Save the Date for LaMama Puppet Series IV

“La MaMa Puppet Series IV — Built to Perform,” the latest in La MaMa’s celebrated annual puppet program, will premiere five adult puppet theater productions and remount a popular children’s attraction this fall, exploring the artistic and creative possibilities of puppetry in all its forms. The series will run from October 14 to November 28, 2010.

The series will open with the latest work by Italy’s Dario D’Ambrosi (Pathological Theater), “Bong Bong Bong against the Walls, Ting Ting Ting in our Heads,” from October 14 thru October 31. There will be two works from Poland presented in association with The Polish Cultural Institute, “Chopin-An Impression” by Bialystok Puppet Theatre October 21 to November 7 and “Broken Nails. A Marlene Dietrich Dialogue” by Wiczy Theatre from November 11 to 21.  From Brooklyn comes “Wake Up, You’re Dead,” directed and designed by Aaron Haskell, October 29 to November 7. The family and children’s puppet theater attraction will be “Folktales of Asia and Africa” by Jane Catherine Shaw October 23 to November 7. The festival will conclude with “In Retrospect” by LOCO7 Dance Puppet Theatre Company, directed, choreographed and designed by Colombia-born Federico Restrepo with music composed by Elizabeth Swados, November 11 to 28. There will be Gallery Exhibit at La MaMa’s La Galleria, 6 East First Street, with puppets displayed from artists of the series, from October 21 to November 7.

La MaMa will have its fall gala October 25, celebrating its 49th season by honoring Cheryl Henson of the Jim Henson Foundation.

The La MaMa Puppet Series is now an annual event, curated by Denise Greber. It carries on La MaMa’s tradition, since its inception, of supporting puppet theater artists from all over the world.

The series is supported by the Jim Henson Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, NYSCA and New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

To encourage audiences to see multiple productions during the festival, La MaMa will offer a Festival Pass subscription and incentive pricing for the Series (to be announced). Tickets can be purchased online at The phone number for audience information is (212) 475-7710. La MaMa is located at 74A East Fourth Street, between Second Avenue and Bowery, in the East Village.

Schedules and descriptions of eight events follow:

“Bong Bong Bong against the Walls, Ting Ting Ting in our Heads” by Pathological Theatre, Italy
October 14 thru October 31, First Floor Theatre
Written and directed by Dario D’Ambrosi
Set and Object/Puppet design by Aurora Buzzetti
Thursdays through Saturday at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 2:30; $18
Running time: 60 minutes.

“Bong Bong Bong against the Walls, Ting Ting Ting in our Heads” is the kind of play that could only be written from the experience of Dario D’Ambrosi, who for over 30 years has worked with mentally disabled people in Italy. It is the American debut for Set/Puppet Designer Aurora Buzzetti (Rome).  Translation is by Celeste Moratti.  It is a theatrical fantasy about mentally ill children in institutions, whose thoughts are cloudy but whose souls are clear, who are bespattered with pain but whose dignity shines.  In fairy tale style, it dramatizes how their imaginations are limitless and how they flourish when they are loved.  The story is told with live music, singing, dance and puppets.  Although it deals directly with lives of most troubled people, the play is fantastical and nonthreatening.  It is recommended for audiences of all ages.

In the ’80s and ’90s, Dario D’Ambrosi marched irresistibly into the forefront of Italy’s theatrical ambassadors, a cohort led by Pirandello, DiFilippo and Dario Fo.  In 1994, he received the equivalent of a Tony Award in his country: a prize for lifetime achievement in the theater from the Instituto del Drama Italiano.  D’Ambrosi first performed at La MaMa in 1980 and has been in residence there nearly every year thereafter. Rosette Lamont wrote in Theater Week, “The yearly appearance of the Italian writer/performer Dario D’Ambrosi at La MaMa is cause for celebration.”

Last October, D’Ambrosi opened a new theater in a converted warehouse in a norther section of Rome.  Named The Pathological Theater, it is home to his resident company of professional actors and a drama school for psychiatric patients.  Set/Puppet Designer Aurora Buzzetti, a fast-emerging artist of Rome’s theatre crafts community, is a resident artist there.  This world premiere, however, will be performed by American actors, as has been D’Ambrosi’s practice in each of his New York productions since 2004.
“Chopin-An Impression” by Bialystok Puppet Theatre
Presented in association with The Polish Cultural Institute in New York
October 21 thru November 7, Ellen Stewart Theatre at The Annex
Conceived by Wojciech Szelachowski
Written by Leslaw Piecka, Wojciech Szelachowski
Directed by Leslaw Piecka
Set and puppets designed by Joanna Braun
Choreographed by Jolanta Kruszewska
Music by Fryderyk Chopin
Thursdays through Saturday at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 2:30; $25
Running time: 60 minutes.

