On April 28, 2012, The Puppet Co. Playhouse hosted a Puppetry Slam!, where puppeteers, both amateur and polished, converged from all over the east coast for a showcase of their talent. While the Puppet Company is widely known as an esteemed children’s theatre, the Slam allows a night purely for adult’s entertainment, with mature acts that cover a wide range of emotions – from sad and serious, to downright silly.
Slam director Eric Brooks could be seen offstage, playing the saxophone alongside the rest of The Just Friends Jazz Quartet (JFQ), whose toe-tapping numbers were alone worthy of the admission price. Slam host Michael Cotter provided the audience with humorous anecdotes about the puppeteer lifestyle before introducing each new act, which made each segue easy and fun.
Marianne Ross’s interesting act entitled Medicine Show studied the journey of medical treatments from the civil war era to present day. Using a crank scroll as a slide and props such as bone fragments, rubber gloves, and a stethoscope, Ross coupled humor and facts, creating a balance between both standup and lecture. Debut performers Julie and Barnaby Holmes gave the crowd a flirty skit called Her Maybe-Someday Man, with rod and hand puppets as well impressive shadow work. David Greenfieldboyce went the silly route with A Bunny Shouldn’t Ever have a Fox for a Pet, using rod puppets and rhyme to entice laughter from the audience.
These acts were impressive, but the show did have two standout performances. Carole D’Agostino wowed the crowd with Object Theatre Time! Using objects given up by the audience, as well as a noun and an action verb, D’Agostino used tabletop improvisation to create a skit right off the top of her head. With the given title of “Elephant Twist,” she managed to turn a couple of umbrellas, lip balm, and other objects into an entertaining performance. The show’s last performer, Basil Twist, absolutely mesmerized the room with Stickman, a short-strung marionette accompanied by gentle, almost hypnotic music. The delicate-yet-simple marionette itself was impressive, but the way that Twist manipulated its movements into ballet-style dance, while sometimes incorporating himself into the movements as well, was a beautiful way to end an evening of puppetry.
These, along with other acts, made up a night full of different styles and themes, all brought together through the use and passion of puppetry. It was an exceptional evening of entertainment, and I am already looking forward to the next Playhouse Puppetry Slam!
A preview video of The Playhouse Puppetry Slam!
Watch a preview video of Basil Twist and Stickman.
The Puppet Co.’s website.