On March 3rd, Puppet Happening celebrated one year of activity and its third big production, Luck of the Puppets. The event took Puppet Happening in a new direction, breaking away from the familiar sit-down puppet cabaret show. After a January brainstorming session, a new path was set, something close to the historic “art happening.” Puppeteers agreed on a more interactive show, an event that invited guests – and their puppets – to become active participants. A Vegas-themed, carnival-style festival was in the works.
The hands-on approach began with a puppet making area run by Rose Clancy called Make Your Mate. Rose, along with artists Kara Skylling and Brandi Welle, assisted guests in creating approximately sixty puppets out of craft supplies and repurposed materials. Puppet creators were encouraged to complete profiles for their puppets. The spectator-turned-puppeteer experiment made for a lively evening. Some participants later took to the stage, taking part in Puppet Dating Game and Puppet Weddings.
Aside from the participatory, the happening had plenty of purely experiential performances and moments of spectacle. Performance artists Scott Andrew and Erin Womack presented Liquid Escort 5000, a futuristic spin on the sex industry. Over a five-minute performance, Andrew danced in elaborate costume while Womack canvassed his movements with psychedelic projections using overhead projectors and an array of colored liquids (Think Matthew Barney + Gaga + mad scientist).
Body Language: A Puppet Seduction explored themes of fantasy and desire. The performance happened twice during the evening featuring a cast of Megan Morrison, Jeremy Frazier, Brittany Thurman, with set work by Sophie Hood. Gabe Felice brought his portable studio to the happening. Throughout the course of the night, guests lined up for his psychic noisemakers and paintings.
One of the highlights of the night was Mime Share by Kristen Barca. Guests were encouraged to sign up for “time with the mime.” Located in a 4-foot by six-foot square and dramatically framed by floor to ceiling black velvet, visitors could step into the world of the mime to experience a number of intricate routines. Kristen stayed in character throughout the night, refusing to speak a word.
On the opposite side of the gallery, near the entrance was Puppet Peep Show, a project performed by Kate Mickere & Megan Morrison. As visitors entered a ten-foot by ten-foot black curtained room, they were asked to choose a show. I only got to see one peep show. It was pretty hilarious. It involved a dancing bottle of Thousand Island salad dressing and its affair with a Reuben sandwich.
Operating close to the peep show was another performance duo, Murphi Cook and Zach Dorn with the debut performance of Puppet Photo Booth. A project of The Society for the Advancement of Miniature Curiosa, the duo performed an epic adventure (Honey I Shrunk Las Vegas) thirty times during the evening. The photo booth was pretty close to the real thing (aside from the fog machine, water feature and human operators). I don’t want to spoil the show. It is due to tour Pittsburgh over the next year.
Late in the evening, Dave English and Paul O’Brien announced the winner of Big N’ Scratchy, an enormous lottery scratch-off ticket. Puppeteer Cheryl Capezzuti picked the winning ticket and was awarded the task of scratching, and scratching, and scratching with a giant quarter.
Rounding out the night were performances by Mr. & Mr$. Funky Vegas performing The Puppetmaster of Vegas and Mike Cuccaro with puppet dating game. I joined up with Mike for a hand puppet show and I ended the night performing puppet weddings for all interested participants. Luck of the Puppets was the produced as part of the Trespass performance residency series at Future Tenant Art Space. Drinks were provided by Straub and Woodchuck Cider.