The following is a description of a puppetry performance I saw at Minneapolis’s wonderful Open Eye Figure Theatre in the spring of 2009. I originally posted it on Facebook, where I believe it was seen by about ten people:
Who was it who wrote so movingly about the life of puppets? Kleist? Barthes? Both, if I remember correctly. Anyhow, just a few nights ago I saw a brief puppet show–“Sing” by Michael Montenegro of Chicago–that begins with a marionette hobbling onto stage, removing his coat, hanging it up, removing his hat, and hanging that up (or, more heartbreakingly, dropping it on the floor while attempting to hang it up). To me, it was completely engrossing.
And when it ended, I thought: this is why theater is so powerful. Because it was a puppet doing these mundane things, they became something worthy of the audience’s attention, something that was being imitated, something someone needed to show us, something we see every day without seeing that we are being allowed to see again. Had it been a man doing the same things, there still would have been this dimension to what we were seeing, but we probably would have missed it.
And that’s too bad because I don’t think it has to be that way. More theater practitioners need to watch puppet performances and bring the total immersion of being-in-doing that puppets possess. After all, what is the human condition but that? And what is more suited to reflect it back to us than theater?