Puppets aren’t just for kids anymore. Recognizing the unique and theatrical way in which puppets can tell a story, more and more artists are creating puppet performance pieces that are for adults only. Puppet slams, evenings of short theatrical plays by different artists, have been popping up more and more across the country.
If your idea of a puppet show involves cuddly felt and furry characters like Elmo or Sherri Lewis’ Lambchop, it’s likely your jaw would have been grazing the floor at the Spork in Hand Puppet Slam at the recent Indie Grits Festival
Spork in Hand’s event was organized by puppet and theater artist Kimi Maeda
and Columbia Marionette Theatre
Artistic Director Lyon Forest Hill
. The slam was the first event of its kind in Columbia
, billing itself as “gloriously gritty puppetry that’s not for kids” and offering some of the finest puppet talents in the Southeast.
Thankfully, there were no unsuspecting parents in the audience who ignored the warning and brought their little ones. Many of the pieces were definitively adult, dark, disturbing – and fascinating. Lisa Sturz
and Mark Blessington
delivered a punch of political puppetry in a piece that criticized corporate tax loopholes in Delaware, and Keith Shubert
, looking like a Tim Burton creation himself, delivered a terrifying marionette vignette about murdered children.
Organizer Hill rounded out the evening with a live performance of an excerpt from his puppet film, supine, which was inspired by one of his wife’s nightmares. Hill sat on the floor to the side of the stage while a live camera feed projected his cinematic paper puppetry onto a big screen. His main character’s eyes widen with naturalistic horror, a monster picks up her limp body, we watch her land in an Andrew Wyeth-inspired wheat field and sit herself up. It seems impossible that one man is making this happen with only some paper and string. The effect was magical.
Maeda and Hill are interested in creating more opportunities for puppet slams in Columbia and judging by the full house and enthusiastic reception at the puppet slam, Columbia is interested too. In the meantime, check out the offerings at the Columbia Marionette Theatre
,which hosts a wide variety of puppetry performances, or stop by Main Street’s First Thursday
celebration on June 7 when Kimi Maeda will debut her mobile shadow puppet performance.