the length of the spine and connected through the tubing and up to the top of the neck dowel where I had wired some loops around which I could sew the elastic (see image). It was pretty cool figuring that out. I love it when a problem comes my way. It’s the best part of building for me!
Genna Beth’s puppet head design.
My dad is an engineer so sometimes I run things by him; he loves problem solving too. But on more than one occasion, he has wanted to take the design in a completely different direction. It’s at those times that I turn into a little kid again with the impulse to say: “No I want to do it by myself!” I have to remind myself it’s okay to learn from others and get more experience in the process.
It’s been a year when I look back and many things blur together in my memory. So much happened–in the world, in our city, in our personal lives–that it’s hard to remember specifics. I know we did a lot of work. I remember the stress, the late nights, the many emails back and forth. But sometimes the accomplishments disappear in hindsight, so I think it’s important to think back and list the highlights of the year.
Minneapolis tour! This adventure from last June was definitely the project that took the most planning, organization and money. It has been a goal of mine to go on tour with Saudadepretty much since I conceived the idea of the show, so this was truly a dream come true.
Welcoming a new company member! Nina Budabin McQuown has added so much to our team this year. From their research and script-writing on Malevolent Creatures, to their thoughtful blog posts about trash and podcasts here, Nina has brought ideas, energy and enthusiasm to the party, getting us all more excited about our next projects.
A focus on community! In our conversations as a company after Nina joined us, we came to the conclusion that we wanted to re-focus our time and energy not just on creating our own work, but on engaging and connecting with other artists as well. Pat came up with the idea of the Puppet Lobby as a way of facilitating those connections and along with the Puppet SlamNation organized by Genna Beth, it has been a great way to meet other artists, share ideas and learn more about our craft.
Page to Stage! This is another milestone I’ve been wanting to hit for awhile. The Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival is a great way for local companies to try out new work in front of an audience. Our problem has always been that most of our work is wordless, and therefore not an easy fit for a staged reading. It was great to be able to share Selkie’s story with a sold-out house in the Israeli Room and get their feedback on the story. With any luck, we’ll be able to build on that experience as we go back to Selkie to prepare for our next workshop in March.
Despite it’s many challenges, 2017 has had good moments. As our politicians focus their energy on tearing down structures of equality and safeguards to the environment, we will focus our energy on serving our community, connecting with other artists and making the best puppet theater we can. If you were able to join us this year, thank you for your support! If you’re just finding out about our work, welcome and we looking forward to sharing puppets with you in 2018. Happy New Year!
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!
In a few weeks we’ll gather a team of performers to start creating material for our show Malevolent Creatures. But the process of designing the puppets has already started, beginning with research on British folklore and the selection of a cast of supernatural creatures. We gave descriptions of those creatures to artists from across the US and asked them to create images to inspire our puppet-building. Here is a sneak peek at two of them. Both were created by former students at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). The Selkie (a seal that can transform into a human) was created with scratchboard technique by Jordis Brier, an artist originally from Hamburg, Germany and now living in London. Black Annis, a cannibal witch with connections to nature spirits and goddesses, was created in watercolor by Amelia Gossman, from Maryland. We are incredibly excited to turn these images into puppets and we hope you enjoy this beautiful, imaginative art!
Names, as anyone familiar with myth and supernatural creatures will tell you, have great power. So we are beyond excited to be able to announce the name of our next devised theater piece:
Selkie, artwork by Jordis Brier
Inspired by traditional fairy beliefs of the British Isles, we are creating puppets of various malevolent creatures based on designs by artists from across the US and beyond. We will be inviting audiences to interact with supernatural creatures of legend and mythology in the spirit of a choose-your-own-adventure book.
Follow this blog (or Facebook and Twitter) for more updates and mark your calendars for our work-in-progress showing on June 26 & 27 at GALA Hispanic Theatre!