Puppet Times!

I had the great honor this past weekend of seeing my words on stage — in the form of an avant garde puppet show.

It was wonderful and strange…and more than a little surreal. To not only see your words being interpreted by a performer and director, but having them come out of a puppet’s grill.

I played it cool, though — cool as a cucumber. OKAY, I’m lying.  I immediately ran up after the show and demanded pictures of the puppets and performers that performed my pieces.

Methusio! – Puppet Monologue #1

Methusio and Cocktail Glass
Methusio and Cocktail Glass

Oh man, every time Methusio would take a sip from the glass, it would start giggling.  It was hysterical.

Methusio's Performer: Geneviève Esquivié
Methusio’s Performer: Geneviève Esquivié

Genevieve is a native French speaker, which made the monologue just that much more awesome.

The Devil – Puppet Monologue #2

Lucifer - The Morningstar [in puppet form]
Lucifer – The Morningstar
[in puppet form]
Look at the green eyes! Few things have made me as happy as seeing those eyes.
Look at the green eyes! Few things have made me as happy as seeing those eyes.

 

The Devil's Performer: Nathan Altman
The Devil’s Performer: Nathan Altman

I wish I had taken a sneaky picture during the show, they had 15 sock puppets all performing Puppet Monologue #3. It was this surreal chant/rap. I loved it tremendously.

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Puppet Monologue #3

Sock Puppet: 

I am a sock puppet. A puppet made of sock. I am a sock puppet. A puppet made of sock. I am a sock puppet. A puppet made of sock. A puppet sock am I. Am sock I puppet made?

Made I sock? Puppet am I?

Am I?

Puppet! Sock?

Sock made I? I made sock?

A made sock. A made puppet.sockpuppet_2328709b

Of sock am I? Of puppet am I made?

Puppet of sock made I of sock sock made puppet of I. I am a sock puppet. I am a sock puppet. A puppet made…of sock?

Puppet? Sock!

Sock! Sock! SOCK! SOOOOOOOOCK!

Puppet?

Puppet made sock made puppet made sock made sock made puppet made puppet sock made sock sock made puppet puppet puppet puppet.

I am a puppet sock. A sock made of puppet. I am a puppet sock. A sock made of puppet.

I am I. I am made. I made I.

I am.

I am.

I am.

I am I.

I am. A sock puppet. A puppet. Made of sock.

White-Hot Greasefire of Entertainment

Pippin-Anxiety
Josh Darnell as Pippin, with The Players

Pippin opens on Friday.

If you’ve been wondering why the blog has been so quiet — here’s your answer. I’ve been directing a production of this musical at our Friendly Neighborhood Theater, the Town & Gown Players.

Here’s the part — were I a normal human being — where I would gush about the show. Partly from genuine excitement and pride;  partly in a cynical, manipulative attempt to convince you to come see the show.

But as this blog provides ample evidence, I am not a normal human being. I have a complicated relationship with positivity. Most evident in creative projects where I am invested. I have a, shall we say, extreme reluctance to speak without restraint, to truly commit to the excitement. How about a list of your neuroses related to this, I hear you all shouting with animation and curiosity at your computer screens. Okay!

1. Pure superstition. If I say that the show is good, amazing, colossal, etc. etc. I’m calling down the attention of the gods. I live in Athens and hubris-smiting is most definitely on the menu. A musical is a super-complicated, involved creative endeavor with thousands of moving parts. Everything has to gel – the music, the movement, the acting, the vocals. Layered on top of that is the spiritual mumbo-jumbo of any community – you want every person’s chi to align just so. I do not need Hermes to start

This doesn't happen in the show. Only in my heart.
This doesn’t happen in the show. Only in my heart.

feeling capricious or mercurial[HAR HAR HAR] and throw  a wrench up in my show, just for giggle-shits.

2. Cynical Directing Style. I’m not quite sure where I picked this up — but I truly believe that if I tell an actor that what they are doing is good, they will immediately get worse.  As an actor myself, fear is the best motivator. If you believe that you are doing a good job, you will stop working to get better – you will relax, get comfortable. It’s a short trip to Craptown. Every rehearsal, every performance you should be striving to exceed your previous attempt.  Add to that the weird parental aspect of being a director — actor-children work much harder when they are unsure of Daddy’s approval. It’s cynical, but it works. Most of us performers have some sort of approval-need or bone-deep insecurity, as a director you might as well plug in to that and use it to get them to do sharper pirouettes. I’ve actually made a point to get better about this one, giving GRUDGING positive notes. Baby steps!

