Monday, October 28, 2013

Join the good doctor and his rabbit assistant this week at Puppet Showplace!

FINAL SHOW of the Halloween Extravaganza series..

"Dr. Doohickey's Monster Machine" 
by Brad Shur, Artist in Residence 

Thurs & Fri, Oct 31 & Nov 1 at 10:30am
Sat & Sun,  Nov 3 1:00 & 3:00pm


Halloween is almost here! Have you picked out your costume yet? Heard a spooky story, or watched some of your favorite ghoulish movies? Here at Puppet Showplace, we are getting ready for Halloween night by switching on the MONSTER MACHINE! Dr. Doohickey has transformed the theatre into his monster machine laboratory full of as many gadgets as surprises!

Audience members are encouraged to attend performances in their Halloween costumes!

About the show: Dr. Doohickey always thought that monsters were more interesting than people. Why have two arms when you could have seven? Join the good doctor and his rabbit assistant, Reginald, as they fire up the Monster Machine on their quest to make the world a more interesting place. Featuring a cast of oversized puppets and "monsterizied" versions of your favorite fables, audiences of all ages will love this fun and interactive show! 

Brad Shur as "Dr.Doohickey" with his rabbit Reginald, and friend Bella Monster!
About the performer: Brad Shur is a versatile puppeteer who has created and performed characters made of everything from pixels to papier mache. As the Artist in Residence at Puppet Showplace Theatre he performs regularly and teaches puppetry classes to students of all ages, Pre-K to adult. As protégé of master puppeteer Paul Vincent Davis, Shur trained extensively in glove puppetry and currently performs two of Davis’ classic shows at venues across New England. 

Shur’s original works include "The Carrot Salesman," "Dr. Doohickey and the Monster Machine," "The Yankee Peddler: Stories and Songs from Old New England" and "The Magic Soup and Other Stories," recently featured at the Puppeteers of America National Festival 2013. Shur is currently working on a new adaptation of "Robin Hood," set to open in January 2014.

Prior to becoming the Artist in Residence at Puppet Showplace, Shur toured the country as a performer with Big Nazo (Rhode Island), Wood & Strings Theatre (Tennessee) and The PuppeTree (Vermont). As a builder Shur has designed and fabricated puppets for American Idol, Dollywood, Avenue Q, and the U.S.S. Constitution Museum. Shur is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Friday, October 25, 2013

CD Release: Take Home the Music of "The Yankee Peddler"

Songs from The Yankee Peddler
New Album by Chris Monti & Brad Shur

Now you can take your favorite folk songs from the show home with you! This 12 track album features full length recordings of "The Fox", "Cluck Old Hen" and "Jenny Jenkins," just to name a few.

Musician, Chris Monti's guitar playing paired with Puppet Showplace artist in residence, Brad Shur's amazing character voices creates an exciting adventure through New England history, folklore and rich musical traditions.

CD's are available for $14.99 at the puppet store.  

Call the Box office for more info: 617-731-6400 x 101

Folk Music at Puppet Showplace: Interview with musician, Chris Monti
by Guest Blogger: Brenda Huggins, Puppet Showplace Communications Director

As the center for puppetry arts in New England, Puppet Showplace Theatre is the home of many artists as they develop new works. In January of 2013, we presented the first “New Year, New Shows” series which included the world premiere performance of “The Yankee Peddler: Stories and Songs of Old New England." The show is by New England performing artists Brad Shur (puppeteer and Puppet Showplace artist in residence) from Boston, MA and Chris Monti, a folk musician from Providence, RI.

Chris Monti and shadow puppets performed by Brad Shur during the song, "The Fox."
“The Yankee Peddler” is a 45min puppet show performed with live music and shadow puppets that take the audience on an adventure through New England history, folktales and traditional folk music.  For the past year, audiences from all over New England and beyond have flocked to experience this unique and beautiful storytelling on stage at Puppet Showplace.

