Friday, October 2, 2009

New Victory Scottish Festival: Puppet State Theatre Company and THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES

An interview with members of The Puppet State Theatre Company

What about the story of The Man Who Planted Trees inspires you? The fact that quiet determination can have an affect on the world and in turn help one’s life have worth.

Why did you choose to make the [character of] Dog so important in your version of THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES? Rick and Richard (the actors and puppeteers of THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES) had success in a show for the Scottish Forestry Commission; Gerald the Forestry Commissioner and a puppet Squirrel were precursors to [the characters] Jean and Dog.
A dog also serves to cut the show off at the knees whenever it drifts into over-worthy territory.

We have some bios for the cast members, but not for Dog. Can you tell us a little bit more about him? What is Dog’s favorite food? Does he have any formal actor training? Dog grew up in Stone Mountain, Georgia - much like the guy behind him. He was once given a pack of Dentix Dog Chews from a school group, and he is very keen on those, as well as Thai food.
Although he has been in a few plays, he does not have much proper training. He attended the Gielgud Canine School of Acting briefly in the mid to late 80’s, but was spotted and chased out of the building.

How many places has the show traveled to (and which one was Dog’s favorite)? THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES has been performed nearly 800 times now. We’ve performed in our fourth Edinburgh Festival (in 2009), and have been to almost every town, village and hamlet of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Abroad we have been to Malaysia, Bermuda, and the Channel Islands. We have an extensive tour of the U.S. and Canada early in 2010 and then move on to Holland and Portugal. A tour of Australia and New Zealand is in the planning stages.
Dog has enjoyed himself everywhere, especially on the beach after shows in Penang.

Do the sets or puppets ever break or need repair while you're traveling? Is there an understudy if Dog is injured? The set has held up incredibly well considering the stresses it has been through. (The word "cast" may be substituted for the word "set" in that last sentence.)
If Dog can not make a show, the chicken takes his place.

Are there any other fun facts or anecdotes about the show or the company that you would like to share with our audiences? Not so much fun, as heroic. We were on a flight out of New York recently when our plane struck a flock of geese. Unfortunately, the pilot had just spilled coffee on his lap and had rushed to the bathroom. To cut a long story short, Dog had to race to the cockpit and, against all odds, landed the plane safely in the Hudson River. No one was hurt.
Photo by Brian Fishbacher.

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