Monday, August 22, 2011

At Open Eye Figure Theatre - Puppet-Making and Joice Rejoice!

Open Eye Figure Theatre is a nationally recognized puppetry and theatre company in Minneapolis. They do pieces in a historic theatre space as well as in neighborhoods in the Twin Cities during a tour of area communities called the "Driveway Tour." The work there is always unique, exploring and experimenting with the magic of performing objects.

In the winter, I took some workshops at Open Eye, and I met Susan Haas and Michael Sommers, the artistic directors of the theatre.  After going to see a show there in June, Michael Sommers invited me out to help construct puppets for an upcoming show.

So, over the course of about two weeks in late July, I went out to Open Eye and helped the artistic directors build their puppet's heads out of papier mâché.  I also helped move items around the studio, painted stage components, and wired up a lighting fixture to illuminate the puppets.

Work-in-progress shot of what I helped on.
The puppet show we constructed is a Punch and Judy-style show to be interpolated into the larger show, Joice Rejoice, conceived and written by Kevin Kling, who is a well-loved playwright and storyteller and a frequent collaborator with Open-Eye.
Left to right:  The Devil, Michael Sommers, Sara Richardson,
Eric Jensen, Kevin Kling, Jacqueline Ultan 

Running from August 11-21, Joice Rejoice is a beautiful show.  It is presented as a "Welcome Back" party for Lazarus (of the Bible, played by Kling).  In between acts such as Mary Magdeline (Sara Richardson)'s "impressions" (which she asserts are "channelings") of famous women from the Old Testament, and Uncle Eli (Michael Sommers)'s uproarious puppet show in which Kasper Reeka breaks all Ten Commandments in one day, Lazarus speaks on his experience of death, working poetry, depth, humor, and intelligence into his every word.  The show could be said to be about the way joy comes to us after facing the end, but it also has so many other themes.  Jacqueline Ultan and Eric Jensen provide the music for this show and work brilliantly together.
The best part of it all is, of course, the fact that I'm credited in the program ;)
The experience working at Open Eye was really fun, and seeing the end product a week or so later was stunning.  I saw Joice Rejoice twice, once alone on the first night, and then with my family on one of the last nights.  I would help out at Open Eye again in a heartbeat.  It feels like a place that I could really make a part of my life.

—Thomas Boguszewski

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