StayCation 6: The Power of Felt

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2010 at 3:45 pm

“I dug it.  I did.  It was cool, but I was kind of waiting.”
“You know.  I mean, he was awesome.  But where was the puppet?  I mean, you certainly didn’t need one, but damnit, I wanted one.  I want puppets, man.  Bring on the puppets.  And this man?  No puppet what so ever. Where’s the puppet, sir?”

I swear, I don’t smoke pot.  I know that sounds like the most marijuana soaked rant that has ever been written, but really I don’t touch the stuff.  I just really, really dig puppets.  Roommate and I were babbling all of this on a street corner waiting for the light to change.

“Where.  Is.  The.  Puppet?”

And then, in a voice way too even to not be a well rehearsed Dad voice,

“He WAS the puppet.”

I turned to see a fifty year old in his kid’s college’s sweatshirt, and worn elastic ball cap, and faded jeans.  It was the official uniform of the Dad.  And I guess he had just come from the same show we had.

“He didn’t need a puppet.  He WAS the puppet.”  The Dad repeated.

The light changed and we crossed the street, quickening our walk to out pace the Dad behind us.

“That weird you out too?”

This is why I don’t need pot.  I’m like this normally.  It would be friggin redundant.

(My apologies to Jim Henson for my Kermit up there.  Although it does look like he’s giving the Metal sign, which, you know…would be awesome.)

I’ll go head and be five billionth person to say it.  I friggin loved the Muppet show when I was kid.  I worry for people who don’t at least like it.  I have stepped this down a notch.  Formerly, I would have considered a person to be utterly insane if they didn’t abjectly LOVE the Muppet show.  But having gone back and watched a few the DVD’s since growing up, I can see it wasn’t the epitome of wonderfulness that it looks like through nostalgia glasses.  It’s still liquid awesome, but it’s not the pinnacle of television I might have stated it was a few years ago.

But still, I, like so many, can remember being a kid sitting at the end of my parents bed and watching the Muppet show any time in came on.  Even back when I was a toddling bit of youth, my family wasn’t exactly the kind to watch television all together.  We had a couple sets throughout the house, so generally Dad and Mom would settle into their different programs and I’d take my pick between the two.  (I got the hand me down black and white TV with a UHF dial when I was ten or so.)  The Muppet show was one of the few things the clan agreed on together.  Even my sisters, who at the time were pulling the usual teenage rebellion, rock-out-to-THEIR-music-in-THEIR-room thing, would wander in to watch.

A lot of the appeal lay in the fact that it was a variety show.  Like the bad joke about the weather, “If you don’t like it, just wait ten minutes.”  Sure some sketches fell flat, but the next would come and be fantastic, at least to someone in the room.  In each episode there would be a sketch that fell in with each of us.  Generally not the same one, but there’d be something.  And you always had Kermit, Statler and Waldorf holding the thing together.

In a lot of ways that’s how the Puppet Playlist went down yesterday.  After reading the description online, I knew that’s how I would be spending StayCation day six.  Still, the description on the website didn’t really prepare us for what we were in for.  Put  bluntly, they selected a theme and sent a bunch of musicians and puppeteers off to work out their own variation on the theme.  The show switched back and forth between a puppet performance and a musician, each with their own distinctive take on the challenge at hand.

Last night’s was One Hit Wonders, and that provided more than enough room for everyone play in wildly different ways.  (Most esoteric song choice: Cannon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel.)  There were hits, there were misses, but there was something new coming at you every other moment.

They opened strong with Total Eclipse Of The Heart, by Bonnie Tyler. The song leapt into everyone’s heads immediately.  Not that I love Total Eclipse, but it does seem to be one of those songs that are universal, for no damn good reason.  It’s just one you know, even if you don’t know why.  Considering the title, Peter Musante, Margot Fitzsimmons & Spica Wobbe’s choice of  shadow puppets made complete sense, and the way they played with them was massively creative, shining shadows through an open umbrella, or on the back wall of the theater.   At one point, they carefully distanced a doll and Musante from the same light source, so they appeared evenly sized on the back wall, and coiled into a kiss.  It was a fantastic open.

Carole D’agostino worked a bunch of transparencies and her hands behind a back lit screen, to tell the story of a scientist actually blinded by a green concoction cooked up in the lab.  She got her best laugh out of a pair of Einsteined-Groucho-Marx-Glasses that appeared suddenly to announce “SCIENCE!”

Jake Bazel and Vivian Viera painted out the scene of a discarded sock questing to find its mate, to Daniel Powter’s American Idol earworm, “Bad Day.”  The amount of expression they pulled from animating a sock was stunning, as it sidestepped a curled pair of gloves, overzealous pants, and a possibly too forward pair of high heels, before plowing into the gathered laundry pile to finally find it’s intended.

