Posts Tagged ‘Peter and the Wolf’

A week of Peter and the Wolf in one post

We did the benefit performance of Peter and the Wolf yesterday. I’d spent the week in rehearsals and intended to blog about them, but I kept dropping into bed instead. I know, I know. Picking sleep instead of you guys. Clearly, my priorities need work.

So, we’ll catch up today.

The puppeteer who played the narrator/Grandfather role could not be with us this time, so we substituted Jodi Eichelberger instead. Jodi and I have worked together for years, but haven’t performed opposite each other in ages. While I was looking forward to that, the thing that I loved was that we took the time to really work the scenes between Peter and the Grandfather, something that we’d not had time to do with the other puppeteer.

As a result, those scenes were clearly tied to the music and had a specificity that was lacking before. Funny what a little rehearsal will do, eh? It also helped that Jodi and I have performed so much together (years touring) that we can anticipate the other one.

I also got to see the video of the show for the first time. In the last performance, we had no mirror in the rehearsal room and so I had to rely on other people and what little I could see of the puppet myself. I mean, I could only really see the top of Peter’s head. Parts of the video made me happy, but great swathes of it made me go, “Gah! People were letting me get away with that?”

I think the first rehearsal that Jodi and I did largely focused on getting the puppets to walk without looking like they were being prodded with sharp sticks in the rear at every step.

The stage we were on was significantly smaller this time. So there were places where I simply didn’t have enough action and no amount of scenery chewing was going to fill it out. So I asked if they could speed that passage up. Lo! I still had to chew the scenery, but not as much.

Other than that, it was easy to pick the show back up again. I wish we did more than one performance though. As frustrating as the puppet is, I like the show a lot. Or maybe it’s just that I like the music and the live musicians. What a joy!

Downtown Artists Unite for China’s Earthquake Victims and UNICEF

Benefit Poster

New York – The Players Theatre will host Hands together: New York Artists Gather for China Earthquake Relief to Benefit UNICEF presented by Matrix Music Collaborators on June 14, 2008, 3pm, 115 MacDougal Street (between W3rd and Minetta Lane) in Greenwich Village, New York. Admission is $45 / Package of Four for $125. All proceeds will go to U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Tickets can be obtained through TheaterMania ( at (212) 352-3101. For individual donations, please visit for U.S Fund for UNICEF.

On May 12, 2008 the largest natural disaster in a generation struck Sichuan province in China.

According to date recently collected by UNICEF, more than 10,000 school buildings in Sichuan were badly damaged by the earthquake. Almost 7,000 schools were completely destroyed and many others suffered partial damage. UNICEF estimates that the number of school children affected is in the millions. Most of these children are now trying to continue their schooling in temporary shelters and tents. Precise figures are still very difficult to obtain. As the death toll from the earthquake exceeds 68,000, according to official estimates, the needs of survivors are growing daily. At least 300,000 people were injured and 5 million displaced. Now in the aftermath we can see that the scale of the humanitarian crises before us is truly staggering. Supplies are being rushed to the five million are literally without shelter. Like so many Americans we stand together with the people so deeply affected by this massive earthquake to find ways to help.

This special performance will feature an international line up of artists to include Min Xiao-Fen; Wu Na; Huang Ruo; members of the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre; Asian American Writers’ Workshop; the cast of puppeteers from Peter and the Wolf and Matrix Music Collaborators. It is geared for all ages.


Drunken Man by Jiu Kuang, based on a famous poet of the western Jin dynasty (265 -420)

Blue Pipa (inspired by Miles Davis) by Min Xiao-Fen

The North of Sunset
by Thelonius Monk, arr. by Min Xiao-Fen

Mo (dedicated to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake) by Min Xiao Fen and Wu Na

Performed by Min Xiao-Fen, pipa / Wu Na, qin

Four Fragments for solo violin
by Huang Ruo

Performed by Yoon Kwon, violin

Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla

Performed by Matrix Music Collaborators

Excerpts from The Joy Luck Club

a play by Susan Kim, adapted from the novel by Amy Tan with direction & musical staging by Tisa Chang

