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 5th International Toy Theater Festival, a biannual event, comes to the U.S. for the first time. Playing in a rotating repertory over three weekends, Nov. 2-19, 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 may seem only appropriate for younger audiences, most programs are aimed at adults.
A complete guide to the acts (and regions represented) follows:
• A Roda Teatro de Bonecos (Brazil) present two works: Historias de Caixa, a miniature peepshow-styled piece performed for an audience of two at a time; and O Combate, a work based on the myth of St. George and the dragon.
• Emily and Deanna Anderson (Vermont) of the Unbarring the Door Theater Company, a mother-daughter team, perform Angels Above Us, about life on a Swedish farm. • 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.
• Gustavo Boada (Peru), known for his work with the Yuyachkani theatre company, performs an updated Antigone that plays on contemporary politics in his home country.
• 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.
• Drama of Works (NYC) invite us to The Phineas T. Gage Show in which a doctor-circus ringleader introduces us to some of his medical mishaps.
• Frank and Joan Gardner (CT) put together a 16mm animated film, "The Robot," in which 1969 vintage toys star.
• Joe Gladwin's Paperplays (London) takes on the Bram Stoker classic Dracula, in an adaptation complete with scene changes, lighting effects and a mix of live characters.
• Vasilios Gletsos (Boston) bring their Consumptive Dentality to the stage. The story follows a door-to-door salesman in this exploration of capitalism.
• 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.
• Liz Joyce (NYC) performs an excerpt from Arthur A. Penn's humorous cantata "Sing a Song of Sixpence" which was found at a yard sale in Northern Michigan and brought to life on a tea cart.
• Karen Kandel (NYC) presents her work-in-progress about love A Woman of a Certain Age Remembers When...
• Kieran Kinsella (NY) and Giselle Potter of the Small Wooden Theater present rod puppets' encounter with the devil. Smoke and fire set to sounds make up this work.
• 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...
• Sara Peattie and NewsSharks (Boston) report their News of the Week trying to understand this small world with even smaller amounts of information.
• Robert Poulter, New Model Theatre (London), bring their Konjunktur Boom, which is a recreation of the exposing of corruption in the oil industry by 1920's Berlin political theatre. And Beowulfstod a piece on the death of Beowulf after fighting with the dragon.
• Puppetsweat Theater (CT), present A History of My Clothing: Buttons and Bows, based on the stories by Jill Cutler with design by Leslie Weinberg.
• Dirk Reimers, Pollidor Theater (Germany), perform The Brave Little Tailor, or Seven in One Blow, on a Danish Royal Theater-modeled toy theater stage.
• Michael Romanyshyn (Maine), plays musical interludes with his mobile one-man band.
• Stuart Sherman (NYC) retells Death and the Sharp Eraser about an "ancient recent legend involving two knights and a day, or two days and a knight, whichever, or whomever, comes first, last and always..."
• Susan Simpson (CA) and composer Sean Rooney perform an excerpt from Pseudoflora, based on selected stories by Bruno Shulz.
• Dov Weinstein's Tiny Ninja Theater takes a break from Macbeth (currently playing at Present Company's Artspace) with A Brief History of D.U.M.B.O. Examines the unique timeline of a certain corner of Brooklyn from the formation of the earth's crust through tomorrow's headlines.
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 http://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.
-- by Ernio Hernandez