Part 3: ‘On the Road From Canterbury to Pointless Theatre’ by Scott Whalen

Found Object Puppetry

Puppetry is one of the world’s oldest performance styles. It is an art that spans millennia, continents, cultures, and mediums. Whether it be banraku puppets from Japan or shadow puppets from China; marionettes from Germany or Jim Henson’s Muppets–all puppets have one thing in common: they are inanimate objects animated or manipulated  to represent something as part of an entertainment.

Rachel Menyuk (The Nun), Maya Jackson (The Host) and Scott Whalen (The Reeve). Photo by Mel Bieler.

Rachel Menyuk (The Nun), Maya Jackson (The Host) and Scott Whalen (The Reeve). Photo by Mel Bieler.

In Pointless Theatre’s Canterbury, we have taken the idea of objects as puppets to the extreme. In this adaptation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, seven pilgrims regale each other with their different stories in the hopes of winning a storytelling competition.The only instruction they are given is that each pilgrim must help the others tell their tale by reenacting the story with objects from the tavern.

This is where the concept of found object puppetry comes into play. Our characters are in an environment where everything can be a puppet, and yet nothing is a traditionally designed puppet. A stick, a cloak, and a piece of armor combine to create a horse during one tale. In another, three friends come to life as hand puppets created with handkerchiefs and medieval masks. Everything on stage has the potential to become a puppet in one of the tales.

Rachel Menyuk (The Nun), and Maya Jackson (The Host). Photo by Mel Bieler.

Rachel Menyuk (The Nun), and Maya Jackson (The Host). Photo by Mel Bieler.

The objects on stage have been designed by props and puppet designer Patti Kalil specifically  to be manipulated into parts of the puppets.

This is the first time that Pointless has experimented with the concept of found object puppetry. And it has definitely posed challenges that other styles of puppetry do not. However, I think that found object puppetry does fit the Pointless performance style. It forces the audience to not just watch the puppet, but also the puppeteer.

Ultimately, this is a show about storytelling. Through puppetry and each performer’s own character identity, the stories of Canterbury can be told compellingly.

Canterbury  plays from February 13 to March 10, 2013 at Pointless Theatre Company at the Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint – 916 G Street NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online, or call OvationTix at (866) 811-4111.

LINKS
Part 1: On the Road From Canterbury to Pointless Theatre by Alex Leidy.

Part 2: On the Road From Canterbury to Pointless Theatre by Assistant Director Sadie Rothman.


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