Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Behind the Scenes at PST: Hansel and Gretel

An illustration by Arthur Rackham (1909)

A Fairytale Comes To Life

Welcome back, readers! We thought since it's December, which is basically the most wonderful and magical time of the year, we would show a fairytale this week, one you may remember reading as a child: "Hansel and Gretel."

And who better to put on a show like that than the father-and-son (well, more like sons) team over at National Marionette Theatre, who - for years - have been bringing some of our favorite fairytales to life?

Yes, children and adults alike will be dazzled by the performances of the National Marionette Theatre. You don't believe me? Probably because you've never seen one of their shows. Well, let's take a look at their work, then - past and present.

About The Show...

You all know the story of "Hansel and Gretel," right? Well, in case you don't - Hansel and Gretel are a young brother and sister threatened by a cannibalistic witch living deep in the forest in a house constructed of cake and confectionery. The two children give into their temptations and fall for the witch's trick, but eventually save their lives by outwitting her. Yes, the joke's on the witch when Hansel and Gretel push her into the oven - as she intended to do with them (yuck!).

Hansel and Gretel, lost in the dark forest 

Now, you probably read "Hansel and Gretel" while you were growing up, but you certainly haven't seen it like this - on stage! The National Marionatte Theatre, which is made up of David A. Syrotiak Sr. and his two sons, David J. and Peter, have been dazzling audiences for many, many years now.

Hansel and Gretel, startled by the "Old Woman" 

"Hansel and Gretel" is one of the many fairytales in their rotation and has captured the imagination of audiences for generations. In their adaptation, two master puppeteers bring one of the most famous of the Grimm Brothers' stories to life. The show features exquisitely crafted marionettes, scrolling scenery and the beautiful music of Engelbert Humperdinck - from his 1893 opera, Hänsel und Gretel.

And The Family Of Performers...

As I mentioned before, the National Marionette Theatre is made up of a family of performers - literally. David A. Syrotiak Sr. and his two sons, David J. and Peter, work together to put on some of the most spectacular shows ever.

The Guys
David Sr., a self-made puppeteer, has rightfully won the honorary title of "Master Puppeteer."  He has dedicated his entire life to the field of puppetry, which he came to love at a very young age.  During his teens, he got his first job working with Suzari Marionettes and, later on, worked alongside the Krofft Brothers and Bil Baird during the 1965 Worlds Fair in New York.  David Sr. eventually started doing his own line of work and founded the National Marionette Theatre in 1967.  He has worked and toured extensively in many parts of the world and his work has earned him many awards including the UNIMA award for excellence in the field of puppetry in 1976 for "Art of the Pupeteer" and again in 1997 for his adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast."  As Artistic Director of the National Marionette Theatre, some of David Sr.'s favorite aspects of puppetry are painting, sculpting, and, of course, performing.

David Jr., like his father, has been around puppets all of his life.  When he was just twelve-years-old, he was recruited as an emergency understudy for the National Marionette Theatre's production of "Art of the Pupeteer."  David Jr. formally joined the company in 1984and has toured both in and out of the States.  Along the way, he has taken time off to work with other companies including Vagabond Marionettes, The Bennington Puppets, The Center for Puppetry Arts, and Bil Baird's Marionettes.  Aside from performing and managing the company, David Jr. is also an accomplished wood carver, sculptor, and costumer.

"Sleeping Beauty" and "Pinocchio"
Peter, much like his brother and his father, has also been around puppets all of his life.  Since he was old enough to hold a piece of sandpaper, he has always lent a hand in the shop, building marionettes, sets, and props for the company.  He formally joined the company in 1989 with the production of "Christmas Dream" and has been touring in and out of the States, building puppets, and performing ever since.

Together, the Syrotiaks (a.k.a. National Marionette Theatre) have staged some of the most beautiful shows ever.  In addition to "Hansel and Gretel," they have also brought other fairytales to life, including: "Sleeping Beauty" and "Pinocchio" - both of which have been great successes.  

With the help of intricate designs - in their puppets, sets, and costumes - and (sometimes) music - like using Tchaikovsky's ballet for Sleeping Beauty - their shows are guaranteed to "wow" audiences of all ages.  Correction: they have "wow-ed" audiences of all ages.  

If you have yet to see one of their shows, then we recommend you head on over to PST this week and see "Hansel and Gretel."  You won't be disappointed.  We promise!  Tickets can be purchased online HERE.  

Till next time.  Yours truly, Esra Erol - marketing intern at PST.

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