So we just got back from an amazing weekend in Maryland. The regional puppet festival for the Northeast and Mid-atlantic regions was held at the University of Maryland. The weekend was packed full of performances, workshops, and tons of puppet goodness. This was our first festival and I would highly recommend it to everyone. I will do my best to try and recall all the names and expericences of the weekend for anyone who did not go.
We could not attend Thursday nights opening ceremony due to our flight coming in Friday morning but here is what happened on Thursday. Tom Knight Productions performed Library Boogie. The show is a vibrant collection of original songs and skits. Library Boogie is a living Library of songs and skits related to books and reading. It includes Characters from Classic Children's Books like the Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where the Wild Things Are plus the title song "The Library Boogie". That night Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers performed the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. This tale is a comedic version of the classic Washington Irving tale, "the legend of Sleepy Hollow. Based Loosely on the original story, this telling involves a bumbling Headless Horseman, his wisecracking horse, the meat-head Brom Bones, the lovely Katrina Van Tassel, and the mild mannered and lovable protagonist, Ichabod Crane. There was also a film shown Titled Faust by the Metropolitan Puppet Authority a "puppenFilm" about the Alchemist who sold out to the dark side. The concept was to recreate the Show Goethe saw on the streets of Frankfurt. But while becoming engrossed in the subject for nearly 13 years; Steven Ritz-Barr ended up producing a film based not only on those early puppet versions but a version inspired by Goethe's own Faust part one.
So now this is where we came in we arrived early Friday morning to the Puppet Festival. The campus was enormous. We eventually found the dorm and the puppet festival office to check in with and get all our information. We then went to a class taught by Ingrid Crepau on puppet basics of Voice and Manipulation. This was fun we had never actually taken a class on lip synch or even voice training. The info was definately geared toward beginners but it was info everyone could use. Including a special recipe for fixing your voice.
Recipe for Ingrid's Fix a Flat voice repair:
Take 3 whole lemons and juice them
then add 2 Tbs Honey
and 1 Tbs apple cider
We then went on off to find the dining hall. It was your basic cafeteria dining experience. However the time spent in the dining halls was great. We were able to connect with many other puppeteers and learn all sorts of ins and out of the puppet world as well as creating some good friends. We then all hopped on a bus after lunch to go to Glen Echo Park. We saw to perfomances while we were there the first one was The Tragical Comedy of Punch and Judy performed by Fred Greenspan. Fred had a great show that he combined the many traditional Punch and Judy shows together to get a a story that flowed. His puppets are based off of a beautiful nineteeth century european set. His show included the crocodile, the clown, policman, pretty pauly, Punch and Judy(of Course), Little baby punch, the devil and so on. There was no stick but he said he replaced it with "Shtick" there were many awesomely bad puns throughout the show. Even though there was not stick he did grind a lot of people and things into "Squashages" We then had some time to look at the beautifully carved and very well preserved Carousel it had an amazing level of craftsman ship. We then went into see The Wizard Of Oz production by The Puppet Company. This show based it self of the actual book by L. Frank Baum. There was just about everything in this show the had marionettes, Rod puppets, humanettes, live actors, full body puppets, and more. They did a beautiful job of bringing this story together with a huge cast of characters. This production was really well done all around with good writing, good jokes, charcater design, and even voice matching the characters. I felt as though I was almost watchin a completely different story since I was so familiar with movie version. This was top notch and if you are in the area go check it out. After an award ceremony where several people were recognized with UNIMA awards. We then all filed on to the busses and headed back to the University. When we all arrived we ate dinner and then proceeded on to the evening shows. The evening performances continued to show the diversity of puppet world. The first performance of the evening was Vegetables Destiny a new work from Goat on a Boat performed by Liz Joyce and Juliana Nash. The show was performed using table top, hand and rod puppets. This performance told us the story of a vegetable from beginning to end with 10 amazing original songs written by Liz Joyce and Juliana Nash. The song were extremely catch and fun to listen to. They even had a song of poop and fertilizer(hilarious). Throughout the production the stage started as basically a brown box(Dirt) and throughout the production we watched the garden grow and flourish as it became a thriving garden full of vegetables. The Second evening performance was OM: Objects in Motion this was an innovative and brilliant performance combining both live dancers and obects puppets together into well put together and coreographed segments. The puppets were made from a wide assortment of materials including recyling plastic bags, butcher paper, aluminum foil, industrial foam. Each piece had a very nice progression with a clear beginning, middle, and an end. This show was directed by Colette Searls, choreographed by Doug Hamby. We then proceeded off to the after party and had more time to get to know everyone and create some more bonds with our new extended family.
