How does one sum up months of rehearsal and ten successful, almost entirely sold out performances of an original, musical puppet play, based on the writings of Federico Garcia Lorca? Magic. In this world, thirteen cast members, three pit musicians, a composer, director/creator, assistant director, lighting, costumes, sound, friends, and unseen helpers brought to life puppets who in this story even brought themselves to life.
I do not speak Spanish. Neither did many of our audience members. Regardless of some not very subtle shadow puppetry and at least half of the performance in English, the purely Spanish moments read so clearly. Unmistakably familiar emotions translated across the audience and cast as Lorca, Rima Fand, and Erin Orr weaved their webs of comedy and incredibly human grief, as felt by the puppet Don Cristóbal.
When a new friend discovers the truth of my new adventures in puppetry, he inevitably wants more information. How? With whom? When? Where? I have yet to hear the missing question. Somehow whether young or old, everyone seems to relate to well-acted puppets telling a meaningful tale. Within the span of less than two hours, our audience connected to the point of caring about the heart of a wooden puppet. Each night as the puppet maker replaced Don Cristobal’s heart, I listened to hear their reaction. Sad sighs of empathy and occasional laughter as Don Woodsman, the puppet maker, held the broken heart of a puppet in his hands.
In those moments, I knew we had done our jobs as actors, transforming a small theater on Suffolk Street into a world in which strangers might empathize with the emotions of a self-aware puppet who had impossibly fallen in love and, as a result, felt “terrible.” I listen to the music still, even now on my ipod as I ride the subway. Familiar melodies and a beautifully touching story refuse to dissipate from the forefront of my memory, persisting in a way for which I give thanks.
After the close of such a captivating show with such a talented team of artists, and even tonight at the start of Orfeo at the Metropolitan Opera, knowing we have only four performances remaining, I feel akin to Don Cristóbal. Somewhat heartbroken, everything hurts sometimes when such magical universes come to a close for performers. “¡Ay! What a hard time I have loving you as I love you…”
Yet the next gig arrives already before the first ends, and I move on to another audience and another inspiring work of art. Don Cristóbal will hopefully one day return to the stage, and I already have the fortune of working with composer Rima Fand for Tableau Vivant this month. I will rejoice if I again work with Erin Orr and everyone on the insanely gifted cast and crew someday. In the meantime, visions of the moon, the midnight hours, the Rio Guadalquivir, and a brilliant production will have to suffice.
- Lands of Enchantment (skydivingforpearls.wordpress.com)
- Astonishing Life Size Horse Puppet by Handspring Puppet Company (laughingsquid.com)
- Lifelike horse-puppet — really, really lifelike (boingboing.net)
- Video: Orfeo ed Euridice – Joyce DiDonato Interviews Mark Morris (youtube.com)
- Orfeo ed Euridice at the Metropolitan Opera (metopera.org)