Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Yankee Peddler Peddles to Puppetshowplace!

Folklore Galore! Brad and Chris Bring History Back!

New England's Oldest Tales Performed with a New Twist!

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.

"The Yankee Peddler: Songs and Stories from Old New England"
by Brad Shur, and Chris Monti
Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat
July 31-Aug 3rd
10:30 am & 1:00 pm


Meet Brad Shur! Puppet Showplace Artist in Residence

In the Fall of 2009 Puppet Showplace Theatre (PST) announced the arrival of Brad Shur as the theatre’s new Artist in Residence. Brad performs almost every month at PST and teaches classes and workshops to students aged 3 to adult.

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. 

All of the puppets Brad uses in his performances come from his workshop, where he builds them by hand from wood, paper, plastic, foam and fabric.

"The Yankee Peddler: Songs and Stories from Old New England" is Brad's newest show. See you at theatre!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Go Behind the Scenes of National Marionette Theatre

One Father, Two Sons, 114 years of Marionette Performance!
by Guest Blogger: Honey Goodenough, puppeteer
Honey and the Cricket from NMT's "Pinocchio."
Performing with the National Marionette Theatre (NMT) is like performing with a piece of history. The National Marionette Theatre has been part of the Syrotiak family since 1967 when it was founded after the World's Fair in NYC. Father, David Syrotiak Sr. saw his first puppet show in second grade and was hooked. He began building marionettes at age 11, with the guidance of Rufus and Margo Rose. By lying about his age, he started performing professionally at 15 with The Berkely Marionettes.  In the summer of 1953, he toured with the Suzari Marionettes, and later Nicolo Marionettes performing with fellow contemporaries such as Wayland Flowers, Nick Coppola, and Pady Blackwood.
Signed book by Rufus and Margo Rose, pioneer marionettists,
given to David Syrotiak Sr. at the age of 12 (1948)

He enlisted in the Army to qualify for the GI Bill, where he wrangled his way into The Special Services, where he commandeered his own puppet workshop and performed cabaret style marionette performances for fellow US troops. Some of his duties included hosting and greeting performers such as Velma Middleton and Louis Armstrong. After completing his term in the Army, he attended The Silvermine School of Art in Connecticut. His performance credits include Sid and Marty Kroft and Bil Baird, performing shows at the New York World's Fair alongside fellow performers such as Carolee Wilcox, who later became the shop manager for Henson Associates.

A scene from NMT's "Pinocchio."
All four of the Syrotiak children, including Maggie, Catie, David Jr. and Peter have performed and voiced characters for The National Marionette Theatre.  David's wife, Marianna, has performed with the company for many years, and even now the legacy is being shared with Steven Syrotiak, David and Marianna's 15 year old son, who joins the company as a sound tech and crew for their production of "Peter and the Wolf." This week at Puppet Showplace Theatre we are performing "Pinocchio," which is the only show where all four of the Syrotiak siblings voice characters.
Joining a Legacy

I joined the company in January, and began rehearsing under the direction of David J. and Peter Syrotiak.  I first began by running sound for "Peter and the Wolf," and shortly after was invited to perform "Sleeping Beauty" and have now joined them for this week's performances of "Pinocchio."  One of the highlights of the training process has been performing with the Syrotiak brothers, and then receiving notes from their father, David. When you add all their years of marionette performance together it totals 114 years.  In my brief time touring with the company, we have been hosted in some of the most lovely theaters and museums throughout the Northeast. I am proud to say that this native Texan has now toured all of the New England states - sometimes all in the same day!  I enjoy the long drives and the view of the New England countryside as well as sampling the local fare - my favorite being fresh New England lobster! The Syrotiaks are not only are meticulous marionettists, but are equally as passionate about cuisine and are amazing chefs!

Honey rehearsing "Sleeping Beauty" with David Sr.
Housed in the Green Mountains of Battleboro (VT), The National Marionette Theatre has a beautiful workshop/performance space where they rehearse and build all their shows. It is 1600 square feet filled with marionette shows and memories. They house 350 marionettes from more than 20 different shows that range throughout their repertoire. Touring is a conglomeration of performers. Since we all live in different states spanning from Pennsylvania to New York and Vermont, we convene at the studio to collect the show, pack the car, and then drive to the venue for sometimes more than 11 hours.  

The Syrotiak Technique

The Syrotiaks perform with American style airplane controls but with several unique modifications. They use a yoke string on their marionette's arms which connect their puppet's hands and forearms, this creates a subtle automatic wrist action. They also use elbow strings on almost all of their marionettes, which gives their puppets a broad range of action and variety of expression. The most surprising modification for a new puppeteer to their company is that they perform with gloved hands and without a proscenium. The performance and the performers are in full view of the audience at all times. On a number of occasions, our audience  has remarked on our intricate manipulation and performer cooperation throughout the show. Many of the scenes require quick passes from one puppeteer to the next. The backstage action is as delicately choreographed as the performance on stage. Our audiences see a show within a show! 

Honey, David Jr. and Peter Syrotiak after a performance of "Peter and the Wolf"

Journey from Apprentice to Master

After 12 years of training with marionettes in New Jersey and throughout the NYC area, I still consider myself a student of the craft.  I have been fortunate to have  studied with marionette artists such as Phillip Huber, Jim Rose, Nicholas Coppola, Steve Widerman, Kevin Frisch and Jim Raccioppi. The more I learn from the Syrotiak family and fellow performers, the more I learn about the rich history of marionette performance throughout the United States. Now when I compare marionette styles and controls, I not only see the puppet, but also the influences of all the marionette performers that came before me. The art of puppetry is a living curriculum that is best shared through apprenticeship and practical experience. This community truly is a family of performers united by their passion for puppetry.

David Sr, Honey, and Paul Vincent Davis (Puppet Showplace Aritst-in-Residence Emeritus)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Behind-the-Scenes of Furry Monsters 101

Adventures in Puppetry: Part One
by Guest Blogger Holly Hartman

Holly Hartman
I’m a few minutes early for class, and instructor Jonathan Little, the puppeteer and fabricator behind Little’s Creatures, is chatting with students about puppetry. He tells us where he buys the fur he uses in building his own monster puppets, why medical-grade foam is a good choice for puppet hands, how he fixes a puppet’s eyes and arms in place. I learn why all the Muppets are a bit cross-eyed and what makes Kermit’s head especially difficult to construct.

This serendipitous conversation (among others) is one of the pleasures of a class I’m taking at Puppet Showplace Theatre: “Furry Monsters 101,” an introduction to Muppet-style hand-and-rod puppets. One of the things that impresses me about Puppet Showplace is how it supports puppetry not just as a theater venue but also with workshops and courses like this, offering the public a chance to work with seasoned teaching artists.

I’m a longtime fan of Puppet Showplace and a current volunteer, but this is my first class. Seeing puppet shows here has gotten me curious about what it would be like to try my own hand (literally) at puppetry. It’s an art with many forms, but all, in my view, seem to involve some alchemy by which a puppeteer brings an object to life. How does this happen?

Class One: Inhale, Exhale

In our first class, Jonathan tells us that one of the surest ways to hook an audience is by letting them see your puppet breathe. He demonstrates with a lifted hand: an inhale, wrist shifting upward; an exhale, fingers subtly releasing the puppet’s breath. I am transfixed—it’s a creature! But no—it’s a hand.

Jon Little hand makes all of the puppets for Furry Monsters 101

 This suspension of disbelief is part of what fascinates me about puppetry. Jonathan’s brother Chris, also a puppeteer, is helping out with this class, and during our introductions he describes watching Puppet Showplace artist emeritus Paul Vincent Davis animate a milk carton—it became “the happiest milk carton in the world,” then the saddest. Puppetry, Chris says, involves the ability to imbue objects with energy.

We make our hands into puppet mouth shapes and practice making them breathe, sigh, sneeze, sniff, snore. Like infants, our hands then progress from sounds to words. The technique involves one precise flap of the thumb per syllable—downward, the way the human jaw moves in speech. We sing the alphabet, slowly. My thumb sags in confusion when we reach the impossibly multisyllabic letter W.

Finally, we try lip-synching to music. Time flies when your puppet hands are having fun. Suddenly it’s 9:00 p.m., class is over, and around the room students’ hands are rocking out to “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Practice Makes Puppetry

For homework, I practice lip-synching with my hand. It’s hard. It’s fun. The occasional moment of fluidity is a thrill. My puppet hand has an affinity for the songs of Leonard Cohen—slow, simple lyrics punctuated by danceable instrumentals and the odd long word. Hal-le-lu-jah.

