TAHOE/TRUCKEE — What comes to mind when you think of a puppet? I like the actual word “puppet” myself. It is fun to say, it just kind of pops out of the mouth. Try it, say “puppet.”
Now that you have puppets on your mind, what do you see? Marionettes? A sock puppet? The shadow puppet made of your Dad’s hand that magically became an animal or a bird?
If, like me, you haven’t really given much thought to puppets except as a child’s toy, you are about to have an opportunity to experience a whole new world of performance art.
Really though, it will be of the old world, a myth, the love story of Cupid and Psyche. You know the story — a saga of love, devotion, trust and trickery, with gods and goddesses, castles, monsters, jealous sisters, magic potions, and despite all that, a happy ending. Just what we all need.
In a telephone interview with John Farrell, founder of Figures of Speech Theater, he notes that the story is as relative today as it was when they first performed it 27 years ago.
The roles of Cupid and Psyche are played by three-foot-tall puppets, intricately carved and authentically costumed. Figures of Speech Theater combines puppets and actors in a show that lets each do what it can most effectively.
The dynamic roles of Venus and Zeus are portrayed by actors in a highly comic style that make them accessible and entertaining for all audiences. The puppeteers also act as storytellers, addressing the audience directly. This combination of techniques facilitates dramatic shifts in mood, from romantic to mysterious to hilarious.
John and Carol Farrell founded Figures of Speech Theatre in 1982 to explore the interplay of puppets, actors, shadows, music, movement, and masks.
Believing that audiences experience art most vitally when they are called upon to engage their imaginations fully, the company produces visual theater that emphasizes myth, metaphor and transformation.
The puppets used in the show are the original creations of the Farrells, and from the bit that I previewed, are beautiful pieces of art in themselves. The voices are performed live, and there is an accompanying soundtrack.
Prerecorded sound effects include music from antique music boxes, and the sounds of wind and whispers. The background music is primarily from “The Lark Ascending” by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.
During the school week, prior to the OnStage public performance, the Figures of Speech crew will both perform and teach local children about puppetry and storytelling.
The Farrells use puppets to communicate in a language that is not always verbal. The communication of gestures will influence the audience to enter Cupid and Psyche’s world.
The interaction of puppet and actor, with a combination of speech and gesture promises to be a performance which will immerse the audience in the mythical world of the gods and Mt. Olympus.
I challenge you to come to the performance to discover the puppets coming alive and directing their actor counterparts. Or is it the other way around?
Please join us on Friday, April 19, at 7 p.m., at the Church Street Theater, 10046 Church Street, in Truckee. For prices and ticket information, and to learn more about Arts For the Schools, please visit our website at www.artsfortheschools.org.
Paula Rachuy is a member of the Arts For the Schools Board of Trustees.