PCs, laptops, PDAs, cell phones, mp3-, minidisc-, CD-, and DVD players, two-way pagers, digital cameras...and the list goes on. All these technological gadgets we now have seem to keep on coming. Now HERE's Dream Music Puppetry Program and the Great Small Works theatre company offer us a portal back to a time when we didn't have these things; when we were entertained by simple things called toys.
The Fifth International Toy Theater Festival, a biannual event, comes to the U.S. for the first time. Finishing up their rotating-repertory run on Nov. 19 at the HERE Art Center's downtown Manhattan location are a number of American Toy acts and a group of works from Europe and South America. Though the festival, which opened Nov. 2, may seem only appropriate for younger audiences, most programs are aimed at adults.
A guide to the remaining acts (and regions represented) follows:
• Jon Bankert (NY) is a Franciscan Friar who runs his own 10-seat theatre on Long Island. He performs a toy version of Peter Pan.
• J.E. Cross of the Cosmic Bicycle Theatre (NYC), using puppets made from old found objects and pieces of machines presents Mysterious Marvels of Minutia. • Great Small Works (NYC) Artists John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin, Jenny Romaine, Roberto Rossi and Mark Sussman unleash the latest in their surreal news based series,Terror As Usual: Episode Ten. They also offer a kids' show Our Kitchen, in which kitchen cabinets reveal the origins of the ingredients for a young hero's pancakes.
• Frits Grimmelikhuizen (Holland), a composer and musician presents Variations on Kandinsky, a performance based on the paintings ideas of Wassily Kandinsky.
• Sam Hack (NYC) offers his Isolation Island, a story inspired by Christopher Columbus' first trip to Cuba, with music by David Patterson. He also gives the kids Sam's Dog and Pony Show, a variety show with the fantastic acts of agility and skill such as the Singing Dog, the Counting Horse, and Pigeon Woman with her trained birds.
• Laura Heit (Chicago) boasts the smallest toy theatre production with Matchbox Shows which is so small it has to be projected live through video.
• Meredith Holch (NY) screens "Hdwd Flrs, No Fee, No Pets" [sic], an animated video that tells the tale of a successful anti-rent rebellion of the 1800's.
• Alain Lecucq (France) plays the kids' show The Sentimental Wolf about a young wolf who tries to find his way in the world and comes across Little Red Riding Hood, The Goat, and The Three Little Pigs, but can't eat them for sentimental reasons, until...
• Puppetsweat Theater (CT), present A History of My Clothing: Buttons and Bows, based on the stories by Jill Cutler with design by Leslie Weinberg.
• Michael Romanyshyn (Maine), plays musical interludes with his mobile one-man band.
• Susan Simpson (CA) and composer Sean Rooney perform an excerpt from Pseudoflora, based on selected stories by Bruno Shulz.
The festival also offers a free Toy Theater symposium on Nov. 4 at 3 PM and a temporary Toy Theater exhibition in the HERE Artspace that will be open from 2-10 PM on show days. A Toy Theater-making workshop is also available for $10-20, where if you come equipped with a story, experts will help you bring your own toy theatre piece to life on Nov. 11 and 18 from 1-4 PM.
For a complete schedule of events or showtimes, visit the Toy Theater Festival's website at www.gotham usa.com/toytheater. All events take place at HERE, 145 Sixth Avenue (at Spring St.) and tickets can be purchased at the box office, by calling (212) 647-0202, or by visiting HERE online at www.here.org.