Who is the real STAR of the show? Is it the intricate shadow puppets made by Brad? (Over 100 puppets make an appearance through out the show.) Brad even built a wooden contraption with a crank that scrolls a New England landscape across the bed of an overhead projector behind the puppet screen. This modern overhead projector method used for shadow puppetry is Brad’s signature style.

Is the MUSIC the main event of the performance? “The Yankee Peddler” features about a dozen traditional tunes curated by the artists from a rich history of American Folk Songs from the late 19th century.  Chris expertly performs songs including “Cluck Old Hen”, “The Fox”, “Jenny Jenkins” and others on his acoustic guitar with occasional harmonica licks or response for a kazoo. The reality is that these two important elements of the production, the shadow puppets and the folk music, work together to create a live performance of sounds and images that aptly capture the culture and community of old New England.

Chris Monti and Henrietta the Hen (performed by Brad Shur, puppeteer) in "Cluck Old Hen"
With that being said, I had the opportunity to interview folk musician, Chris Monti, specifically about the music of “The Yankee Peddler”, and the brand new CD just released featuring all of the songs from the show.  Audiences can now take home all of their favorite songs from the show and cluck along with Henrietta the Hen, sing a sea shanty with Storm Along (New England’s Paul Bunyan character) and even write a letter to a rat!

Here’s what Chris Monti had to say:

What are the songs that make up “The Yankee Peddler?”

Half of the show is music: great old traditional songs, specifically. These songs have been passed on through an oral tradition, and it wasn’t until the late 19th century that musicians were able to put them on wax cylinders to document them. This was the first time that people recorded themselves and could hear what their music sounded like played back to them.

These songs are about emotion, and about people’s lives and work. The music is very different from commercial 1950 blue glass made specifically in the studio for the radio.  The songs in “The Yankee Peddler” are from the pre-recording era or right on the edge. They are all old, old songs.

What do you like about performing folk music?

I very much like the idea of playing songs that are 100’s of years old, and playing them in 2013 in a way where I’m not pretending to be anything that I'm not. I play them from the heart in an honest way, even though I am playing a character during the show.  Folk music is a big part of my music identity, and I try to learn music from other people to keep old music alive.  This is an important thing to me.  My personal folk music revolution happened when I was 19. I loved the grittiness of folk songs, the literal crackly sounds of the first recordings from the late 1800’s. 

At 19, I heard live old time string music (fiddles, banjo, mandolin, guitar) in the form of social dance music in providence, RI.  I made friends with musicians who would play this music at home and at dance parties.  From the first listen, I was inspired to take out old records from the public library.  Some of my favorite recordings are the Doc Watson Family album and folk musician Bruce Molskey.

How does the CD capture the music from “The Yankee Peddler?”

It is nice to document the show so people can listen to it, and take it home with them. The 12 tracks that make up the album are in the running order of the show, and it is a stand-alone piece of music to listen to. The main difference from the show is that the tracks on the CD are all fleshed out to full-length songs.   In the show, some of the songs are shortened to be part of the storytelling with the shadow puppets. Cluck old hen is about 1min long in the show, but on the CD, it is a fully fleshed out piece of music that tells its own story.

"Songs from the Yankee Peddler" is available for purchase at the Puppet Showplace puppet store, Brookline MA.
Another difference is that Brad over dubs many vocal parts on the CD, where in the live show, there is only his one voice.  He uses many over dubbed characters voices on “The Fox”, and “Cape Cod Girls” as examples.  There was only two of us in the studio making the album, so anytime you hear another voice, it is one of Brad’s character voices.

One of my favorite tracks on the CD is “100 Years” because I wrote a guitar arrangement specifically for the album.  When the song is performed live in the show, we sing it a cappella over a percussive beat.  I was inspired by middle eastern music when I made the guitar part for the CD, and you can hear a drone in the background as an example of that.

What advice would you give parents about encouraging their children to get into folk music?

