Friday, July 25, 2008

Monster Love

The Hot New Puppet Extravaganza!

I’ve talked a lot about the crazy South African wildlife, its beautiful landscapes and awesome kids, but I’m not just teaching down here and enjoying the scenery. I’m also building puppets! Theodora Skipatares is one of the professors here and she’s doing a class on puppets. I know that sounds awfully random, but the whole idea is that she’s also teaching puppets to the kids and the kids will perform a show at the end of the trip. The show is being put on in conjunction with Ellen Stewart, of experimental theater fame. She got a Ford Foundation Grant to come and put on a show with the kids and us.

So, we have Theodora here and she’s teaching three of us the art of puppets, and hello, its awesome fun. It’s also very intense. This is normally a 16 week program and she’s cramming into 4 weeks. We’re doing shadow puppets now, by cutting out these puppets from black paper and performing with them on a shadow screen, a large white sheet on a frame with light shining behind it.

This weekend’s homework was to write a 2 minute story and be ready to perform it Tuesday. She encouraged us to use music. I had done this crazy monster head, and decided to use it, so I wouldn’t have as much work to do. My background song was My Beloved Monster by the Eels. It’s sort of a goofy song, so my story was goofy. It went like this:

Once there was a monster.
And he loved a monster girl.
One day, the villagers captured her and put her behind a wall of fire.
The monster terrorized the villagers, but they would not let her go.
So he pleaded with the villagers.
They were moved by his love for the monster girl and freed her.
Together they ate the villagers and lived happily ever after.

It’s a simple silly story. Piece of cake, right? Alyssa and I taught at Sivuyseni (not Steve Buschemi after all), the elementary school for a few hours, Monday. It was an intense experience, but we were home by noon. I rested up from that, and then went right into making puppets at one o'clock. I finished at about 10 pm. Sure I took a quick dinner…and wine break, but then I went right back to work. My friends had to stop me as I made 12 puppets for my 2 minute production and I was going to need to bring in janitors to perform the thing. Clearly I had lost my mind. They were considering bringing in professional help when I figured out a way to cut down to 9 puppets. Tuesday morning as I ate my breakfast I figured out a way to eliminate 3 more. This would mean I’d only need my classmates to perform the story. Luckily, we have a student from Nelson Mandela taking the class too, so I still had a small audience.

Anyway, Theodora ended class by saying that I really have a flair for puppets and I’m an awesome storyteller. I almost hugged her, which would have been awkward, but it made me super happy as being a storyteller is what I’ve been trying to do with my drawings.

Next we're moving on to rod puppets and I've sculpted Kurt Vonnegut's head in clay for mine. We'll be casting it in plaster tonight.

So now I pretty much have decided that when I grow up I want to be a puppeteer… or a race car driver. You know, if teaching doesn't work out as I've planned. It's important to have something to have a back up plan. We’ll see how it all pans out.

Note: I know I haven't posted many photos, but that turns out to be a time consuming, tricky thing here. I have taken over 1100 photos though. So I'll get some up soon.

Also, I'm hoping to get up some video of my performances, including Monster Love. So stay tuned!


coolgirlsar said...

I love the Monster Love song (plus I have a real soft spot for that Eels song too). Loving hearing about all your adventures and paint me jealous of the experience you're having.

Stay safe. xxx

coolgirlsar said...

Gah Story! Was meant to say story not song.

Betsy said...

I want to see pictures of your puppets!