Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Puppets of Puss in Boots

The beginning of The New Victory’s 2010-2011 season is almost here – and with it, the world premiere of Puss in Boots (El gato con botas). Our audiences might be more familiar with New York-based Tectonic Theater Project and Gotham Chamber Opera; Blind Summit Theatre, the magical studio behind the larger-than-life puppets, calls London home. Curious about these brilliant Brits and their puppets? Read on!

Blind Summit Theatre is dedicated to creating incredible puppets that challenge the way audiences view puppetry as it belongs in live theater. Artistic Director Mark Down asks, “How far can we take puppetry? How deeply can an audience feel about a puppet? Can a puppet play a lead role? Can he play the lead in an opera? Can he play Hamlet? Can he play the Cat in Puss in Boots?” (Looks like it!)

Here’s Mark’s take on creating the Cat and the Ogre puppets for Puss:

The Cat - in boots - is a Bunraku style puppet. That means that three people will operate him - one person holds the head and the left arm, one person holds the back and the right arm, and one person is on the feet. They work together in a three man improvisation, responding in the moment to one another to make a completely life-like creature. One minute the cat might be searching for something, the next minute he might stop suddenly, and be completely still except for one foot tapping thoughtfully on the floor, the next moment he might leap onto the curtains. The co-ordination and sensitivity required in the team of three puppeteers to achieve this is immense and takes weeks of working together, in each other's armpits and under each other's feet. When they are performing they enter a kind of trance-like state where they do what the puppet demands. The result when it works is like magic.
We are taking this style to an even higher level when we create the Ogre, which is going to be a five-person-operated, ten-foot-high, fully articulated puppet which can fly apart and come back together like the Transformers. I can tell you he's going to be pretty frightening! And you can tell he was made in England because he has really bad teeth!
Whoa! These puppets sound pretty exceptional – not to mention labor-intensive! But Blind Summit’s designer and puppet maker, the matchless Nick Barnes, is truly a master of his craft. Only a few days left before you can see them for yourselves! In the meantime, check out Blind Summit’s photos from their London and New York City workshops, their rehearsal photos or the puppets’ costume sketches on The New Victory Facebook page. See you at the theater!

1 comment:

  1. Moises Kaufman talks about working with the puppeteers and singers to direct the movements of these whimsical puppets. Check out The New York Times Music section: