Friday, January 19, 2007

Puppetry

It's been a bit of a light-reading hodgepodge round here, about which more shortly (the perversity of human nature also means that this first week of the new semester, just when I need to bend my thoughts to course packs and library reserve lists and dissertations and such, is also the first week I've really found my head in the breeding book--I must just maintain double or perhaps triple consciousness and keep on doing everything at once--the third strand is for more light reading of course), but last night I saw a decent puppet performance that made a change of pace at least: Famous Puppet Death Scenes at the Public Theatre.

I had unrealistically high hopes for it, parts were very good but the whole thing was marred by whimsy, a sort of knowing archness that would have spoiled considerably funnier jokes than these ones actually were. (I wish people would realize that genuinely demented and delightful art is not likely to be coy and/or self-conscious. Lots of audience members were laughing preemptively with that sort of smug self-satisfaction that's involved in being in on the joke, this always makes me feel very stony-faced and annoyed....)

The aesthetic was somewhat reminiscent of Shockheaded Peter, which I liked very much but which for me really worked because of the excellence of the Tiger Lillies' music (and also of the source material--those stories are genuinely uncanny--the production itself might otherwise have toppled over the edge into archness); the best parts in this case were the meta-puppetry ones, very good use of a huge box disguised as a book in which you move closer in (sort of powers-of-ten style) to an American Gothic-y house in which some kind of violence is happening, and also a great vignette near the end in which we are disconcerted to realize that we're seeing the puppet from above.

I spent most of the duration, though, sitting & thinking obsessively about the massive expertise and craft and above all time that goes into making something like this, and wondering whether it is at all possible that I could make a Helen Hill-inspired short animated film. (One of my students the other day was just encouraging me--as per conversation about stress fractures and obsessive athletic activity--to take up a lower-impact hobby that involved neither reading nor writing nor injury-producing physical activities--she recommended knitting--she quite rightly did not think triathlon training or blogging fit the bill--making a camera-less animated film by hand might be suitable, though...) I think it is too much of a leap from my existing skill set; when your talent and expertise prods you to make things out of sentences and paragraphs it would be awfully frustrating to go back to square one and have to learn how to draw a stick figure, and yet I see that you might get considerable freshness from tackling a new medium.

More to the point, I started mulling over some puppet-related possibilities for the live theater thing that I've been contemplating for some time, which is to say a beautiful & mysterious adaptation of The Bacchae that would really be about the same things my new novel's about, namely the struggle between reason and the emotions.

At any rate it was a stimulating hour of thinking with occasional delightful moments of puppet-watching and afterwards we had a rather sublime meal at Indochine, all the food is delicious but they have an absolutely sublime fresh raspberry tart, I remembered it from the last time I ate there a few years ago and it was just as good this time round.

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