Posts Tagged ‘theater’

One Month

I realized late last night that we moved a month ago. Rob is celebrating by being in Oregon at IPNC. I spent the day hanging out with Livia Llewellyn, who has got to be one of the coolest people I know. It was so nice to spend time with someone who totally gets the theater/writing world parallels.

She’d had a rough day on Friday so I offered her cake and wine tasting. We went to the Hungarian Pastry Shop, up the street from my place for pastries. Oh my. Heavens. When you come visit, I’ll take you there too.

After indulging, we strolled over to Martin Brother’s Wines and Spirits, which has wine tastings every Friday and Saturday evening from 5:30-7:30. We tried a Chateau de Pourcieux Rose and the Wombat Shiraz. I picked up a bottle of the Rose, and Livia took home a bottle of the Shiraz.

All in all, it was a really great day. The only thing that would have improved it, is if Rob were home.

In Coversation with a Bunraku Master

You’ll hear a lot of American puppeteers referring to Bunraku or Bunraku styled puppets. Bunraku was originally the name of the theater company, while the puppetry style was called ningyo joruri. Which is part of why I, personally, have a pet peeve when people say that they do bunraku puppets, because it seems like saying “I do Hitchcock movies.” Be that as it may, the Bunraku masters work for years at their art. They say that it takes 35 years to become a master. You spend five years sweeping the stage; ten years doing the feet; ten years doing the left arm; ten years doing the head and right arm and then, finally, people think that you know what you are doing.

Here’s a clip of a demonstration with Kiritake Kanjiro, a Bunraku master. Normally you only see the master’s face, but in this clip everyone is unhooded. Note how the other two puppeteers are never referred to and that all of them remain expressionless while working. Actually, there is one point where the left arm man is asked a direct question and he looks distinctly uncomfortable. Fascinating stuff.

Spotted on PuppetBuilding

Trucks Passing in the Day

Move To NYC, Day Two

As fate would have it, when we called Mr. B– today to see how they were faring on their cross-country trip west, we were only about 30 miles heading toward each other. We stopped at the Flying J truck stop, just east of Rapid City Wyoming to meet up. I had met the entire family in NYC, but this gave Rob a chance to meet Mrs. B– and the kids. Mrs. B– is delightful and I wish I had more time to talk with her, but we all had schedules to keep. Rob trotted out a little of his Japanese to greet her—I think she wasn’t expecting to hear Japanese and had a moment before she realized that he wasn’t speaking English. Then she smiled and answered him.

Young Master B– and Miss B– seemed to be adapting well to their week of driving and were finding amusement playing with the gravel in the asphalt parking lot between our trucks.

We’re moving now into territory that is unfamiliar to me. Up to now, we’ve been driving the roads that I drove when I was touring for Tears of Joy. Every exit yesterday provoked memories of elementary schools and the shows I performed there. Jerome, Idaho’s school has a stage carpeted in green shag, to match the walls of the auditorium. If you use wireless microphones you pick up a radio station over your sound system. When I was there, it was as if Rush Limbaugh was using our equipment to broadcast his show.

I started running lines–as we used to do to warm up after a break—just to see how much I remember. A surprising amount is still there. These were the opening lines to four shows; I performed in more, but my partners had the opening lines in the others.

The operetta of Pied Piper:
[Blackout and Scream] Singing: “Oh drat, a rat, running across the floor!”

Baba Yaga:
Singing: “My mama said Marusia, here is a kopek,
Go to the village and buy us some turnips. Hurry home and don’t forget the change.”

Rabbits, Carrots, and Whales (Brer Rabbit Tales)
“Well hello there! Do you know why I’m so happy? I just found a whoooooole patch of carrots, right next to Pembele’s house and I just loooooove carrots.”

Tales of Japan
“Long ago in Japan, there lived a man named Myoga and his wife Onagi.”

Ah me…I think the reason I was looking forward to the road trip portion of this move is because it reminds me of touring. I miss the simplicity of life on tour. You arrive, set up, do the show and leave. There is a magic to transforming a gym into a theater; such simple path to Wonder.

I also liked seeing how the country changes. We think about America as if it is a homogenous place, but a road trip quickly reminds one that the United States was made from a federation of independent states. I wonder if the European Union will have a similar growth process over the next 200 years.


I invited a whole bunch of puppeteer, theater and crafty friends over to help clear out the basement of ten years of puppet making supplies. It was so much fun; I felt like Santa Claus and a saleswoman at the same time.

My favorite moment was when I pointed out the cape from Beauty and the Beast to Aimee, who jumped around with glee. She looks dashing, I must say.