Nothing takes the place of seeing live music. It is a completely visceral experience to watch someone play, or to sing along with someone who is playing.  I heard my dad play the guitar when I was 4 years old, and it was in that moment that I knew that I wanted to do that too.

"The Yankee Peddler: Stories and Songs
 from Old New England"
By Brad Shur and Chris Monti

Friday-Sunday, October 25-27/ PURCHASE TICKETS

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halloween Extravaganza at Puppet Showplace!

Celebrate spooky stories this Halloween at Puppet Showplace with two special events on Halloween Night!

Trick or Treat! Thursday, October 31, 4 to 7pm

Tricker-treaters of all ages are invited to drop-in between 4pm and 7pm Halloween night for an open-house event with free refreshments, activities and prizes! Come make your own Halloween-themed puppet, show off your costume with Bella Monster, and meet Dr. Doohickey and explore his monster laboratory. No reservations required, and this event is free!

Spooky Story Slam! Thursday, October 31, 8 to 10pm


Forget kitten costumes and candy corn...Halloween is a time to get scared! Witness the dark side of traditional folklore as MassMouth's professional storytellers duke it out in an uncensored scary story showdown. Not frightening enough? Spooky gets REAL as audience members take the stage to tell their own first-person accounts of the supernatural, spooky, and surreal. From apparitions to zombies (and everything in between) this is a night you won't want to miss!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ever wanted to sing along with a sea shanty?

UP NEXT: Halloween Extravaganza Continues...

"The Yankee Peddler: Stories and Songs from Old New England"
by Brad Shur and Chris Monti

Friday October 25 at 10:30am
Saturday & Sunday October 26 & 27 @ 1:00 & 3:00pm


Get into the Halloween and harvest spirit with New England folk music and shadow puppets! Audience members are invited to dress in their Halloween costumes for all performances.

About the show: Ever wanted to sing along with a sea shanty? Or dive deep into a fox's den? Then join us for a whirlwind tour of New England's lesser-known folklore where you'll discover a giant sailor, a fashionable bear, and the world's largest wheel of cheese. Drawing from three hundred years of stories, songs, and local history, this show is a delight for audiences of all ages.

About the performer: Brad has been professionally involved in puppetry for almost 15 years. He began as a performer with the Providence puppet and mask company Big Nazo while studying film and animation at the Rhode Island School of Design. He has worked in various capacities with Wood & Strings Theatre (Tennessee), and Vermont PuppetTree, and as a builder has designed and fabricated puppets for American Idol, Dollywood, and other theaters and performers from Austin, Texas to Boston, Massachusetts.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Around the Puppetry World in Four Weeks

A whirlwind tour via Brad Shur’s “Introduction to Puppetry Arts” 
By Guest Blogger, Holly Hartman, Volunteer Media Consultant

In the past, I’ve brought children to a range of enchanting shows at the Puppet Showplace; since becoming a volunteer, I’ve been wowed by its programming for adults. Boundary-pushing Puppet Slams with excellent live music, touring theater companies, evening classes for puppet fans at every level of experience—all this is available right here on Station Street, along with a glimpse into New England’s thriving puppetry arts community.

One of the highlights of my autumn was taking an adult education course at Puppet Showplace: Introduction to Puppetry Arts, taught by Brad Shur, the theatre’s Artist in Residence.

Week One: Learning by Doing

At our first meeting, Brad demonstrates the basics of puppetry performance with an instant “tabletop puppet”: a plastic bag twisted into the shape of a bird. Thanks to his skill, this weightless creature is strangely convincing. Its chest heaves with breath, suggesting emotion; it looks around at us, suggesting thought; the effort of its slow movement across the table suggests muscle. Minutes into the course, I’m hooked.