Class Two: Hands in Puppets

In the second class, when we start using hand-and-rod puppets, lip-synching feels different, strange. Each puppet is a new experience. I feel awkward maneuvering the tiny mouth of the first one I try, and enjoy posing the jointed neck of the second. Each student performs a scripted monologue, and when my turn comes I keep flapping my hand upward, causing what Jonathan calls, during the critique, “a bit of flip-top head.” Whoops.

Like everything else we’ve done in this very immersive class, the critique is fun and illuminating. I like seeing what qualities each person brings to their puppet performance. Some puppet characters are kinetic, others droll. Talking about what we saw that worked—and what didn’t—is invaluable.

Lights, Camera…

Next, we take our first steps—or, rather, make our puppets take their first steps—in front of the camera and video monitor. It’s harder than I would’ve guessed, both because it’s tricky to keep your puppet moseying along on its fictional floor level without slumping, and because on a video monitor, left and right are reversed. When you stroll your puppet onscreen from stage right, its furry face appears on the monitor at stage left. Surprise!

Also surprising: I love working with the monitor. It’s magic to see the puppet isolated in the world of the television screen, moving within its own reality, the puppeteer nowhere seen. I think I could watch that furry monster explore its onscreen world for hours, or at least until my arm went numb from holding it overhead. I feel like the kid who does not want to stop playing with a new toy.

As I leave the theatre, I am a little stunned at how much I’ve gotten to try in the last two hours. For someone who grew up with Sesame Street, it’s a heady feeling. And we have two more classes to go… I’ll be back in a couple weeks with a final report!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Carol Collodi Classic at Puppet Showplace

National Marionette Theatre is Back...

We Aren't Lying! (Check our Noses)

"Pinocchio" by National Marionette Theatre
Wed-Sat, July 24-27 at 10:30am & 1pm


The Syrotiak family has finally arrived in Brookline from their workshop in Brattleboro, VT bringing with them their absolutely stunning production of "Pinocchio".  This adaptation of a classic tale takes the stage for four days at Puppet Showplace and we couldn't be more excited!

Come follow Pinocchio on his series of adventures as he discovers that only by being truthful, selfless and kind to others will he realize his dream of becoming a real boy.

The Family Business...

From left to right: Peter Syrotiak, David J. Syrotiak, David A. Syrotiak

Founded in 1967 by David A Syrotiak, the National Marionette Theatre (NMT) has become known for its excellence in manipulation technique in puppet theatre for over 40 years. The family, David A Syrotiak, and his two sons, David J Syrotiak and Peter Syrotiak, have performed all over the country and even across the globe bringing their shows to libraries, schools, and festivals.

All three work together in order to make their productions a success in wowing their audiences. Artistic director, David A, has been given the well deserved title "Master Puppeteer" as he has won the UNIMA award for excellence in the field of puppetry for two productions.  David A is also the first recipient of the Paul Vincent Davis award in 2012 for leadership and excellence in the field of puppetry arts.  This award is named after Puppet Showplace Artist-in-Residence Emeritus, Paul Vincent Davis.

David J. has mastered his wood carving and sculpting skills, bringing them to other companies such as Vagabond Marionettes and Bennington Puppets. Peter, who joined the company in 1989 is known not only for his performing talents but also for his brilliant puppet making skills. More about NMT on their website:

This Week's Performers...

Honey Goodenough, puppeteer
For this week's run of performances at Puppet Showplace, the Syrotiak family will be joined by marionettist, Honey Goodenough.

About the artist: Honey Goodenough is a New York City based puppeteer, producer, educator, clown, and magician.

This performance is sure to come with familiar characters, a captivating story and a great experience. See you at the theatre!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sharing Stories: Under the Night Sky At Puppet Showplace!

No More Wishing Upon A Star, Under A Night Sky Has Arrived

Take A Journey Through Time

Pictures can be worth more than a thousand words. 

Through the images on her quilt, Grandmother makes 
the story of the Underground Railroad come alive in 
Puppetkabob's production of "Under the Night Sky." July 17-20 at 10:30am & 1pm. BUY TICKETS 

Three children must discover the meanings of courage, 
love and hope as they overcome obstacles and
strengthen their belief in themselves. Watch as a young girl from Irleand bewilders her classmates as she proudly wears her coat of rags, stitched to patchwork perfection. 

