My Hidden Book of Puppet Plays
Last year, before I knew I would be moving, I decided that I had been sitting on too much of my creative output. And that none of it was doing any work to help bring in the finances one needs to live. (And believe me I’ve got a lot of this artistic debris lying around.) So I decided to go ahead put three of my puppet plays together and have them printed up into a book called THREE MOTIONS. ‘Motions’ was the Shakespearean age term for puppets. And I always prefer the more poetic language of the past when I can get away with it. And so I put the text together on my own and had a small press print up 150 copies. And then I discovered that my old house was to be sold out from under me and life as I had been living it for the past 21 years was over. And so my box of copies arrived and I was left without a means to sell them since I had to go into working exile into Europe, and I certainly couldn’t send them to anyone from the road.
I did give a few copies away to those who had taken part in some of the plays here in Haines. And I brought ten copies down to my local bookstore. I expected that given the small size of the book they might put it somewhere visible on their counter. Alas the bookstore was sold almost at exactly the same time as I was leaving and the new owner obviously didn’t get what I was trying to do. I watched her put all ten copies sideways into a shelf, where no one would ever look, since they have no words on the spine. And that is where they remained until I returned in April six months. Not one sold. No encouragements to Haines folks through Facebook helped at all. And so I rescued them and put them back with the rest of the pile in my box. And that’s where they have remained throughout the summer because I have been so busy with work that I didn’t get things ready until too late to be effective.
I tried to sell them with less than a month to go before leaving for Europe and eventually to Georgia for good. But I didn’t have time to launch a real sales campaign. They were then locked away again in Alaska. I probably won’t be able to sell them from Georgia because of the unreliability of the postal system there. Maybe they will emerge from the darkness again someday. But I certainly don’t know when.
But what are these three little plays? They are works performed by my companies, Reckoning Motions and the Lilliputian Sideshow. They are rather curious puppet plays contrasting great works of literature (Pascal, Everyman and Faust) with postmodern insanities. Everypuppet is a variation on the medieval tale Everyman. 21st Century Faust finds the demon Mephistopheles granting Faust’s desire for all knowledge through the smartphone. The Definition of ‘Fun’ questions the meaning of the word ‘fun’ in the 21st Century. These darkly comic puppet miniatures each confront the present with aspects of the past. And so while they are funny, there is something else going on as well.
Here’s a sample from 21st Century Faust:
Faust: O Mephistopheles give me what I have coming to me.
Mephistopheles: (Laughing) Oh yes I will. I’ll give you what you have coming to you. Are you ready?
Faust: (Nods) Yes.
Mephistopheles: Close your eyes….. No peeking… Now hold out your hand.
Mephistopheles reaches in to pull out a brand new smart phone.
Faust: I’ve never touched anything like this before.
Mephistopheles: Okay open ’em.
Faust: (Looking dismayed) What is this thing?
Mephistopheles: It is exactly what you asked for.
Faust: No, No, No, No. I asked for knowledge, and a way to communicate with everyone, to have learned conversations, to break down the language barriers, to explore all of the images on earth and to have the ability to meet beautiful women.
Mephistopheles: Voila! It’s all there. And it works through a strange force called electricity. And it also works through numbers.
So these little books have been buried for the foreseeable future. My life sometimes seems to be a tale of these sorts of things. Not that I feel sorry for myself. Au contraire. It’s just how things go. Maybe one day when they reemerge they will performed by others, if they still have a resonance.
Nevertheless if anyone wants to contribute to what will continue to be my needs while moving to Georgia here is the PayPal link: And this will work all over the world. CLICK THIS!
And thanks for following this strange journey which is my life!
9/6/2018 (Edited 10/3/2018)
Time for another update.
First the disappointing news. The grant I was hoping to receive, that I actually had an excellent chance of getting, did not materialize. And so while I am still planning to go to France for a three week residency in October as part of Gravity From Above, exactly how I am going to fund it, paying for the flight etc, is an unwritten book at this point. I might have to use a system like Indiegogo or GoFundMe, which will allow me to keep whatever I make, rather than threaten me with an all or nothing scheme. But we will see. At the moment a couple of thousand dollars would get me there and back and allow me to get a few more interviews. (Please note that PayPal button off to the upper right. Feel free to use it. Every donation, regardless of size, will help.) But one way or another I will get back to Europe this fall.
But now some enjoyable news. In the midst of a personally trying late April and early May our Reckoning Motions puppet troupe was able to perform a play I recently wrote entitled 21st Century Faust. The play is based on the old European puppet classic Faust, and based more on Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus than on Goethe’s Faust. But, as the title betrays, this was obviously a reworking of the material into a contemporary setting. Except that that Faust himself is from the late Middle Ages and it is a comedy. Faust receives all of the knowledge and power in the world. But it comes in the form of a smartphone, which he can only use in the 21st Century. Mephistopheles transports him hence.
This was also an experiment for me in that it was my first official puppetry class of five students. We started with puppetry theory and history back at the beginning of February. And many classes in improvisation, acting, and puppet manipulation. Then we mastered the play, built the props and constructed the set in the basement of the Chilkat Center for the Arts and performed three well received shows. (We even had ourselves featured on the front of the local paper.) And so while waiting for the next step in our Gravity From Above project we have not been idle.
More news to come as we prepare to get back to Europe to try to finish this project!
Oh! And allow me to share one of the scenes of 21st Century Faust with you…
(Anyone interested in performing this hour long play might wish to know I will be publishing a small book of this and two other similar puppet plays this summer.)
The Great Mind: So I’m glad you got in touch with me.
Faust: I too am very pleased to meet you. I have so many questions.