Puppet Performance at Concord, Tuesday, February 8
Athens, W.Va. - If “puppets” bring to mind the funny faces and crazy antics of Howdy Doody, Charlie McCarthy, Lamb Chop or the Muppets, then you won’t be prepared for the elegant production of “Out of the Mist...a Dragon,” a spectacular show coming to Concord University on February 8.
“‘Out of the Mist...a Dragon’ is a journey around the world of traditional folk puppetry,” says Clarissa Lega, artistic director of Wood and Strings theatre. The show uses reproductions of carved masks of Native Americans on the Northwest Coast, Punch and Judy from Europe, and rarely seen shadow puppets from Indonesia. However, the main characters of the show are reproductions of the classical and exquisite Japanese style of puppetry known as Bunraku.
“They become very lifelike after you start moving them,” says Lega, who spent many hours researching the Bunraku movement. The two male Bunraku puppets stand four feet tall and the lovely young princess is three feet and six inches.
Each puppet features jet-black hair, alabaster white skin, exaggerated eyes, and richly detailed kimonos. The puppeteers are dressed in traditional black, complete with black hoods that cover the face. Many times, it takes as many as three puppeteers to operate a single puppet.
The story of “Out of the Mist...a Dragon” unfolds in the courtyard of a shrine located on a small island in Japan. Here, a samurai warlord prays to his goddess to provide his daughter with a suitable husband. But when his daughter, Lotus, falls in love with a humble fisherman, the father becomes enraged. With the help of a magic incantation, he changes the fisherman into a spectacular nine-foot dragon.
A kindly spirit takes pity on the unlucky dragon and gives him hope. To break the spell, the dragon must travel the world and obtain the keys of wisdom. Only then, can he change himself back into a man and marry the beautiful Lotus.
It is during this journey that the dragon encounters the puppets of the world. Returning home with his newfound joy and knowledge, he at last has the power to defeat the father’s spell and become a young man of great consequence.
“Almost every country has a tradition of some kind of puppetry,” notes Lega. “I really think puppetry goes all the way back to someone in prehistoric times who picked up a piece of fur and used it to tell a story.”
“We are so fortunate to have a professional national touring company such as Wood and Strings theatre perform at Concord University,” said Nancy Ellison, director of multicultural affairs. “Our goal is for the audience to come from the performance with an appreciation for the wonderful art of traditional folk puppetry.”
Two performances are scheduled for Tuesday, February 8, in the Main Theatre of the Alexander Fine Arts Center. Both performances are free to the public. A special 9:30 a.m. performance will be given for area school groups. Principals or teachers should call 1-304-384-6086 or e-mail Nancy Ellison at firstname.lastname@example.org to make reservations for this performance. An evening performance will be held at 7 p.m.
CONCORD UNIVERSITY NOTES: Persons with disabilities should contact Nancy Ellison, 1-304-384-6086 or 1-800-344-6679, extension 6086 if special assistance or help is required for access to an event scheduled by the University on campus.