Watching and Being Watched
July 1, 2017
My favorite aspect of this apprenticeship is constantly learning new techniques and technologies for building puppets and general fabrication. This week I learned about pattern making for large scale projects. One of our projects requires a puppet that is seven feet tall. Making the patterns for such a large project starts with a scale model or mockette. The model is taken apart and you draw out the pattern from the small scale pieces. The small patterns are scanned into a computer then put into a program that blows up the pattern, in this case 600%, and splits it up into pieces onto normal printer paper. These 8.5 x 11 pages are printed out and then the fun begins. The patterns have to be cut out and taped back together to create the large scale pattern pieces that can be used to make the full scale puppets out of foam. I spent a whole day this week on the patterns for the seven foot tall puppet. It was fun to figure out how everything fit back together, like a puzzle.
We had some excitement in the shop this week. A local weatherman came to the shop to film a segment where he explores local businesses. He was a large personality, and found puppets as a great outlet for his energy. He interviewed Chefs Eric and Michael about the Puppet Kitchen and they fixed up a large live hand puppet (a muppet-y type needing two puppeteers) to look like him. As nice as it was to have a change in pace at the shop, we couldn’t accomplish a lot with a camera crew that needed relative quiet to film.
Early in the week I caught my third show and the first straight play I’ve seen in New York. 1984 is based off the novel of the same name that I’m sure many people read in high school and was one of my favorites (shout out to my senior english teach Mr. Schmid!). The play delivered the spirit of the novel by disorienting the audience by skewing the sense of time and memory. Scenes would repeat themselves with only the main character noticing. A few scenes happened off stage with the action projected from cameras backstage to onstage screens, making the audience feel like the voyeuristic government, always watching. This was the best designed show I have seen yet. The scenic and sound design worked overtime to grab the audience and hold them tight through the 101 minute play with no intermission. The Ministry of Love, the location of the final scenes of brainwashing and torture, was my favorite element of the show. Though not for the faint of heart, the visceral realness of the end of the play definitely brought strong reactions for most of the audience.
This play seems, unfortunately, quite timely in our current political environment. There were moments when characters would talk about how “The Party” rose to power (e.g. increased nationalism, state encourage xenophobia, facist leaders taking office) that sent shivers through the audience. I think good theatre can hold a mirror up to society and show us what we don’t want to see. While 1984 offers a bleak view of tomorrow (or is it yesterday?) it is an appropriate cautionary tale.
My least favorite thing about city living so far has been the laundromat. I’ve been used to having a washer and dryer in my house or in my dorm, so lugging my laundry a few blocks and having to sit around waiting for was a pretty foreign idea for me. I’ve learned to take a book and just accept that I will lose two or more hours a week in the chrome and plastic laundry wonderland.
Amanda is a theatre fabrication major from Scio, Oregon.