And Theresa looked like she’d gone to costumer’s heaven.

The basement is much cleaner. But I still have a giant cyclops head. What the heck am I going to do with that?

Oh, and if you weren’t on my mailing list and live in Portland, I meant to invite you but I am scattered right now. There’s still fabric and tools and a beaver costume!


Rogue Artists Ensemble's production of THE TRAGICAL COMEDY OR COMICAL TRAGEDY OF MR. PUNCH.Wow. Talk about the perfect blending of my worlds. Rogue Artists Ensemble has created an adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s graphic novel ‘THE TRAGICAL COMEDY OR COMICAL TRAGEDY OF MR. PUNCH.’
The production photos look stunning. Alas, it is in L.A., so I can’t go, but I seriously want to.

Based the graphic novel by internationally acclaimed artists Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean (creators of the Sandman comics, and Henson Pictures’ MIRRORMASK) and adapted for the stage by Hyper-theater mavericks Rogue Artists Ensemble, Mr. Punch features a dizzying array of puppets, masks and sounds that will make you feel as though you have stepped into the pages of a graphic novel.

Mr. Punch is a twisted tale of murder that explores the oft-fragmented nature of memory, the innocence of childhood and the pain of adulthood. This dark fable set in a rundown sea side arcade, blurs the line between what is a puppet show and real life. There every man becomes enamored with a mermaid and only Mr. Punch can destroy the Devil.

As Judy, dear Judy herself says, “…it’s started now, and it can’t be stopped, not even if the DEVIL and all his crocodiles came up from HELL to stop it.”

Opening Friday April 27; continues through May 27
Fridays at 8 pm: April 27*; May 4, 11, 18, 25
Saturdays at 4 pm and 8 pm: April 28; May 5, 12, 19, 26
Sundays at 4 pm: April 29; May 6, 13, 20, 27

International Pixel-stained Technopeasant Day

International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant DayBefore I unveil my contribution to International Pixel-stained Technopeasant Day, I’d like to make an important and relevant announcement. I’ve been posting my novel, Shades of Milk and Honey as I’ve been writing it. Among the people reading it, was an agent. I’m pleased to report that as a direct result of posting my fiction online, I have now signed with Jenny Rae Rappaport of the L. Perkins Agency.

And now, some more free fiction. In addition to the novel, I have a short fiction offering for you in two forms. You may read “Beauty Will Come” or you may watch and listen to it. By combining the old puppetry form of toy theater with my nifty new digital webcam, I’ve made a Pixel-Stained Technopeasant short film.

Happy International Pixel-stained Day!

Subterranean Press » Audio: Rude Mechanicals by Kage Baker

Rude Mechanicals

Subterranean Press is proud to present its first audio-book, Rude Mechanicals, a short novel in Kage Baker’s signature series recounting the adventures of the time traveling cyborgs of Dr. Zeus incorporated. Rude Mechanicals is read by Mary Robinette Kowal. You can order a hard copy here.

The year is 1934, the scene is a Wood Near Athens — temporarily relocated to the environs of the Hollywood Bowl, as German theater impresario Max Reinhardt attempts to stage his famous production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Fortunately for Reinhardt, he has immortal assistance in the person of Literature Specialist Lewis, a cyborg working undercover for Dr. Zeus Incorporated, masters of time travel. Lewis is tasked with preserving Reinhardt’s promptbooks for future Company profits at auction.

Unfortunately for Reinhardt, there are complications…

For Joseph, Lewis’s fellow cyborg, is on the case as well, attempting to salvage a botched mission of his own. It involves the lost treasure of the Cahuenga Pass, a missing diamond, a third-century pope, burglary, disguises, car chases, and a legendary Hollywood party spot. All of which interact, more or less disastrously, with Lewis’s mission and Reinhardt’s Shakespearean extravaganza. Will the show go on?

World Puppetry Day

Secret of Singbonga If you can, today, seek out a puppet show whether that’s a live show or something on video or film. Puppets are one of the oldest forms of theater and have had so many different incarnations, it can’t be hard to find one. You just have to look for them.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some happy links.

PuppetVision collects video of puppetry online.
The Puppetry Home Page has links to half the web of puppetry.
Puppeteers of America is the national puppetry organization with guilds all over the place.
PuppetBuzz has daily updates on international puppetry news.
Other Hand Productions is my puppet company.

Meanwhile, here’s a message from UNIMA, the international puppetry group, which also happens the oldest international arts organization.

21st MARCH, 2007

sennosukeInternational Message
The nostalgic and the new

Sennosuke Takeda
Born in Iida city in 1930. Worked extensively in marionette theatre on television, in films and on the stage. Ex-member of executive committee of UNIMA , Honorary President of UNIMA JAPAN, Director of the Takeda Memorial International Marionette Museum.

