|Mina sees Lucy as an inviting snack in Dracula|
Somewhere in the late 1990s (I can't recall the exact date) I read of an audition for a puppet company and it turned out to be Hystopolis Productions, a company that was on the rise. They had just put together an amazing adaptation of Elmer Rice's The Adding Machine which had gone to the now defunct Jim Henson International Puppet Festival in New York and was quite a sensation there. They were looking to start up a junior ensemble of beginner puppeteers who would tour the Midwest with kid's shows - which had been their focus for years - while the founders, Larry Basgall and Michael Schwabe, continued to develop more advanced adult shows like The Adding Machine and their previous hit Ubu Roi, based on Alfred Jarry's play.
Bunraku style puppetry. Most of the puppets were hand and glove puppets (like Rump at right), a few were rod puppets, and some were nothing more that objects on a stick. I operated three puppets and did their voices: Puss in Boots (who wanders in from another story as a cameo), a character named Egghead (I can't remember its purpose), and Rumpelstiltskin. We were also required to learn other parts in case one of us was unavailable for a gig. So I also learned to operate three or four other puppets and do my version of those voices as well. Later we developed an original script I devised for a holiday touring show called A Dragon for Christmas. For that play I operated two puppets and did their voices: the Wizard and Queen Foradae. There was also an ill-fated attempt at an African folktale show that was more masks and movement than puppetry. It had a story about Anansi the Spider, a cool leopard, and had an amazing elephant puppet in it. I think we did it only once though. I have not been big on picture taking when it came to theater and casts I was a part of and so I have nothing to show for this part of my life. I do, however, still have the original script for A Dragon for Christmas.
|Dracula attacks Professor Van Helsing as Lucy looks on.|
Larry and Michael now live in Michigan. Michael, who founded the company back in the late 1980s, still teaches puppetry. According to his Facebook page for Hystopolis Productions he taught a workshop at Ox Bow in Saugatuck this past summer. I miss those guys. We had a blast touring Illinois and making trips to the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis doing all those shows. Getting drunk and high in hotel rooms, laughing a lot, taking turns driving the dilapidated van all over the Midwest, and doing really good puppetry. It was one of the better theater related periods in my life.
For more photos of Hystopolis Productions' fantastically rendered version of Dracula go here.