File spoon-archives/puptcrit.archive/puptcrit_2003/puptcrit.0306, message 20

Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2003 19:46:24 -0400
Subject: Re: PUPT: Of interest, in case you missed it...

Brantley's puppet theater criticism of Vogel's new play at Trinity Rep in 
Providence, RI is insightful if flawed; but on the whole, thumbs up!
a) Brantley's misconceptions: "Each [puppet] has only one facial expression."
This of course is not true because the combination of movement and 
sculpture creates the entirely effective illusion that the puppet's 
expression changes (i.e., the reason behind non-symmetrical sculptural 
design in puppet theater).  Sergei Eisenstein brilliantly explains this in 
terms of film ("A Dialectic Approach to Film Form," in Film Form).
"Unchanging and bereft of free will..."  Well, of course, they do change, 
as Eisenstein said of filmed sculpture, but we know that puppets also have 
their own priorities, their own "free will," in  the sense that we 
puppeteers have to figure out what the puppets want to do; they don't 
automatically do what we want them to.  All puppeteers know that successful 
puppetry involves a deft understanding of what the puppets want to do, even 
moreso than a sense of what we want the puppets to do.

b) But on the other hand, Brantley gets it!:
"And in daring to interject the traditions of classic Japanese theater, 
including bunraku puppetry..."  Hurray!  Brantley understands the most 
important innovation of twentieth-century puppetry in the West: the 
influence of Asian theater forms!
"[Vogel] has said that 'The Long Christmas Ride Home' is partly a 
latter-day answer to the works of Thornton Wilder, including "Our Town" and 
the short pieces 'The Long Christmas Dinner' and 'The Happy Journey to 
Trenton and Camden.' Like Wilder, Ms. Vogel has written a cosmic domestic 
drama showing typical American folk caught in the eternal patterns of life 
and death."
Fascinating!  Hurray for puppet-friendly Thornton Wilder! And of course 
Wilder's "Skin of Our Teeth" used puppets by Remo Bufano (who performed 
them) on Broadway; and Wilder wrote the introduction to Donald Vestal's 
1936 puppet production of Gertrude Stein's "Identity: Or, I Am I Because My 
Little Dog Knows Me," because he and Stein we so open to different types of 
artistic expression!

"(Wilder himself was influenced by Japanese Noh theater.)": Go Ben!!

john bell
great small works


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