Next, Brad passes around a variety of puppets. In trying them out, I realize that puppetry may be the epitome of hands-on learning. Playing with a George Bernard Shaw glove puppet built by Puppet Showplace artist emeritus Paul Vincent Davis shows me how its shoulder joints flex as well as where its eyes focus in space, neither of which is evident from the outside. In using a Red Riding Hood puppet made by Puppet Showplace founder Mary Churchill, I learn that her trademark crochet material moves sinuously with the hand, while the character’s weighted boots fall authoritatively on the table. I see that if you spent time with these puppets, they would teach you how to operate them.

Brad Shur (center) Puppet Showplace Artist in Residence with Introduction to Puppetry Arts class.
The remainder of the class is given to puppetry history, some lip-synch practice with the eyeball puppets known as “Peepers,” and, finally, building a box-shaped mouth puppet from construction paper. This activity will pretty much characterize my experience of the class: a hands-on approach to education that offers a lot of fun in a little time, as well as a lesson in how effective simple materials can be.

Week Two: History in Motion

This time class starts in the theater, where we watch a riveting series of video clips of iconic puppetry: old (Vietnamese water puppets) and new (animatronics), simple (naked hands) and complex (Bunraku), analytical (Burr Tillstrom’s Berlin wall piece) and magical (the giant marionettes of Royale de Luxe). I’ve seen photographs of some of these performance styles on the Puppet Showplace Pinterest boards, but to see them in motion is an utterly new experience, enhanced, like everything in this class, by Brad’s insightful commentary.

For the remainder of the evening, it’s back to the art table to create shadow puppets. Once again, simple materials do the trick. Using cut paper and a brass fastener for a hinge, each of us makes a creature with one moving part. Around the table, paper tails wag and tiny jaws flap.

Week Three: Taking the Stage

We return to the theater, where each of us takes our shadow puppet onstage behind a lit screen, then trades with another student so we can see our own puppet in action. A vaulted turtle drifts down from above, toward the light, then inches its head out of its shell; an elephant undulates its jointed trunk as it struts across the scrim.

One thing that strikes me about our shadow puppets is how expressive the outline of each one is, as individual as handwriting. Also, they are all captivating onstage. Brad points out that this is the only form of puppetry that doesn’t depend on a puppeteer’s skill in bringing the object to life, but instead makes use of the magic of light and shadow. Immediately I start pondering whether I can fit Shadow Puppetry 101 into my schedule this fall. (I can’t, alas—but the course will return next year.)

Next, we begin building rod puppets—using a rod, of course, along with balled-up newspaper wrapped by masking tape, a surprisingly malleable combination of materials. I lose track of what my classmates are doing as I form a pear-like rabbit head and hunchbacked rabbit body. When I look up, I see that the population of the class has doubled: every human is now accompanied by a rustic creature in process.

Week Four: Lights, Puppets, Action!

I’m thrilled to see my half-completed rod puppet again after a week apart. The room fills with the sound of newspaper crumpling and masking tape tearing as we finish building the bodies, then give our puppets rod-operated arms that swivel at the shoulder and bend at the elbow. With these points of motion, plus a turnable head, we have a crew of what Brad calls “robust” puppets, capable of a range of movement—and possibility.

This evening, those possibilities play out via fairy tales. We pair off and use our diverse cast of characters to retell classic stories: in my case, a rabbit and a snowman perform an unorthodox version of the Frog Prince. Working on the puppet stage is a ton of fun, though I can’t quite see what my rabbit puppet is doing through the thin black fabric that conceals our faces. No matter; I can hear the audience laugh.

I took this class hoping to learn more about the history and practice of puppetry, which I did; what I didn’t expect was to spend so much time building and using puppets, which was wonderful. As I walk up Station Street at the end of the evening, two people smile at me; I turn onto Harvard Street, and a little girl at a bus stop grins and clasps her hands. That’s when I remember that I’m holding a two-foot-long floppy-eared rabbit on a stick. I am sorry that the class is over, but I can already tell that it is a gift that will keep on giving.

To learn about upcoming adult classes, click here

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: Halloween fun takes over Puppet Showplace!

