Some of us humans, and particularly artists, are in a perpetual search for identity. In my case, turning into an immigrant over twenty years ago deepened this particular personality trait. To protect and make our creative work possible, many of us artists balance and juggle a medley of jobs, commitments, assignments, gigs, responsibilities, and commissions. We change and gain new personalities, and new senses of self as we grow and mature; as we launch subsequent projects, meet new people, and experience rejections, recognition, and praise.
Dream Tale Puppets and I reached the next phase of our search for identity. A year ago, we premiered our newest show: ‘Alice, or the Red King’s Dream.’ The production process, in which I was accompanied by the brave, patient, talented, and generous Margaret Moody, has been a search for identity in its own right. We entered the rehearsals with preliminary ideas, drafts, and a medley of approaches. We were adapting and developing ways to collaborate and create together as we moved from scene to scene. We were generating material, cutting and adjusting the structure and composition of scenes, and slowly putting together the show. After we premiered last summer, we realized that this show had not been only demanding in production, but also will be laborious for touring and performing. It takes four hours to set up and three hours to clear. We realized that we might benefit from having someone else join us.
When I am in the middle of working on the production, usually it’s also a time to start thinking about what would be next. Questions, discoveries, and inspirations that arise in the course of work often act as the seeds for the next experience. Many of them can’t be incorporated into the project that gave them life without destroying material that was already created. They need a new cradle (or cauldron) to be tried and developed. Many of the ideas that emerged during our work on ‘Alice’ and before are waiting for their chance to start fermenting into the next creative process. Last fall, I started building puppets for Dream Tale Puppets’ next production.
A few years ago, I juggled between working with Dream Tale Puppets and teaching, directing, designing, and building works for my visa sponsors. Since I got US resident status and thanks to Dream Tale Puppets’ supporters and friends, I can focus on shaping Dream Tale Puppets’ programs. I realized that I would like to incorporate my interest in teaching into the work I do with Dream Tale Puppets and further develop our educational programs.
This year in January, I posted calls to actors on several online platforms. I invited people interested in learning how to give voices to characters in our play. I was surprised by the number of responses. Some of them were impractical, like those from actors in California and other continents, but six people from Massachusetts were interested in rehearsing on Zoom. After a few months, three of them were ready to perform. Two new actors performed with me during our July run at the Puppet Showplace Theater, and one joined me in performing for the school and library. Dream Tale Puppets has grown and been enriched with the energy and talents of new actors.
In May and June, I offered the ‘Acting with Tabletop Puppets’ workshop on Cape Cod. Six actors and theatre aficionados participated, including those who are already members of the theatre. The techniques of acting with tabletop puppets are fundamental for many of Dream Tale Puppets’ projects. They provide a platform where puppetry can easily meet live acting. They move actors away from the modes of realistic theatre and also create the foundation for incorporating other puppetry techniques and styles, as well as other non-realistic (acting in a mask or with other performative objects) acting techniques into one creative process and narrative structure. I will continue offering acting and acting with puppets workshops. If you are interested, please stay tuned. Check our website or social media profiles and send us a message.
‘Alice, or the Red King’s Dream’ has the potential to become another training platform and gateway to cooperation with us, after ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ ‘Jack’ introduces actors to working on voices and characters. ‘Alice,’ with its loose narrative structure, nonsensical and poetical characters, and alternate realities can easily provide a training ground, welcome new actors, and prepare those interested in joining us for future projects.”
Dream Tale Puppets is in search of its next incarnation. Training and workshops will be part of this search and will shape our new identity. They will provide opportunities to introduce people to our practices and techniques as well as allow research, experimentation, and development of elements of expressive language, ways of working and creating through shared experience.
These reflections were originally published in the September edition of The Control Stick – Newsletter of the Boston Area Guild of Puppetry.