“…it is absolutely inconceivable how two genius abilities became united in Chopin’s person: that of the greatest melodist and of the most original master of harmony.” –Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Presented with the Polish Cultural Institute in New York “Chopin-An Impression” is an essay for the stage that unites music, visual art, and marionette performance. This extremely challenging technique in puppetry requires unusual mechanical design and extraordinary skill in animating the marionettes. Compositions by Fryderyk Chopin will be rendered both by a pianist and by a marionette representing the composer – a marionette controlled with strings, measuring about a foot and displaying agility and virtuosic perfection in the hands of its master.

The production premiered March 7, 2010, in Bialystok, Poland. The Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage commissioned the work as part of the worldwide celebration of The Year of Chopin 2010, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Poland’s greatest composer. The official opening of this year-long celebration took place on January 1 in Zelazowa Wola, Poland, where the artist was born and where his father worked as a tutor for a local aristocratic family.

The Bialystok Puppet Theatre, one of the best puppet theaters in Europe introduces the audience to Chopin’s world through a series of Muses who serve as guides through the worlds of dreams and sounds produced by his music. They also present his artistic friendships, musical impressions, and life experiences. The show refers to Chopin’s fascination with Paganini, his friendships and relationships with George Sand, with his fiancée Maria Wodzinska, his longings for the lost “country of his childhood,” his creative dilemmas, Impressions, artistic visions, moods that range from the poetic to the paranoid, the feeling of success, and the sense of despair. Apart from Chopin’s music performed live by one of Poland’s most talented pianists, Krzysztof Traskowski, the show features actors, marionettes, art objects and visual presentations.
“Wake Up, You’re Dead!” by Brooklyn Art Department
October 29 thru November 7, The Club
Directed and Designed by Aaron Haskell
Fridays and Saturdays at 10:00 PM, Sundays at 5:30 PM; $15
Running time: 45 minutes.

What puppeteer doesn’t wonder what will happen to him as he impersonates the creator?  In “Wake Up, You’re Dead!,” Aaron Haskell of Brooklyn Art Department, one of the original designers of Nightmare: NYC’s Haunted House, gives us a Halloween-flavored creation myth.  It’s performed as a dark ceremony by a weird tribe.  The Ancestors–Haskell’s own version of the Greek Titans–are life-sized skeleton creatures that create great balls of light (the life force).  Mankind is born by sliding down a Jungian sluice to the earth.  There are black light effects, dancing skeletons (that show the cyclical nature of life), primal movement (costumed creatures locomoting on all-fours, animal-like), bass-heavy loud music, Butoh and technical modern dance.  Puppets bring puppeteers to life and vice-versa.  Following this spectacle of evolution, an ultimate being is created at the end of the show.

It’s all staged as a De La Guarda-type event and spectacle:  a boisterous party that will have you on your feet!

Haskell has invented myths since childhood.  “It’s a cool way to make up your own stories, especially since you can also make up your own creatures.”  In “Wake Up, You’re Dead!,” they’re all constructed from eco-friendly, greenlist ingredients, including skeletons of sawdust and cardboard that look like bones dressed in cornflakes.
“Broken Nails. A Marlene Dietrich Dialogue” by Wiczy Theatre
Presented in association with The Polish Cultural Institute in New York
November 11 thru 21, The Club
Conceived and performed by Anna Skubik
Written and directed by Romuald Wicza-Pokojski
Set designed by Romuald Wicza-Pokojski
Music arranged by Igor Nowicki
Puppet designed by Anna Skubik and Barbara Poczwardowska
Thursdays through Saturdays at 10:00 PM, Sundays at 5:30 PM; $15
Running time: 45 minutes.

Beautiful, determined, intelligent, controversial–Marlene Dietrich was a transcendent symbol of femininity, a lady of strong character and clear mind, a woman with claws. A fascinating figure to both men and women, Dietrich’s personality has also seduced Anna Skubik, a young Polish actress and puppeteer who brings this German star to life by animating her as a life-size doll. Presented with the Polish Cultural Institute in New York, “Broken Nails. A Marlene Dietrich Dialogue” portrays Dietrich and her maid Gloria (both played by Skubik) in a co-dependent relationship during the star’s last days in her Paris apartment.

