I had planned to write a book of my 2005 journey through European puppet theatres. I wrote several chapters in 2006. I sent a proposal in, but it ended there. Yet this journey cemented my fascination with puppets. It changed my life. I’ve decided to share my story with you folks. This is part four of six posts. Bon Courage!
March 23, 2005
Clea Minaker had been at the last presentation. It was around 5:30 in the afternoon now. We met by the big marionette clock near the front door. Her mother was there as well as her father, Bruce Minaker, whose prominent mustache and easygoing yet serious manner matched his daughter’s Pacific Northwestern friendliness. We exchanged various pleasantries and the obvious British Columbian/Alaskan comparisons as well as the strange factor of the family back in my town with the sound-alike name. They also inquired further into my reasons for coming to visit ESNAM. And what did I think of the performances? Clea made sure that I understood that not all of the shows were as serious or philosophical as the ones I had seen today.
“For some reason” she said, “They seem to have lumped a lot of similar performances together. You didn’t really get a complete impression of what goes on here. If you had come this morning you would have seen very different kinds of shows. Some were really funny. Some more absurd.”
What was her piece like? I’d find out soon enough.
We strolled over to Avenue Jean Jaurés in downtown Charleville to look at the remains of Clea’s performance before she struck the set. We entered what had once been a large commercial structure, now property of ESNAM. Clea informed me that at some point in the not too distant future the school would be relocating much of its educational facilities to this building. It was ill lit and very gray inside. Imagine a large four story concrete box. There were obvious upper floors directly ahead of us, open, without fixtures or furnishings. It reminded me of a department store that had been gutted to the bone with only the basic structure remaining the same. Where we stood though, the ceiling seemed to stretch into the dark cement void above us uninterrupted by extra landings. And this is the space Clea had chosen for her presentation. Off to our right as we entered the building was a square created through fluorescent lighting that rested directly on the cement floor. In the midst of the square was a volcanic cone of French product containers: boxes, plastic bottles, cartons, bags. Clea had entered into some nefarious arrangement with the local cashiers to acquire as much product crud as she could haul away, even finding a sanitary paper product entitled Clea, just to underscore her relationship with this mound of garbage. In her piece entitled Immobilité, written by Sarah Fourage, Clea actually gets inside this pile of goods and pokes herself through the top, using the cone as a stilt. She is attached to the pile in an organic way. She is dressed in a red latex body covering and mask and becomes a sort of cashier from hell, somewhere along the way she actually sheds the red latex and turns blue: definitely a comment on consumerism among several other things.
Now that’s what I picked up from her description, but I know I’m missing a lot. A photo I was shown the next day in the Institute offices revealed a fairly wild looking image of the selfsame picture of conviviality who happened to be standing next to her humble little pile of commercial debris and posing for my own photographic record of her work. (I had finally run back to the hotel to get my documentary equipment.) Now Clea had to take everything down and dispose of her unwanted props. The Minakers were staying to help their daughter and it was about time I start to think about eating. I bid my farewells to mother and father and made arrangements to meet Clea the next morning near la Grand Marionnettiste to go for coffee and an interview.
Come back as I continue this story…
June 11th 2020
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