Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Puppets, Puppets, Puppets, Puppets, Puppets

(Puppets, Puppets, Puppets)

By Russ Bickerstaff
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What with it being election day, I figured I may as well talk about puppets. Some time ago, I saw a picture someone had posted on Facebook. It was a classic image of Jim Henson surrounded by a huge cast of characters. Everyone of them had a distinct personality. Many of them have become iconic. And they all were created by him. The text on the old promo photo of Jim Henson and his Muppets read, "Jeff Dunham Can Suck it." That kind  of sense of humor is out there. And it's animated the next generation of puppets. No, they're not kids stuff. They're not even necessarily family-friendly, but neither are they necessarily some of the flat archetypes found in a show like Avenue Q

 

This weekend finds one such group of puppeteers performing a show at Soulstice Theatre. Angry Young Men, which had been praised by author Harlan Ellison for their work on a Night of the Living Dead puppet show, are doing a variety show throughout the summer. Full Frontal Püppetry: Summer Sell-Out. A variety show featuring an off-center sense of humor. (The video welcoming visitors to the group's website right now has a couple of Dalek-like robots doing an analogue of Monty Python's The Parrot Sketch…it's a lot funnier than it sounds for reasons that aren't entirely definable. It's probably the sketch comic delivery only possible with that angry, halting, synthetic voice. It brings up the idea of a Dalek doing stand-up comedy, which just seems bizarre…)

 

Angry Young Men's Full Frontal Püppetry: Summer Sell-Out. runs June 8th, 9th, 15th, 16th and July 13th, 14th, 20th and 21st. All shows are at Soulstice's space on 3770 South Pennsylvania Avenue.

 

 

Elsewhere this weekend, there's a new group of puppeteers in the area doing what may prove to be similar work not far from Milwaukee. The Puppet Underground recently started performing odd, little bits in Kenosha. The group presents its first Puppet Slam on June 9th. Part of a national Puppet Slam movement, the show features short form puppet and object theater for adult audiences. Puppet Underground most recently performed a show called Dante's Disco Inferno which sounds interesting. Evidently they had puppet versions of Donna Summer, the Village People, the Bee Gees and more . . . no word on exactly what the Puppet Slam is going to be like . . . not exactly what the name might imply, it doesn't seem to be an actual competition of any kind. The Underground describes itself as "puppetry veterans and newcomers who collaborate on puppet- design and building, program development, set-design, music, sound effects and performance."

 

The Puppet Underground performs it's Puppet Slam on Saturday, June 9 at 7:00 PM at ArtWorks, 5002 7th Avenue in Kenosha. Admission is free. 

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