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I went and saw an epic shadow puppet show in celebration of Winter Solstice at Liberty Hall last night. I guess they’ve done it every year for a decade and this was the last (for the time being, anyway).
It was amazing craftsmanship, delicate and definitive. It opened with a little androgynous shadow puppet character taking mushrooms and going down the rabbit hole, where they found all kinds of beautiful plants and colorful delights. Then there was a great sushi scene, with actors profiles behind the screen, as they ate sushi and grabbed things off the conveyor belt. The finale featured a bunch of sea characters on an island of plastic that exists just off the PNW coast near Alaska. A giant octopus made of recycled objects and little plastic take-out containers with googly eyes foreshadowed the end of the organic world.
But what was the story, I wondered? The script didn’t seem too concerned with telling an overarching story, or even connecting the stories within. In fact, I’m fairly convinced there was absolutely no point to any of the stories, save for one or two of them. Hmm.
But so much WORK went into these amazingly beautiful puppets. Why wouldn’t they want to give them beautiful dialogue, peppered with anecdotal philosophy and tributes to paganism? It is the fair Solstice, after all.
That’s what you get when you throw a bunch of Anarchists together. They do amazing work, all under the banner of “Resistance”, but they forget the subtleties that speak to the human heart. The show was good eye candy, but it easily could have been so much more. EASILY. I don’t think this misfortune was lost on the audience either.
Don’t get me started on my dream puppet show…I will go on and on and on. And let’s face it, I probably couldn’t do any better. But one thing I would do is keep it simple. The greatest joy of puppetry for me, is seeing human expression magnified through other worldly doll creatures. So my focus would be on relationship, dialogue and of course a good dose of whimsy.