Puppetry From There to HERE (1st Annual Showcase)

Created and performed by artists of The Eugene O’Neill National Puppetry Conference

New York, NY
January 20-24, 1999

review by Donald Devet

A kaleidoscope of short pieces and excerpts from past participants in their New York debut.

HERE, the funky performance/art space at 145 6th Ave., has been overrun with puppets. While Basil Twist’s “Symphony Fantastique” successfully bubbles along downstairs, a score of puppet artists mobilized upstairs in a benefit showcase for The Eugene O’Neill National Puppetry Conference. 

For the past eight summers The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut, has been a puppeteers’ workshop/think tank collaborative for experienced puppet artists plus emerging puppeteers.

Richard Termine, artistic director for the Conference, recently assembled a kaleidoscope of short pieces and excerpts from past participants in their New York debut. Attending the final performance on January 24th, here is what I saw:

“Conquest” by Ron Binion
Performed by Greg Pallansch, Ronald Binion, Jenny Craig, Amy Strada.
A table top piece exploring a biological creature’s need for affection. Behavioral experiments are clinically performed on a baby monkey. This thought provoking piece has several  moments of levity, especially when a lecturing scientist puppet removes his suit coat (with hands attached) and puts on a lab coat conveniently fitted with a new pair of built in hands. 

“The Old Man Who Made Trees Blossom” by Mary Robinette Harrison
Performed by Mary Robinette Harrison, Jodi Eichelberger, Lance Woolen
An oriental story depicting a magical dog and two old men of different temperaments. Performed table top with puppets, sets and props fashioned from paper, this wordless tale speaks on an emotional level.

“Romeo And Juliet” by Eric Ting
Performed by Eric Ting, Jason Rush
Typewriter cases open to reveal two insect-like creatures whose bodies are conceived from newsprint. Reading themselves, they attempt to find the language of love.

“Perspectives” (excerpt) by Art Gruenberger
Performed by Matt Middleton, Marc Petrosino, Russell Tucker, Carl P. Wieting, Derron M. Wood
Another table top piece. Two characters experience their surroundings–  one has only a nose, the other only eyes. They exchange senses and learn to appreciate the other’s perspective. Music by Bobbie Nidzgorski heightens the sensations.

Migrations, First Flight” by Heather Henson
Performed by Heather Henson, Robin Wood, Kristin Miller, Timothy O’Keefe
More dance than puppetry, this dreamlike piece features glowing Chinese lanterns, waves of sheer fabric and curved wing shaped petals.

“The Elephant and Bear Circus” by Erik Blanc
Performed by Erik Blanc
A pocket size bear and elephant philosophize but are interrupted by a wayward boccie ball. You had to be there.

“Borderland” by Emily Wilson
Basil Twist hasn’t cornered the market on shows featuring water. This nonverbal piece about fear and boundaries features two rubber gloves attempting to cross a bicycle tire swamp inhabited by water spewing sponges. In the end everyone gets wet, including the first row of the audience.

“Tango” by Richard Termine
Performed by Emily Wilson and Caleb Fullam
Performed by Hua Hua, Annie Evans, Lenny Pinna
Three miniature dress forms cavort in a classic lovers’ menage a’ trois with a witty twist.

“Within” by Cathy McCullough
Performed by Cathy McCullough, Sabrina Feldman, Shoshanna Utchenik
Scenery becomes character. A lone woman whose feet are inexplicably anchored to the floor explores a stark landscape of boxes. Each box reveals something new– yellow feathers, a small bird and a purple tree.

“About Thirteen” by Stacy Havens
Performed by Stacy Havens, Jim Napolitano
Two teenagers on a first movie (“Titanic”) date. Abstracted characters are given expressive hands (the puppeteers’). They touch, they kiss, they light up. Ah, first grope.

“Jackstraws” (Excerpt) by Martin P. Robinson
Performed by Martin P. Robinson, Pamela Arciero, Jodi Eichelberger, Mary Robinette Harrison, Jim Napolitano, Tim Lagasse
A collapsible fabric tube expands to eye popping proportions. Out of the darkness float glowing underwater creatures looking for a meal. A creature from the sea begins its evolution.

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