Performed by Pan Asian Repertory Theatre

“Super Cop World” video installation featuring mighty Mario and Jackie Chan

Designed by Eric Siu

Peter and the Wolf, Op. 57 by Sergei Prokofiev

Performed by puppeteers: Deborah Hertzberg; Serra Hirsch; Daniel Irizarry; Mary Robinette Kowal; Chris McLaughlin; Jessica Scott; Meghan Williams, and Jodi Eichelberger, directed by Jane Catherine Shaw and Terry O’Reilly with Matrix Music Collaborators under the direction of Sheryl Lee

Readings by published authors from Asian American Writers’ Workshop

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Peter and the Wolf, returns

Details will follow, but I want to give as much warning as possible. Saturday, June 14th we’re doing Peter and the Wolf as part of a festival called: Hands Together: New York Artists Gather for China Earthquake Relief. We are working with UNICEF and have some great guests coming in such as Pan Asian Rep.

Brain closure

We had our first two Peter and the Wolf performances today. I was going to write a lovely post about the differences between a school crowd and a family crowd but I think my brain just shut down.

Working with live musicians

The live musicians came in today, which was fantastic. Yuri, the violinist paired with the Peter character, is funny and immensely talented.

Initially she looked a little nervous, when we described the way Peter would be running in circles around her and said, “Be careful.”

“Don’t worry. I played.” ((Seventeen years))

She immediately relaxed. “Okay. You get it.” So, she’s totally game to strolling on stage and letting Peter run in circles around her.

I completely understand her concern. A lot of people don’t understand how fragile violins are or how expensive they are. It’s the same with puppets, though they aren’t nearly as expensive. People tend to think of them as dolls or toys and will just pick them up to play with them. Basic etiquette: Never touch a puppet that isn’t yours.

In fact, a couple of the musicians did that last night and it really annoyed me. You’d think they would get that automatically, since I can’t imagine they would be happy if someone picked up their instrument. I didn’t say anything, because I figured they were just excited. Still, I might ask the director to casually talk about how the puppets are our instruments.

Aside from that one, minor, annoyance, it was so unbelievably fantastic having the live musicians there. Everything felt more immediate. The clarinetist and flute players were getting into their characters and teasing each other on stage, just as a cat and bird might.

I’m very much looking forward to the next rehearsal

Rehearsing with the Peter puppet

The puppets arrived yesterday from China. I was so tired when I got home after rehearsal that I didn’t write it up. So, I’ll try to hit what yesterday and today were like.


The puppet is beautiful, with a bright lively face and a vibrant costume. It’s a curious blend of old and new construction styles. The body is made of L200, which is a dense industrial foam. Fantastic stuff and I love using it because it is flexible and yet rigid enough to be used for structure. The head is made of carved wood in a more traditional manner.

As soon as I picked up the puppet I realized that I had a problem. The weight of the puppet is supported by strings to a cap on my head, which is also supposed to control the head. However– holy cow. I just realized how much jargon I’m about to trot through to explain this to non-puppeteers.

Bear with me while I explain marionette theory. Imagine a styrofoam ball, if you put a single string in it, when you pull the string up, the ball rises. Now put two strings on it on opposite sides. If you pull the right string, that side rises allowing you to tilt it from side to side.

Now connect that to a body, which creates a third point of attachment. When you try tilting it again, the entire body is going to tilt. BUT, if you attach strings to the shoulders of the puppet then you can isolate the body and get movement from just the head. Make sense?

So, my puppet has a direct connection to my feet. I have rods to the hands. I have strings to the head. Nothing supports the weight of the body, so I can’t turn the head without the whole body moving.

Monumentally frustrating. Also the neck was a snug fit, which looks good and is fine for a direct manipulation figure, but marionettes can’t have any friction or they won’t move.

Now, there’s this saying in puppetry, “Never blame the puppet.” Why? Because the moment you do, someone else will pick the darn thing up and do whatever it was you said couldn’t be done. Even so, I felt like I spent the whole night fighting the puppet. I finally widened out the neck opening so that I had some more room for the head to turn.

Honestly, my impulse last night was to put a nub on the back of the head so that I could just grab it and turn it.

