Exploring Otherness Through Puppetry
We’ve completed the first week of research into how puppetry can be used to articulate notions of otherness and it was an amazing meeting of minds between artists of different ethnicities, genders, ages, backgrounds and art disciplines.
Drawing on our personal experiences of otherness as well as the Frog Prince story, we invented experiments with variables to test the relationship between puppet and puppeteer, measure degrees of presence and identification, and discover which performance languages (besides words) effectively convey the subjective experience of otherness and how they might inform a staging of the Frog Prince story.
Mark Whitaker, a puppeteer with over 20 years experience, summed up the process perfectly when he said that we certainly put the R back into R&D.
Amanda Monfrooe, our dramaturge, describes the process in her blog post Frog Prince R&D Day Three: “we took an experiment to its limits by testing as many variables as we could think of, following most avidly those that interested us the most. This took some refinement and I think that was the greatest lesson from the day. The idea that not only does a show need to go through many, many drafts, but so does the exploration process. Often there isn’t time in a normal production schedule to allow for lots of exploration and play. But in this instance we invented a test, set it in motion, and as we watched we understood why a test wasn’t working – or rather, ways it could lead us more efficiently toward a solution to our initial question.”
And later in the same post she writes: “importantly we were not devising the project this week. We were testing. But inevitably this work was shaping itself into a performance (at least in my mind.)”
We now have 15 hours of recorded discussions, 380 photos and 7 hours of film to work through. As the information is digested we will keep this blog updated with examples of our experiments, photos, video clips, snippets of discussion between the artists involved and, eventually, some conclusions.
Next up will be photos of permutations in the puppeteer-puppet relationship.
In the meantime, head over to Amanda’s blog to read her daily summaries of the first Frog Prince R&D week.