A Show with Cinematic Puppetry Style

Puppeteers Sarah Frechette and Carol D'Agostino combine table top and shadow puppets to create a show that captivates the audience through light and perception. Depth and space are manipulated through light techniques in this unique and  mesmerizing show.

Meet the Artist: Sarah Frechette

After graduating from UConn, receiving her BFA through the Puppet Arts Program, Sarah continued her puppetry education by learning from Master Puppeteer Albrecht Roserin Germany. Sarah's voice can be heard on the PBS kid's show "Seemoure's Playhouse" through her character, "Penny Pup". When she is not being recorded, Sarah can be found touring her award winning show "The Snowflake Man".

 As the stories told by Puppetkabob are unraveled here at the Puppetshowplace, we hope you are here to listen alongside and learn a thing or two about the magic of a memory quilt.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Crabgrass Sets Sail For a Boston Adventure

Puppet Showplace Presents Crabgrass Puppet Theatre's Newest Show! 

Jamie Keithline and Bonny Hall
of Crabgrasss Puppet Theatre
"The Pirate, the Princess and the Pea"
by Crabgrass Puppet Theatre
(Wed-Sat) | July 10-13 | 10:30am & 1pm


We've spotted a couple 'o new faces ashore that are gunna be stoppin' by to put on a brand new performance this week at Puppet Showplace 'n we be happier than a buccaneer findin' booty! 

About the Artists...

Puppet Showplace is proud to welcome Crabgrass Puppet Theatre of Vermont during our Summer Puppet Adventures series this July and August. In 1982, Jamie Keithline and Bonny Hall founded this award winning puppet theatre and have been performing their shows all over the United States ever since.   

Bonnie and Jamie met while studying at the University of Connecticut and after graduating toured the East Coast with the Pandemonium Puppet Company. The production of their first show, What a Clever Idea! set the pair off for what would be the first of many performances at regional, national and international puppetry festivals.

About the NEW show- "The Pirate, the Princess and the Pea"

A pirate and a princess are on a treasure hunt, searching for the same clues. The princess stays one step ahead of the pirate with every clue. But how can she get him out of the way long enough to dive for the treasure?

The pirate must prove himself not only by finding the treasure before the princess but also by convincing her that he is a real pirate! 

We are convinced that "The Pirate, the Princess, and the Pea" will quickly become a new fan favorite of Puppet Showplace audiences.  Join us for this new adventure! 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Kickoff Weekend is HERE!

Sir George Slays the Heat During Summer Puppet Adventures 

Games, treats and more!

This weekend, July 6-7, Puppet Showplace will be presenting the first of a succession of family puppet shows as part of our Summer Puppet Adventures this July and August. Join us for what one parent blogger called "pure, air conditioned fun!"

First up is "Sir George and the Dragon" by Pumpernickel Puppets. After watching the show, enjoy free frozen treats donated by Whole Foods Market Brighton.

PLUS other FREE games, prizes and more!
Executive Director, Thom Yarnal

Our new Executive Director, Thom Yarnal, is an arts administrator, stage director and teacher with diverse performing credits who has spent the past 30 years creating and producing live cultural events in venues such as theaters, state correctional facilities, and international arts festivals.  

Thom will be at the theatre both Friday and Saturday, July 5 and 6! Enjoy a puppet show, snack on some free treats and get to know our new Executive Director. 


"Sir George and the Dragon"
 by Pumpernickel Puppets  
 Fri & Sat, July 6 & 7
10:30 AM & 1:00 PM

About the show: Join an adventurous princess as she journeys to Mystery Mountain to visit the Great Green Dragon. Along the way you’ll meet Zelda the babysitter, a silly bat, Sir George and his clumsy dog, and of course the lovable dragon. Will Sir George slay the dragon? Not to worry, everything ends happily in this fun show. Hand puppets. Recommended for ages 3 & up.

John McDonough with some of his vivacious hand puppets
For over thirty five years the Pumpernickel Puppets have captivated audiences of all ages. John McDonough and his puppets present over two hundred fifty shows a year at schools, libraries and private parties throughout the New England area. The Pumpernickel Puppets have had the honor of appearing at The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, The Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta, GA and the prestigious International Festival of Puppetry sponsored by the Jim Henson Foundation in New York.

The staff at Puppet Showplace is excited to begin the summer series under the direction of our new Executive Director, Thom and kickoff the season with a delightful performance by Pumpernickel Puppets. Join us for this exciting celebration of summer and puppetry!