3. First Impressions. The beginning of a play is a holy moment. The moment when the lights go down — it’s pure, unbridled potential. Anything could happen — a whole new world is being born right in front of you. I treasure that moment, and I hate to pollute it. Especially with generic ‘Rah-Rah Show’s SO AWESOME’ posturing. So, if I started rambling on about how great the show is, or how much I like X scene, or Y song — then I’ve put things in your head. Expectations, judgement, etc. The less said the better. Come to the temple with your eyes unclouded.

So, what can I say about the show – through the net of my psychosis?

The set looks amazing. My designers really outdid themselves – I can comfortably say that it is unlike anything we’ve put on that stage in the past 10 years, easy.

The light design is also excellent. My bacon was Epic Level saved by the last minute addition of our Light Designer.

The choreography is excellent, thanks to my crack Choreography Squadron.

The band is crisp, and the musical director’s re-scoring of several key moments is inspired.

Pictured: The Cast of Pippin
Pictured: The Cast of Pippin

The cast? Solid. I know that sounds like faint praise — but I’ll double-down. This cast is Solid Snake.

I won’t say anything more, due to neuroses listed above. But when the curtain opens Friday night, that’s where you want to be.  I want you to see what the cast has accomplished, has earned through months of hard work.  I believe you are going to see something exceptional.

If you are anywhere within a 50 mile radius of Athens, GA – you should make a point of attending.

Click on the image up top to buy tickets. You can pick your seat and everything, through the magic of the internet.

 

What’s Pippin about?

Well, it’s about us.

People. Humans. Actors.

All three terms are synonymous, but mainly people that call themselves actors. That identify as actors. The people who leave their day job, drive across town, and work for free for 3-4 extra hours a night. We’re desperate, we’re fiending — we need to get on stage. We need to do that thing. That thing, that art, our art.

Oh, context. I’m directing Pippin for the second time, one of my favorite shows, at Town & Gown. Musings henceforth.

This is a show about drug-fiends. Art-fiends. They hate it, but they need it. Broken pieces, broken things, broken beings.

“We’re actors–we’re the opposite of people!”

-Tom Stoppard / Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

But they can’t do it alone. They need an audience. And they need a main character. The player chosen to fill the role of Pippin is always referred to as the ‘newest member’ of the troupe, a recent addition. Later in the show, Catherine remarks that ‘He touched my hand. They’ve never done that before.” How many Pippins has this troupe chewed up?

They lead him and the audience to the central question of the show. A life dedicated purely to art, seeking the ever-elusive unicorn called Perfection? Or a life dedicated to someone else, to something forever Imperfect?

Will you Serve, or will you Destroy? There it is again! [Sorry, literary sidebar. I’ve been noticing this binary in a lot of my storytelling — interesting that it’s here too, in one of my favorite shows.]

I’m most intrigued by the ‘new’ ending of the show.

In the original Broadway edition the show ends with Pippin refusing the temptation of the Leading Player, and remaining alone on stage with Catherine and Theo. The show ends anticlimactically with the famous line ‘Trapped, but happy. What did you expect for the end of a musical comedy? Ta da!’

The audience is left feeling weird and confused, which I like — but the show clearly leaves us with the belief that Pippin made the right choice, and will find true satisfaction in a less extraordinary life.

But in the newer edition, an alternate ending has appeared. Pippin still refuses the temptation, but as the players slink off into the ether, the young boy Theo calls them back, echoing Pippin’s Corner of the Sky.

So, what is the audience supposed to feel now? Other than vaguely more pleased, because the show ends with a song? Is the show trying to validate both choices? Or are they simply suggesting that  Pippin makes the mature choice, and that there will always be stupid kids coming along to chase the dream for you?

Ha. Or am I just projecting way more meaning into this piece then it can truly support? It wouldn’t be the first time? Pippin is definitely a ‘problem show’. It doesn’t quite work, the pieces don’t really line up the proper way to be a perfect allegory.  Strange artifacts of its many revisions linger, laden with potential meaning but ultimately dropping the whole thing in your lap at the end.

So, to return in limping fashion to the initial question. What is Pippin about? Well…things? A lot of things?

Can I get back to you on that?

 

Everything is fixed.

 

I’m trying to keep this blog writing-focused, but I’m so excited about this I just have to post it here too. I’ve been directing a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, that opens tomorrow. A good friend put together a video teaser for the show to put up on FB — had to let you guys see it too!