The Long Saudade Crankie Saga

By far the most time-consuming part of building Saudade was the crankie which forms the bulk of the show. Additional images appear on the side screens, but most of the action happens on this very long roll of Tyvek in front of an LED light. It took nearly two months to design and cut out all the scenes on the crankie, and a week to put it all together. Here are photos from the process.

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Spacing the images is important and takes time.

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Amy and Genna work together to glue down an image.

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Each image gets sprayed with glue carefully. Sometimes it’s hard to keep different parts from sticking to each other before it’s glued down.

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The roll of Tyvek is longer than our box so we had to carefully measure and cut about six inches off the bottom of the entire roll.

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One of the many intricate images on the crankie.

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Delicate images wait on newspaper so they don’t get crushed before being added to the crankie. We took over most of the living room eventually.

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Most of the crankie images are cut from black Tyvek, but these included some silver tissue paper as well.

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Amy makes an adjustment before gluing down the final image.

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This is the final roll–nearly 3 inches thick!

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Our first rehearsal with the finished roll, testing the light and the box.

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Here’s what an image looks like from the reverse side…

IMG_2329And here it is in light! Hope you enjoyed this tour of the building process!

 

Video: Building Saudade

Saudade7The 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.

Building SAUDADE #3

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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

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4. Cut out the image! Now it’s ready to go onto the background roll and eventually into the crankie.

Shadow Puppets in Argentina

I was lucky enough to take a workshop with shadow puppet artist Gabriel von Fernandez when I was in Argentina back in November. Based in Buenos Aires, Gabriel performs his own shadow puppet shows and teaches workshops to artists at all levels. Here is a page from my journal about my experience working with him.

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Building SAUDADE #2

In shadow puppetry, the light is as important as the puppet. In reality, you are manipulating not the object but the space between the object and the light. Not surprising, then, that we spend a lot of time playing with different lights, lightbulbs and light placements to see what works best for any given show. Since this is the first time we’ve used our new screen setup created by Genna, experimenting is the name of the game. A few photos from the week:

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Should we use a combination of warm and cool light?

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Or all screens lit with the cooler tone?

Genna and Emily work on placing a clip light.

Genna and Emily work on placing a clip light.

Building SAUDADE #1

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.

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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:

IMG_2141 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:

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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.

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Postcard #4

Wit’s End artistic director Cecilia Cackley is currently traveling in South America. While she is gone, Cecilia is keeping a visual journal of the places she visits and shows that she sees. She will be posting pages here occasionally as virtual postcards from her trip. 

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