Halloween Extravaganza! 
October 18 - November 3, 2013

Puppet Showplace presents three exciting shows this Halloween season featuring silly spooks,

furry monsters, and seasonal sing-a-longs! Audience members are encouraged to attend performances in costume. First up in the the series is a festive marionette cabaret by Emmy Award Nominated Wayne Martin Puppets.

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice ( and Halloween Hijinks!)" by Wayne Martin Puppets 
Friday Oct 18 @ 10:30 am
Saturday and Sunday October 19 &20 @ 1:00 and 3:00 pm


About the show: Join the Wayne Martin Puppets for a seasonal sampling of Halloween-inspired fun! Get transported to the world of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice," where a young wizard-in-training tries unsuccessfully to use magic to do his chores. This original adaptation, set to classical music, dances to life with a cast of enchanting hand, rod, and shadow puppets. Then, enjoy a selection of Wayne Martin's award-winning marionettes in a variety revue featuring scarecrows, witches, pumpkins, ghosts, and other Halloween friends!

All main stage shows at Puppet Showplace are recommended for ages 3 & up. Contact the Box Office at 617-731-6400 x 101 for more detailed recommendations!

About the performer: Martin began his interest in puppetry as a hobby at the tender age of three and a half. By age eight, he had formed his own company, The Wayne Martin Puppets and turned full-time professional.

At the top of his profession for nearly forty years now, Wayne’s credits include guest appearances with Symphony Orchestras and work as principal manipulator for industry greats, the Heiken Puppets, Sid and Marty Krofft Productions and Jim Henson’s Muppets, among others.

Martin has been featured in numerous award winning television programs and commercials. These include critically acclaimed educational and training films and his very own television series and specials that have earned him two Emmy Award nominations.

Wayne Martin’s first love remains live performance. He has toured Canada, Europe and Australia and presents his one-man variety revue hundreds of times each year across the United States. His unique style of showmanship has been instrumental in broadening the appeal of the puppet show in this country and it's acceptance as true theatre art enjoyed by adults and children alike. Having designed and built over two thousand puppets to date, Martin's act has appeared with such established artists as Bob Hope, Dolly Parton, The 5th Dimension and The Temptations.

Learn more about Wayne Martin Puppets HERE

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Let's help the Prince save the beautiful sleeping Aurora...

THE LAST SHOW of the 3rd Annual Fall Fairy Tale Festival!

"Sleeping Beauty"
by National Marionette Theatre

Fri, Oct 11 @ 10:30 am
Sat & Sun, Oct 12 & 13 at 1:00 & 3:00 pm
Mon, Oct 14 @ 10:30 am & 1:00 pm (Columbus Day Weekend!)

Spend your Columbus day weekend with a daring prince who defeats the dragon to save the princess! "Sleeping Beauty" by National Marionette Theatre of Brattleboro, VT is a traditional re-telling of this beautiful classic.

About the show: Get transported into a world of magic, castles, princes, and dragons in this stunningly beautiful production by National Marionette Theatre. The princess Aurora has been asleep for almost one hundred years when Prince Steffon, our hero, learns of her story. He resolves to find the sleeping princess and rescue her from the evil fairy Belladonna. Told from the prince's point of view, this elegant performance combines beautifully crafted marionettes, hand-painted scenery, and the timeless music of Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" ballet. A marionette demonstration follows each performance!

About the performer: National Marionette Theatre is one of the oldest continually-running marionette companies in the United States. Founded in 1967 by artistic director David A. Syrotiak, this award-winning company has been entertaining audiences around the world with their extraordinary productions for over forty years. NMT is currently run as a family business by brothers David J. Syrotiak and Peter Syrotiak. The company has been twice honored with the prestigious UNIMA award for excellence in puppetry; founder David A. Syrotiak also received the first Paul Vincent Davis Award for excellence, mentorship, and service to the field.