Friday, July 2, 2010

Opium, Planets, and Miniatures: A Puppet Passage to India

Over the course of five months I dove headlong into the puppet world of India—which truly is an exciting place for our evolving medium. I got a chance to see how puppets are not just tools for artistry, but tool that NGOs, government agencies, schools, and even private companies are interested in for purposes such diverse as opening up dialogue about workplace harassment, to mere celebration of puppets ability to inspire fun and festivity. And of course, these new puppets live alongside some of the most ancient puppet traditions in the world.

Alongside the Kat Katha Puppet Arts Trust, I am still somewhat amazed at all the different projects and experiences we had. I worked as the lighting designer for their national tours of “The Little Blue Planet” (a show about global warming as experienced by a baby-planet avatar of your own) to Bangalore, Chennai, and Mumbai. I also served as a core member of the creative team of a new show we developed in a mere three months—a show based on Indian history and the origins of the Mughal Empire called “Anecdotes and Allegories by Gulbadan Begum”. The show was a combination of paper theatre, shadows, and miniature theater created with 3”to 6” tall paper machie puppets which were experienced though a small CCTV camera and projected onstage—a sort of cinematic effect created live. I built armies and palaces-full of these little guys, served as the narrator voice over, and even wound up portraying the excessive, drug-addict second emperor Humayun in shadow form. Here are some clips on Youtube:

My time in India also found me conducting several workshops, involvement in public events, and assisting puppeteer Ranjana Pandey on her most recent puppet film project, a surreal adventure of a boy who finds himself transported into a world of books. Many deep thanks to Pawan Waghmare, Muhammad Shameem, Choiti Gosh, Pavitra Sarkar, Nilaam, Umesh, Anand, and Asha for their friendship and all each day full of unpredictable and unforgettable experiences, and of course to my long time mentor and puppet guru, Anurupa Roy, for inducting me into her exciting puppet trust and puppet family. This show will live on in their repertoire, and I hope someday we all have the chance to perform it together again.

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