We tightened the head strings so that the puppet doesn’t sag at the knees when I look down. It means my neck is constantly under tension, but it’s not a long show. I also figured out a way to brace the puppet so that I could get a little head movement. It’s not as specific as direct manipulation, but it’s something. I continued to feel like I was fighting the puppet, but also starting to get more of a feel for what it was capable of and how to trick it into doing what I wanted it to.

I know that sounds like I’m anthropomorphizing the thing, but no more so than a computer. Oh tell me that you don’t use the same language when talking about your own machine.

I still want to go in there and fiddle with the neck joint so I can get some more movement out of it. We’ll see how tomorrow goes. The one thing I know for sure is that I will need a massage before this is over.

Come see Peter and the Wolf

Peter and the Wolf I know a number of you are coming into town for Comicon. Why not take a break from all that industry stuff and come see a show? I’m puppeteering Peter in Peter and the Wolf.

Sergei Prokofiev’s classic Peter and the Wolf is re-imagined by Mabou Mines co-artistic director Terry O’Reilly and Jane Catherine Shaw to speak to the experience of children newly immigrated to the USA as well as young native New Yorkers. The Matrix Music Collaborators is a playground for the puppets – a garden of delight for Peter and his animal friends and safety from the wolf outside the gate.

Matrix Music Collaborators, a New York-based innovative chamber ensemble presents interdisciplinary collaborations through the unique approach of bridging dance, theater, visual art, film and poetry with classical, experimental, contemporary and world music, sharing the stage with an international roster of accomplished musicians.


W.A Mozart Excerpts from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik featuring ‘Rainy Nights’ (2002) by Hong Kong artist, Eric Siu

Sergei Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf, Op. 67 – a staging with Chinese Puppets directed by Terry O’ Reilly and Jane Catherine Shaw

Paul Wiancko Hip Hop Cello Concerto No. 1

John Williams Music from the Movies

Instrumentation for Matrix: violin, cello, flute, oboe, horn, clarinet, bassoon and piano under the direction of Sheryl Lee.

Tickets: $10 Individual | $30 Family of four
Free family workshop Saturday, April 19 | 1 pm | 212.352.3101

Wolf image: Simon Wong

Peter and the Wolf rehearsal

by Simon Wong director of the Ming Ri institute in Hong KongI have missed performing. And it’s not just the getting up in the audience that I’ve missed, it’s the rehearsals. The process of working out a show is strange and fascinating, especially if you have collaborators that you can trust.

We’ve been rehearsing Peter and the Wolf for a couple of days now (minus a trip to ballpark for me) but yesterday marked the first day that I’ve been actively onstage. Since my puppet doesn’t arrive from China until Tuesday (we hope) the focus has been on scenes that I’m not in. We’ve run out of those, so started staging Peter’s scenes with me standing in for the puppet. It’s fun and odd.

I have to think about the kinds of movements the puppet is likely to be able to do and work through that. For instance, if you look at the illustration of the puppet (by Simon Wong director of the Ming Ri institute in Hong Kong) you can see that I’ll be standing behind it, which means that if I turn the puppet’s back to the audience all they’ll see is me. So I’m going through the rehearsals playing me as a puppet playing Peter.

It’s fun. I hope my guesses are remotely close to the puppet’s range of movement.

Steve & Idi, Teddy, Peter and Katherine

I spent today getting props together for Steve and Idi a new play that I’m working on for Rattlestick theater. In the afternoon, Rob and I went down to pick up a rug for the Bully Pulpit, a play about Teddy Roosevelt.

In the evening, Katherine and I headed down to the Peter and the Wolf rehearsal. She alternated between reading and watching rehearsal while I painted puppets. Did I mention that I’d done the design for the animal characters? No… anyway, my puppet isn’t here from China yet, so I’ll be mostly observing till it gets here on Wednesday.

After rehearsal, Katherine and I went for Japanese food. At the moment, I’m creating some hand props for Steve and Idi before heading to bed.

Cast in Peter and the Wolf

This is a banner weekend.

I’ve just been cast as Peter in Peter and the Wolf. It’s a workshop production put on in joint collaboration with Terry OReilly, a long time member of Mabou Mines, and a Chinese puppet company– Guangxi Puppet Art Troupe with live music performed by Matrix Music.

Performances are April 18, 19 and 20 at the Abrams Art Center. I’ll post details and of course rehearsal updates as we go.