Wednesday, June 09, 2010

GSW9: Festival Report III (Part 2 of 2)

Dolly Waggler's Lindsay McCaw...Tess shared more about the Cabaret lineup from Sunday night (June 6)...
SUNDAY Night (Continued)

So here is the cabaret lineup: The Dolly Wagglers, Quality Slippers Productions from Canada, Howie Leiffer's "Captain Jack and the Mermaid," Jamie Davis with "Sneak and Destroy," Alissa Hunnicutt's "Marry Me," Meredith Miller's "The Abduction" which I have already covered, and Great Small Work's "Toy Theatre of Terror as Usual."

The Dolly Wagglers are a couple I only know as Adam [Cook] and Lindsay [McCaw] who are terrific musicians as well as witty puppeteers. They were the ones who did "Bare Minimum Theatre" in the photos, and this stage was the same style. Their show was "The Woodcutters Opera," of the same style and equally funny. Adam sang out from behind the stage as the puppeteer while Lindsay accompanied him on the accordion. I always wondered where all the accordions went: they all joined toy theatre companies! I counted three in shows this week (I like the sound). It was a story about a woodcutter who got an idea (the idea imp had a gift in one hand and a knife in the other), who made the tired woodcutter think up a machine that would make toast, so that people wouldn't need fires to cook anymore. It was so popular that the King gave his daughter's hand in marriage to the woodcutter, and the people had time to take up hobbies and go look at Art. But no one knew where the toast came from. In some unexplained way, it came from the future, so that people and animals were starving. They send someone back to make the woodcutter see that you can't rob the future to have things easy today. The singing and the dialogue was both funny and charming and this duo were probably my favorites in the festival.

The Quality Slippers Productions was a trio of young women from Canada who performed "Being the Enthralling Story of Hercule Barbin, who was born a woman but died as a man." The three ladies performed "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," a number of times during the show with the middle one unable to remember her dance steps. In show biz we would have told her to go for a laugh but she just remained embarrassed. The story is about a girl who grows up in a quiet religious home in France, and discovers she is different. I could not hear the unmiked dialogue well, but the girl became attached to other females and at some point goes to a doctor and I am assuming finds out she is hermaphrodite or something like that. She takes on the role of a man but cannot live with the change (neighborly gossip and ostracism?) and in the end kills her/himself in the 1860's after writing down the life story. It was a cute production and in time I think they will learn how to go for the laugh. You cannot be dignified in toy theatre. Every single dignified performer in the mini shows could not keep an audience. A lot of these productions had adult subjects, and in a way it is satisfying to see these difficult subjects in unthreatening miniature theatricals. Maybe this is the new off-Broadway? There's no money in that, either!

Next was toy theater like it was invented: the theatrics are accompanied by a wonderful folk song played through the speakers about Captain Jack and the Mermaid by Meg Davis. Howie Leiffer, who could play the role of an old sea dog, manipulates his puppets to act out the story that is being sung in the song. It is a lovely way to prod your own imagination into giving life to these wee images on rods, seduced by the beautiful song. This is toy theatre at it's most basic and wonderful.

Jamie Davis's "Sneak and Destroy" is definitely a more modern theatrical: there is no speaking, but a gentle guitar accompaniment. The stage is an attractive, semi-abstract forest through which prance many deer. Then comes one hunter, two, and more. Then comes the woodcutters, and a wolf following them about on two legs (I could not see well from the side--I was trying to learn more about how the stages were used, but it lost me a perfect view of the story). A city springs up and at the end a wolf shows up in a business suit, drops a suitcase and leaves--and in the last scene there is just a picture of a bomb explosion. It was certainly a perfect visual lesson in nature fighting back. I think he didn't need to blow up the city to make his point, but it was a very lovely, low-key performance. The artistry of his set was extraordinary. I loved the ancient tradition that he fits right into: theater that does not require language to communicate.

Alissa Hunnicut's short, funny show was accompanied by a bluegrass band, and I could not hear their name. I found myself wishing there was a program with all the names in it. The band is in the back of the stage, and a wee toy theater in the center. She is at the side saying good night to her date, who gives her a shy peck and leaves quickly without the bag he was carrying. She sighs, and the music starts. In a moment she has whipped her coat off to show a white dress, flips on a bridal veil and in hilarious fashion sings "He's Gonna Marry Me" while acting it all out with her little rod puppets. It is frenetic and charming as she fantasizes blowing off his suspicious mother and having his kids. It ends abruptly when her date comes in without knocking to grab his bag. It was very entertaining.

I already saw Meredith Miller's show before, and of course you already have my bit on Great Small Works--which really was the topper for the night. Today, I plan to houseclean and catch up on business, and go frolicking out among the birds in Central Park. Our Riverside hawks lost all their babies when their nest was literally blown out of the tree in a windstorm, so I have been walking mostly in Central Park. Many of my favorite birds are nesting now and there will be little robins soon falling out of the bushes everywhere as they learn how to fly. I need the break! It is just perfect after a week of boiling in the hot sun! Lots to think about.
Amen, Tess - LOTS to think about. Great stuff - thanks for sharing with us! We look forward to your next report...