This Was No Sockpuppet
February 05, 2013 by:
I will be the first to admit that though I am an avid theatre consumer, I am a theatre snob. While I have yet to walk out of a show, I will not give a standing ovation unless I feel it is warranted, I will stop clapping at the moment I feel that the performer has reached his merit, and I will not cheer for a curtain call unless I truly feel the ensemble is exemplary. That being said, I am also completely enthusiastic about shows that really move me.
Ten years ago, if you had asked me to attend a show with puppets or a musical aimed at children, I would likely have scoffed. But that all changed with the Lion King. Here I was, a twenty-something, no kids, watching a musical based on a movie, a DISNEY movie at that. Not my cup of tea… I thought. And then, during the opening number, an elephant walked in. I burst into tears.
Did it look like a real elephant? No… it was better. It was a two person puppet, moving with the slow grace that I thought never could have been captured and put on stage. I was transfixed. I was transported. I was blown away.
Then, years later, I found myself at Avenue Q, watching puppets yet again. This time they were the Bad Idea Bears, naughty, R-rated and ironically adorable. Again I found myself taken aback. These bears were so enthralling as characters unto themselves, the audience forgot that you could see their puppeteers.
Most recently I attended War Horse, and again an animal came to life onstage. This time, Joey was manned by three puppeteers. Every nuanced twitch of this puppet’s ears brought him to life on the stage.
These three shows really bring to light the talent these puppeteers have. Part dancer, part actor, part magician, they bring life to the inanimate, and laughter and tears to those who witness their magic, and yet part of that magic is that they disappear into the puppet they maneuver. An audience forgets that they even exist. And don’t worry… I gave them all standing ovations.