Saturday morning came to soon. We got up and rushed off to breakfast and then headed off to to the meet the artist session. This artist session was all the artists from the previous day it was really interesting to hear where the ideas came from and the creative process of the work. We then headed off to Part 1 of Steven Ritz-Barr's workshop Puppets in Film and Video. He gave a great presentation and spoke a lot about the ins and out of the film and video world. Steven also spoke about the work he has been involved in and gave us some behind the scenes info about his 30 min film Faust. After the workshop it was back to the dining hall for lunch and then before I knew it I was back in a theater again waiting for The Last Dragon on Earth to begin being performed by Crabgrass Puppet Theater. This was a great story from a time when the princes needed to kill the dragon before they could married a princess. But what if the princess doesn't need rescuing, the dragon is the last dragon, and the prince would not kill anything never mind a dragon. The show featured pop-up and pop-out scenery that made for some great transitions in the show. All in all another great performance with the use of hand puppets. We then all shuffled over to the other theater to see Travelin' Jack performed by Christopher Hubert, Applause Unlimited. This was three american folk-tales told with hand puppets by a single puppeteer who serves as both narrator and character in the show. Based on a Jack tale, a slave story song, and a morality tale, these stories reflect the depth, scope, and humor of early american storytelling. This show was very entertaining and had everyone giggling and laughing throughout truly a great show. Shortly after Deborah Costine took the stage with Woodland Cinderella. In this new version of the classic story, Cinderella is a fairy who lives with her stepmother and Stepsister in an enormous old Oak Tree. The king of all woodland fairies wants his son to marry a fariy princess but none can be found. So the king hosts, a great ball and commands that every single fairy maiden in the land must attend. Deborah put on a great production for everyone and it was nice to see a fellow guild member perform and represent Boston. We then all headed to dinner by this time my head was packed with puppet ideas and the shows we had seen. I couldn't believe there was more to see. After dinner Nana Projects performed Luna and Danny the Diver. This was a shadow piece using three projectors and three puppeteers. They used a combination of techniques including a fade on the projector, colored gels, and stunning cut outs. The first story was the Danny the Diver and his rescue of a mermaid from the evil octupus to kidnaps her. The second story was Luna based on a Grims fairy tale. There was no spoken lines throughout the perfomance just written and incorporated into the visual. There was a great score written for the production by Anne Watts & Boister. They also recieved a Henson Grant to put this production together. There was then a quick intermission and Larry Hunt's Masque Theatre took the stage with a premiere of Blues, Blues. Normally I am not a huge fan of Maque theater but I think Larry showed that it just has to be done right. Larry and his assistant both did excellent work with great body movement and control. They interacted with the audience had a great use of props and overall a great show. They incorporated some hand puppets as well in the performance. after this concluded they moved into a puppet potpourri followed by a puppet slam. There were some good performances throught the potpouri. The moment I dreaded was approaching very swiftly now. We have performed several times in Boston but not for a crowd like this. This crowd was full of puppeteers everyone in the audience understood lip synch, eye focus, body movement, everything. Well we gathered up enough nerve to get out there and perform and luckily we got some big laughs and some really great feed back afterwards during the after party. We partied away during the night after the slam drank beer and wine, sang around guitars and saxophones, and laughed and laughed with our new extended family. At this point I couldn't believe there was still another day of activities.
Sunday we woke up ate breakfast and headed off to the second half of the workshop with Steven Ritz-Barr. There was some real fun moments doing some hands on stuff with what he will be doing for his next film. We then had a little bit of time to pack up our stuff and head over for the final production. Dinosaur Desperados by Dinorock Productions. This was no small show they had a huge set and even bigger dinosaurs all of the production took place in the old, old west. This production was just crazy it included a huge T-Rex, walk around dinosaur costumes, baby eggs on a remote switches, the music was top notch and they had actually been nominated for a grammy. They involved the audience as much as possible including bringing people on stage to tell the little baby T-rex why he should go back to his mom. After the show we said a bunch of good byes to people and then headed back to the airport to head home. To bad the airport didn't want to let us go since our flight was delayed about 6 hours. I finally returned home around 5am the next day and got some seriously needed sleep.