I like to think that Iida City, which has passed on long traditions to subsequent generations and brought them into the modern age, has already become renowned throughout the world. New performing arts, particularly from Europe and America, engulfed Japan, and the unique culture that this island nation had nurtured over the years became like a little boat drifting through a vast storm, and eventually disappearing. Around that time, a large household with exceptional puppeteering skills flourished and developed on Awaji Island, and travelled around the country giving performances. Local landowners gave the puppeteers somewhere to live, and they in turn taught the local people about their craft, leading to the founding of a puppet theatre which still survives today.

In recent years, many of the towns and villages around Iida have been incorporated into that castle city. Theatres for the Kuroda and Imada puppet companies, where they can put on performances whatever the weather, were completed using Japanese architectural techniques, with the help of the city. In the style of the Edo Era, the new Kuroda theatre has a covered stage for the puppet performances, and maintains the tradition of the audience watching from an outdoor amphitheatre. The outstanding feature of the Kuroda puppets is their hair, which is apparently re-tied before every single performance. Personally I think that the hair of the Kuroda puppets is the most beautiful amongst all the varieties of three-puppeteer puppet heads, including bunraku and awaji, and I am filled with admiration every time I see it. I sincerely hope that, whatever else may happen, this hair is protected for ever.

Fifteen years ago I was invited to Iida City, which built the Sennosuke Takeda International Marionette and Puppet Museum in Zakoji, surrounded by the Southern and Central Alps, in a place of natural beauty now rare in Japan.

About forty years ago, a child who I suppose must have been an elementary school student was giving me a concerned look as I watched a performance at the Comédie-Française in Paris. Though I was laughing just at the gestures of the performers, the child wanted me to enjoy the dialogue too, and I was deeply touched at this child’s act of kindness. Rather than waiting until they are adults, it is at an early age that we should expose our children to beauty and culture. I continue with my work at the museum in the hope that one day there will be little boys and girls like this in all the puppet theatre cities of the world.

Go on now, go celebrate World Puppetry Day. You can start by telling me about your favorite puppet experience.

Bodyvox, a Portland Dance theater

The thing that I love about Bodyvox is that they are willing to dance in unexpected places. Their work has a sense of whimsy and at the same time of longing that I find very appealing. Here are two offerings.

Deere John

I have a friend who’s worked with them and he says that they didn’t realize that when they got the John Deere that they would need a certified operator. The union guy comes out and is all, like, “You want me to do what?” By the end, he had changed to, “Give me one more take, I can do it better.”

Islands in the Sky

Better than Valentine’s Day

Seven years ago today, I went to see a movie by myself. At the end of the film, only one other person had stayed to watch the credits. This nice young man and I walked outside talking about film and theater. He got on his bike to ride away and I walked off to my car, thinking, “Nice young man. Why didn’t I prolong the conversation.”

On the drive home, I saw him, sitting on his bike at an intersection and thought, “I’ll circle the block. If he’s still there, I’ll ask him to go talk about the film. If he’s not… oh well.”

He was there. A year and a half later, I married him.

Rob and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. This is better.

Toy Theater

Andrew at PuppetVision found this wonderful 1920s newsreel about toy theater. Toy theater is one of my favorite forms and this newsreel is as informative today as it would have been eighty years ago.

Willamette Radio Workshop – The Hobbit’s Greatest Hits

If you’re a Tolkien fan and live in the Portland are, head over to McMenamins’ Kennedy School for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Birthday Bash.

Saturday, January 20
With jugglers, live music by the Scraff Orser Band, the entire LOTR trilogy
and more! Come in costume to compete for prizes!
11 a.m. ’til close; music at 7 p.m. | Free | All ages welcome

Ever been to a J.R.R. Tolkien tribute party? Yeah, we didn’t think so (unless you came last year, or the year before that…). Celebrate the birthday of Tolkien by coming dressed as your favorite Hobbit, elf, wizard or other character from one of his amazing novels. We’ll have Hobbit-inspired food specials, the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in the Theater, a performance by Willamette Radio Workshop and much more.

WRW will be doing The Hobbit’s Greatest Hits at 2:00. Don’t miss out.

Life with a touring puppeteer: 1998, Day 14

Wednesday, October 21, 1998
Day Fourteen

Today we had a little bit of the excitement that makes live theater so fun. Sungura’s ear fell off while he was on stage. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but he never leaves the stage once the show starts.

