Category Archives: Theater

The Magic of The Paperhand Puppet Intervention

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If you are looking for something different to do this weekend I suggest catching a performance by the Paperhand Puppet Intervention. This has been on my Triangle bucket list for years and I finally had the chance to catch them last weekend. The group uses diverse styles of puppetry and artistic expression to create shows that inspire and promote social change. Performances feature giant puppets, masks, multi person marionettes, shadow puppetry, and stilt dancing to create magical larger than life characters to tell a thoughtful and entertaining story.

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I saw them perform their latest production, The Beautiful Beast, Paperhand’s seventeenth annual summer pageant. The show explores the relationship between humans, the earth that supports us, and “the beasts” of the natural world and how they are viewed through different lenses as both creatures to fear and adore. In addition to the elaborate visuals of the puppets and masks a critical and equally impressive part of each performance is the live original music performed by a six person band right in front of the audience. Not only do they provide a great score to the show, they are also the source of sound effects and provide narration and vocals throughout the numbers.

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This year’s production opened at Chapel Hill’s Forest Theatre last week and runs each weekend with shows Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through September 5th. After that the show will move to NCMA in Raleigh (Sept. 9–11) followed by The Carolina Theatre of Greensboro (Sept. 17–18). I highly recommend catching the show at the Forest Theater as the outdoor setting under the trees is wonderful and really adds a lot to the overall experience.

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Tickets for the Forest Theater performances are only available at the door and are sold on a first come first serve basis. Seating is general admission with suggested ticket donations of $15 for adults and $8 for children. Nobody is turned due to lack of funds. For more information vist http://paperhand.org/.

 

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Now Showing at DPAC: ‘If/Then’ Explores The Road Not Traveled

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National Tour of If/Then
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Do you ever find yourself wondering what might have been? Is your destiny bound by fate, or are your daily decisions constantly creating potential new outcomes for your future? Tuesday night’s opening of If/Then, which runs through Memorial Day weekend at the Durham Performing Arts Center left me pondering these very questions. Based on a book by Brian Yorkey, this original Broadway musical follows two possible life paths of Elizabeth (played by the fantastic Jackie Burns), a  thirty-something urban planner who has relocated to New York City for a fresh start after a failed marriage and dead end job in Phoenix.

The show explores how sometimes even seemingly minor decisions can have ripple effects taking your life into different possible directions. In the opening scene Elizabeth’s choices in the span of just 30 seconds set two possible futures into motion. Does she answer a call from an unknown number and land her dream job as director of city planning or let it go to voicemail and instead become a teacher? Does she go with her friend Kate (Tamyra Gray) to listen to music in the park, which leads to a chance encounter with Josh (Matthew Hydzik) her future husband and father of her children, or does she go with her old college friend Lucas (Anthony Rapp) to attend a protest and remain single?

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Jackie Burns & Matthew Hydzik
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Every choice has a consequence and If/Then takes the audience down that road of what might have been. You might think it would be confusing to follow, but the producers use little tricks like having Elizabeth adopt two different nicknames ‘Beth/Liz’ or having her character wear glasses in one potential future to help distinguish the alternate timelines. Jackie Burns strong singing voice and acting are well suited for in the center role and she handles it masterfully.  My favorite number of the night was the funny “What the Fuck” when Elizabeth is struggling with her indecision over whether or not to have a one night stand. While there are plenty of funnier moments like this one, the show has its fair share of songs rife with tension and regret about chances not taken like the somber “You learn to Live Without”.

I think the most impressive aspect of If/Then is the sheer number of musical numbers performed. With 22 songs there is a lot of singing squeezed into two acts. Fortunately the show has strong cast that is up to the task of delivering impressive vocals. The set design is also top notch. While the setting of New York City isn’t really integral to the story it makes for the perfect backdrop offering life changing decisions around every corner. The sets are smartly done and did a wonderful job of capturing the city environment from riding the subway to watching a game at Yankee stadium.

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Nationals Tour of If/Then
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

Local theater fans take note. Make sure you keep an eye out for North Carolina Native English Bernhardt on stage. She grew up right here in Raleigh and returns to DPAC playing supporting cast member Paulette in her first national tour debut.

If/Then isn’t about telling a story of Elizabeth so much as it telling the story of the road not traveled. It is a good reminder that we shape our futures with seemingly random choices. I enjoyed this performance and think you will too. If you don’t go, then you’ll never know what might have been.

If/Then  continues through May 29th at the Durham Performing Arts Center. For more information and to order tickets visit http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/ifthen.

 

 

 

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Paperhand Puppet Intervention “City of Frogs” Giant Puppet Pageant!

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City of Frogs runs August 10th thru September 9th at the Forest Theatre in Chapel Hill with performances every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Labor Day at 7:00. Matinee shows will be held September 2nd and 9th at 3:00. Tickets are General Admission at the door for a suggested donation of $12 for adults and $8 for children, 2 and under get in free.

Additional performances can be seen atthe North Carolina Museum of Art September 14, 15 & 16.  Tickets forthese performances can be purchased online at www.ncartmuseum.org.

Both venues have pre-show performances each night at 6:20 from local bands and musicians. Matinee pre-shows are at 2:20.

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Photo Courtesy of Paperhand Puppet Intervention

City of Frogs weaves together folktales and myths into a modern fable of a wooden boy seeking to find what itmeans to be alive. Along his journey the boy meets a menagerie of oddcharacters:  a junk collector who seeslife in garbage, an ancient witch who has lived so long the forest hastransformed around her, a golem of mud who stops to listen whenever music isbeing played, and so many more.

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Photo Courtesy of Paperhand Puppet Intervention

“The stories we tell are a big part of who we are.” says Jan Burger, director of this year’s show. “Our dreams, ourimage of ourselves, and where we came from are just as important, maybe moreimportant, than what we do for a living.”

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Photo Courtesy of Paperhand Puppet Intervention

For months leading up to opening night the Paperhand studio is a busy hive of creation. Together with apprentices, andupwards of a hundred volunteers, Burger and co-founder Donovan Zimmerman bringthe puppets to life. “Paperhand has evolved with the help of our community and friends. Our vision has become grander than it ever could otherwise. We couldn’t do it without them.” Says Zimmerman.

ABOUT PAPERHAND PUPPET INTERVENTION:

Paperhand Puppet Intervention was born from the creative collaboration of Jan Burger and Donovan Zimmerman  in 1999.  Their vision isinspired by their love for the earth and its creatures as well as their belief in justice, equality and peace.  Paperhand’s mission is to produce workthat inspires people, promotes social change, and is deeply satisfying for everyone involved.  The puppet shows they create are a synthesis of manyartists and art forms including, but not limited to: sculpting, painting,music, dance, improvisation, costume/set design and theater.

To find out more about the show, theopening acts, volunteer opportunities and sneak peeks behind the scenes visit www.paperhand.org.

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