The man who WAS the puppet was Jesse Garrison, who managed to turn Safety Dance, by Men Without Hats, into an inspirational speech, that would have fit nicely into the conference room of the Des Moines Marriott.  “We CAN dance.  If WE want to.”  Between informing us of the power we held within ourselves to dance, he lip-synced along with the song before a PowerPoint presentation informing us that the cast of Friends, if they didn’t dance, wasn’t our friends at all.  A sentiment we all could agree with.

The boldest move made of the evening was Marina Tsaplina and Miguel Suero’s interpretation of “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good),” by Rozalla.  What is usually a fairly raking and repetitive techno song, was adapted as the dialogue between a couple fighting over the sheets in bed at night; at one point slicing the sheets in half, but finally coming together at the end.  In an evening full of music, it was arresting having the stage be so quiet for so long.  The lyrics they did include came out slowly, almost dreamily.  It was a subdued dance, full of nice moments between the two, but it hung a bit, especially in contrast to the rest of the show.  Still, it was interesting to see such a completely different tact.

Melissa Creighton went the other way, re-imagining “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes as a job interview.  The hand puppets she brought in midsong didn’t quite seem to fit, but she closed the song with one of the best moments of the night.  Standing up, she pulled a hood over her head, and turned herself into a giant puppet, the skirt of her dress acting as one massive puppet mouth she used to sing out the final chorus, and call the entire audience into a sing along, that literally no one in the theater was able to resist.

Interspersed between all the puppets, a collection of singers and musicians jumped into the fray.  Jerimiah Lockwood, and his highly reflective guitar ran us through “Voices Carry”, by ’til tuesday.  A trio under the name Mappa Mundi covered “Under the Milky Way” by The Church.   The Great Republic of Rough & Ready did their best to change Video Killed the Radio Star into a throaty torch song.  Paul Basile, who walked onstage and performed with the least amount of pomp of everyone, sang an extremely tight and moving rendition of “The Promise” by When in Rome.  Jo Morris surprised the heck out of me with “Brand New Key”, by Melanie.  Coming onstage with just a ukulele, and a wilting smile, she transformed completely once the song started, running a jazzy voice through a bunch of dramatic turns in the song.  Anna Leuchtenberger had the most creative cover, playing with the aforementioned “Cannon in D Major,” including her own lyrics about how you have no idea, as an artist, what your legacy will be.  We don’t get to control how we are remembered.  It should have been a great performance, and it almost was, if only it hadn’t taken her what felt like a solid six minutes to set up, and she had been a little better rehearsed.  She struggled a bit with the chords themselves and, despite having a notebook in front of her, she had trouble keeping up with her own lyrics.

The show closed up with a performance by The Puppet Kitchen, who managed to turn “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” by the Darkness into a scene about a boy coming to peace with a monster under his bed.  The two puppets in play could not have been more different.  The boy, a simple doll with a dummy’s flapping mouth controlled by a simple control on his back, and the monster, Luff, who had four arms and required three puppeteers to operate.  The puppeteers managed to match the energy of the song, slowly revealing Luff, and then watching the monster either play with the boy or torture him, depending on your point of view.  Luff did, at one point, pick up the Boy and play him like a guitar, so take that as you will.  The scene was exciting enough that I actually want to hear that Darkness song again, just to run the performance through my head.    In the crescendo of the song, Luff called us all to clap along, and all the night’s performers jumped in, climbing onstage together, to form a mini dance party to send us on our way.

I’ve seen a lot of weirdness this week, but I can say, without pause, that this show was the greatest show of creativity all week, and if you’ve been reading along, you know that’s saying something.  It did have it’s dips, and a few bits could have been better polished, but across the board each performer twisted and squirmed in the genre, and each came out with something extremely individual and fascinating to watch.  The only thing I do think they need desperately is a host.  Switching up the set between each performer was a drag on the show, but a host could smooth that out entirely.  Basically they need a Kermit.   Quite frankly, I think they already have one.  The man who WAS a puppet could take the reigns of that task with ease.  Someone put in a request.

Their next show is in January, and you bet your ass I’m going again.  Fuck’s sake people it’s a whopping seven bucks cover!  When I have some more time, I’ll work some individual links to each performer, but for now, you can find info on almost everyone above on the Puppet Playlist website.  If you have time, check it out.  They’re doing the show twice today, and they have videos of previous performances up on the website as well, if you can’t grab tickets.  (They sell out.)

(Wondering what all this StayCation business is about?  Read from the beginning.)

Friday: Taking a night off weirdness, since it’s Roommate’s Girlfriend’s B-day.  Given that I am a bit worn, and the fact that the StayCation is coming soon to a close, a chill day may be exactly what the doctor ordered.

  1. Jesse was in Annie’s R&J as Paris.

  2. […] 6. Some have their hands in a sock. He IS the puppet. Creepy Dad has a fair point. #puppetsrock […]

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