My intention was to set a new work on a company of fourteen puppeteers manipulating two figures and the environment they live in, resulting in a non-verbal finished piece titled CRAVE (cradle/grave). One figure rising from the grave and journeying to mid-life, the other being born and traveling forward, until both meet in the middle. Simple themes of growth, loss, love, togetherness and loneliness were my markers in these journeys.
Mid-career and established puppeteers were especially of interest to me for this piece, as well as puppeteers with considerable live puppet theatre performing experience. Together, we created perhaps a new vocabulary of marionette manipulation, with the strings of the figures not attached to one control, but rather, passed between the puppeteers separately. The resulting community manipulation allowed the figures to crawl, dance, float in romance, fly, and ultimately climb a wall of roses in a final moment of ascension.
The National Puppetry Conference at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center was a perfect sandbox to play outside of our own practice, to take artistic risks that may not be available in our own focus and careers, and to refresh our individual aesthetic and approach to the art form. Originally created in The Rufus and Margo Rose Theater Barn, CRAVE further allowed us to play with how theater is viewed, by removing seating in the venue, allowing the audience to self-adjust throughout the performance. The intimacy created between the audience and the performers and the work itself was authentic and powerful.
I have long said, I would not call myself an artist until I was able to create a piece of work that could only be felt, not discussed. With CRAVE, I now call myself an artist.
Ronnie Burkett: Director, Designer and Puppet Builder
Jesse Beyers: Assistant Director and Associate Puppet Builder
Melissa Dunphy: Composer
Produced by Jean Marie Keevins for Little Shadow Productions
All photos by Richard Termine