It was actually quite amusing. We-ha comes on stage and we do this whole bit about them falling off a cliff. Which the kids love. Anyway We-ha falls and when I run Sungura over to look for him I notice that his ear is literally hanging by a thread four inches below his head. So when it’s his turn to fall I tap Joe to get him to stall so I can shove the ear back on.

I rejoin the scene but it’s clear that the ear is going to come off again. So– We-ha calls the monster in the house and suggests that Sungura might go hide behind the house. This is really a translation of “I’ll stall while you tape.” Which is exactly what I did.

Early fiction: Sinbad’s Adventures in Lewis Carrol’s Land

I have zero memory of this one. What makes me laugh about this is that right now I’m designing The Arabian Nights for McCarter Theater and they just finished building a show called Lookingglass Alice. Ah…when worlds collide. How did my fifteen year old self know?

Sinbad’s Adventures in Lewis Carrol’s Land

Sinbad was in his new palace, wandering around and wishing he had something to do when a messager from the Emperor came.

“My lord, my lord!” he cried.

“Yes, yes,” Sinbad said, “What is it?” He tapped his foot impatiently.

“My lord,” the messenger cried again. “The Emperor is ill and needs you to fetch an ingredient for his cure!”

“He does!” Sinbad leaped joyfully. “What can I fetch of him?” Sinbad thought of jeweled cups, genies and phoenixes.

“A jabberwock head,” the messenger replied.

“A what?” Sinbad looked at the messenger for an explanation.

“The jabberwock with jaws that bite and claws that catch. It lives in the Tulgey Wood and has eyes of flame,” the messenger said.

“And how may I kill this beast?” Sinbad inquired.

“With this vorpal sword.” The messenger handed him a gleaming blade.

Sinbad held the sword. “Wow…” he said. “I’ll do it.”

Sinbad set off and looked for his maxome foe a long time. After a while he got tired, so rested he by the tumtum tree and stood awhile and thought. “Why am I doing this? Is it for the fun? Naw…the glamour? Naw. I’ve still got glamour leftover from the last adventure…the girls? Yes!!!”

While he stood in uffish thought, the jabberwock with eyes of flame came whuffling through the Tulgey Wood and burbled as it came. He took his vorpal blade in hand and chopped off the jabberwock’s head.

Then he went galumphing back to the Emperor. When he arrived back, the lights were off and no sound was to be heard. “Alack, alas,” he cried in anguish. “I stood in uffish thought too long and now the Emperor is dead!”

He stepped across the threshold and heard the sound of 1,000 matches being lit. The room filled with light and to his joy, he saw the Emperor standing there. “April Fools!” he cried, and showered the bewildered Sinbad with gold.

The End

I think the April Fool’s ending is only marginally better than “And it was all just a dream,” but I like the way I used the text from “Jabberwocky.” So does this count as slipstream or straight fantasy or fanfic?

Life with a touring puppeteer: 1998

With the move and everything, I’m feeling a wee bit overwhelmed so I’m going to use the wayback machine to post my online journal from a tour in 1998. At the time, I was touring with Tears of Joy, the second largest puppet theater in the US. The tour was a short one, only two weeks, and I covered it on my online journal. I’d just gotten a digital camera, I guess, and had a website on geocities. That was back in the day when it was all hand-coding, none of this fancy-schmancy wordpress stuff.

The puppets were twenty years old. They broke every single freakin’ day on tour. Enjoy.

Monday, October 5, 1998

The picture to our left is of Joe and me realizing that we have to remember this show. We each have performed it in the past, but it’s been a couple of years and we didn’t perform with each other. I’m also doing a role in the show that I haven’t done before, so it’s an adventure.

But seriously, we started by reading through the script to familiarize ourselves with each others rythmn and timing. It was also good to make sure we both know the same version of the show. Sometimes a team has deleted a section, or added an ad lib that stuck. Joe and his last partner have added things that are new to me, but they are fun, so I’ll learn them.

Joe and Me
The next stage was to get on our feet. We worked in sections today on Sungura the Hare, one of the two stories in this show. Joe is working Pembele the rhinocerous in this photo, but he won’t use all of the costume until later in the week.
Joe with Pembele
During the course of today’s rehearsal we discovered several repairs that need doing. These puppets are twenty years old, so they require a bit of love to work. I’m trying to fix Sungura’s ears. They are supposed to go straight up in the air when their string is pulled. Pretty much the first thing that happened today was that it broke. I’ve added the duct tape to test a repair, but the masking tape appears to be original to the puppet, because it has some fiberglass repairs on top of it.

Tomorrow, we’ll have more repairs to make and hopefully rehearse Brer Rabbit

Me and Sungura the Hare