Friday, June 14, 2013

Coming soon! The Great Small Works’ International Toy Theater Festival on Tour

Guest blogger: Holly Hartman, PST Volunteer Media Consultant

Holly Hartman
I first attended a show at the Puppet Showplace Theatre several years ago, when my then-six-year-old niece was visiting Boston. I was dazzled, both by the skill of the puppeteer—the enthralling Sarah Lamstein—and the candid absorption of young audience members. They beamed at the arrival of a friendly kitten puppet, shrieked at onstage silliness, and cringed when a tiny Beelzebub rose up from behind the curtain. Afterward, a few children stayed to “meet” one of the puppets; they held its small hands and spoke to it as if to a new friend, apparently oblivious to the presence of Lamstein.

Since then I’ve also discovered PST's offerings for adult audiences, which have included some of the most memorable and ingenious theater productions I’ve seen anywhere. A troupe from Bavaria, Saltamontes Puppet Arts, enacted a mysterious tale with bunraku-style animal figures; Vermont’s Modern Times Theater used cardboard cutouts in a droll retelling of a political fable by Herman Hesse; recently, a marionette puppet slam blew my mind with wood and string. I have noticed that in the presence of puppetry arts I can be as awed and credulous as any six-year-old.

Right now I’m particularly excited about a traveling show that will be landing at PST at the end of this month: The Great Small Works’ International Toy Theater Festival.

Get Ready for Toy Theater…

One of the many things I’ve learned at PST is that there’s currently an international revival of “toy theaters” (aka “paper theaters” or “model theaters”). These mass-produced Victorian miniatures, complete with paper scenery and characters, were a popular form of home entertainment in nineteenth-century Europe. A wondrous variety of contemporary theater artists have contributed to their revival. “Toy theater festivals happen all over the world,” says PST artistic director Roxanna Myhrum, “consistently amazing audiences with the power of performance-in-miniature.”

"Living Newspaper" by Great Small Works
After a residence at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn (how’s that for a credential?!), the traveling part of this year’s festival will make a stop at PST, on June 28 and 29. Both nights will feature a cabaret-style production by three acclaimed theater companies. I'm really looking forward to seeing their work in the intimate space of PST.

Facto Teatro, "Don Chico con Alas"
Facto Teatro (Mexico City) will perform “Don Chico con Alas” (Don Chico with Wings), based on a surrealistic story by Mexican author Eraclio Zepeda. Barbara Steinitz and Björn Kollin (Berlin) will use live music—and a suitcase for a stage—in“Schnurzpiepegal” (Like Master, Like Dog), a humorous meditation on urban life and human-pet dynamics. Great Small Works (New York, but founded by veterans from Vermont’s Bread and Puppet Theater) will bring together words and images from modern-day media in “Living Newspaper,” a new work that addresses the issue of American gun violence.

…and a Family Matinee

“Schnurzpiepegal” (Like Master, Like Dog) by Barbara Steinetz and Björn Kollin
Never fear: kids will have the chance to get in on the toy theater fun, too. On Saturday, June 29, PST will host two daytime shows of “Schnurzpiepegal” (Like Master, Like Dog), each followed by a free workshop, where artists Barbara Steinetz and Björn Kollin will help children create their own toy theater puppets.

Just the Facts!

Evening cabaret on Friday, June 28, and Saturday, June 29, at 8 p.m. (Recommended for adults and teens 13+.) Tickets: $15 General Admission/$13 Members. Cash bar.


Family matinee on Saturday, June 29, at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. (Recommended for ages 3 & up.) Tickets: $12 General Admission/$8 Members. Followed by a free puppet-making workshop; PST will provide materials.


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