Ms. Skubik slips back and forth between her roles as meek servant and haughty star with such virtuosity that it is easy to forget there is only one woman on stage. The play is a compelling study of womanhood – from all that is eternal and archetypal about women to their more ephemeral, fragile, and unsustainable personal qualities. The actress, under the direction of the play’s author, Romuald Wicza-Pokojski, is less interested in resurrecting Marlene Dietrich than in showing the legendary star as she deals with her fading beauty and imminent death.

Anna Skubik is a one-woman tour de force in this show, always in intimate contact with the puppet. Skubik gives Dietrich a deep, slightly hoarse voice, while Gloria’s voice is shy and girlish. The dynamic of the dialogue, the rapid shifting of views and opinions, the transition from high emotion to peace and tranquility, as well as Dietrich’s diverse costumes and singing gives the audience no choice but to fully immerse itself in Skubik’s theatrical fiction.
“Folktales of Asia and Africa,” created by Jane Catherine Shaw (Children’s Puppet Theater)
October 23 & 24, October 30 & 31 and November 6 & 7, Ellen Stewart Theatre at The Annex
Saturdays and Sundays at Noon; Tickets $10 Adults/$5 Children
Running time: 45 minutes

While she is making bread, the hostess discovers that she has guests. As they all wait for the dough to rise she tells them three stories using kitchen utensils to play the characters, in the style of found object puppetry.

Audiences love to see egg beaters hop into cloth napkins to become Japanese sisters dressed in kimonos, or watch as a flour sifter becomes an old man, with a cookie cutter for a pet rabbit. Among the many notable characters are wooden salt and pepper shakers as sisters in “The Dragon with Five Heads” from Zimbabwe, 4 steak knives that become the wise man in the Japanese tale “The Lantern and The Fan,” and an unusual doughnut maker becomes the moon goddess disguised as an old women in “The Old Man and the Moon” from Burma.

This one woman show was created, designed, and performed by Jane Catherine Shaw nearly twenty years ago and has been an audience favorite wherever she has performed it. Children and adults delight in the imaginative use of everyday objects to portray the characters in the three stories. “Folktales of Asia and Africa” brings puppetry to its essence, in which common objects of daily use assume fantastic character through the artistry of puppetry and the puppeteer.
“In Retrospect” by LOCO7 Dance Puppet Theatre Company
November 12 thru November 28, First Floor Theatre
Conceived by Denise Greber and Federico Restrepo
Directed, choreographed and designed by Federico Restrepo
Music composed by Elizabeth Swados
Thursdays through Saturday at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 2:30 (no show Thanksgiving Day); $18
Running time: 60 minutes.

With its newest production, “In Retrospect,” LOCO7 Dance Puppet Theatre Company investigates how we each construct our personal memory box:  how we keep our memories fresh and preserve the things that made us who we are.  These include our mothers’ embraces, lost loves, childhood dreams, ideals of youth and struggles of age, loss and birth.

The production features giant puppets, marionette scenery, masks, choreography, acrobatics, live original music and video.  A large marionette tree dangles fruits high above our reach which, when dropped, grow into our memories.  Some of them summon feelings of being loved and secure, others evoke the opposite.  For example, one scene depicts a huge Mother marionette and her little children, revealing the pleasure of hiding within the safety of her giant legs.  Another scene has a puppet telephone and a character waiting for a call with a mixture of dread and excitement.  We are reminded of our emotional dependence on the appliance as a “life line” which can be either a comfort or a monster.

Reflecting the compartmentalization of our feelings, the stage will have a room-within-a-room where a person lives her life locked behind a wall. With this self inflicted alienation, she watches the world living yet remains cut off, unable to interact with society, hiding behind to safety zone of technology.

The production will be designed, choreographed, and directed by Federico Restrepo, a Colombian-born master of puppet theater and physical theater. The piece is being written and developed by Federico Restrepo and Denise Greber. Music will be composed by Elizabeth Swados; this is her fourth collaboration with Restrepo.
Gallery Exhibit at La Galleria, 6 East First Street.

Exhibition of puppets by Federico Restrepo, Theodora Skipitares, Jane Catherine Shaw, Dan Hurlin, Lake Simmons and more, October 21 – November 7, 2010.
La MaMa Fall Gala honoring Cheryl Henson
Ellen Stewart Theater, Monday, October 25, 8:00 PM

The evening will honor Cheryl Henson of the Jim Henson Foundation for her contributions to the art of puppetry.  The evening will have performances by Basil Twist, Dan Hurlin, Erik Sanko & Jessica Grindstaff, Federico Restrepo, Lake Simmons & John Dyer, Roman Paska, Tom Lee, Mark Russell, Theordora Skipitares and surprise guests.  (Note:  time has been changed from 7:30 to 8:00 PM.)

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