He may be Dr. Beakman of the children's science show, "Beakman's World," to one generation. But for grownups, Paul Zaloom is still performing and puppeting his unique, three-ring circus-like shows. His tenth solo piece, Velvetville, arrives at Washington DC's Studio Theatre Feb. 3-18.
In this comedic tale of a surrealistic dream of a Vermont vacation, his own sudden death and descent into hell, Zaloom uses three separate performance areas. The first features an overhead projector on which puppets, food, found objects and body parts are manipulated for laughs. The second, based in the picture performance theatre begun a thousand years ago in India, hosts a series of commissioned black velvet paintings that run the gambit of society from Elvis and JFK to the Smurfs. In the final arena, shower curtains serve as the backdrops for a puppet play using found objects like rubber rats, gas masks and Mickey Mouse ears to represent, respectively, human beings, a Los Angeles bus and the "Welcome Center" in hell.
At age 19, Zaloom joined the Bread and Puppet Theatre and continues to work with the company on the annual Domestic Resurrection Circus. He has performed at festivals across the U.S., Canada and Europe. He is the recipient of an Obie Award for his The House of Horror, a show about indoor pollution. In 1991 he was awarded a coveted Guggenheim Fellowship for further research and development of his work. Other shows include Sick But Hurt, Fruit of Zaloom and My Civilization.
Velvetville recently played New York City's P.S. 122 Jan. 5-23, 2000.