The Art of Puppet
I have worked with puppets in my own productions in the past, and I am a big fan of the medium. I make a point of taking in the local puppet theatre wherever I travel, and have seen an all-puppet Magic Flute in Vienna, Laterna Magika and the historic Divadlo Spejbla & Hurvínka in Prague, famed for their anti-fascist shows during World War II, and the bizarre and lovely puppetry of Theatre Zarko in Chicago. At the very least, I hope to be entertained at a puppet show, and at best I hope to learn something that I can lovingly adapt (read: steal) in my own work.
With these high hopes I attended my first performance at Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts, a show called “The Adventures of Mighty Bug” aimed at a 4 and up audience, and chronicling the adventures of superhero Mighty Bug in his fight to save his friends from the evil villainess Scorpiana.
In the end I enjoyed myself a great deal and saw some techniques that I had never seen before, concluding that the Center for Puppetry Arts has some of the most skilled puppeteers I have seen, at least on this continent.
Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts - For Little Kids and Big Kids
I had the pleasure of watching the show with a full house of elementary schoolers, who were surprisingly quiet and respectful (except when they erupted in laughter at the various pratfalls, puns, and antics of the performance). Behind me was the second grade class of Stoneview Elementary School, who had bussed in from Lithonia to see the show.
The show itself was fairly standard children’s theatre fare, combining some educational material about insects with a superhero narrative in which the protagonist, Mighty Bug, saves the other bugs from the predatory intentions of Scorpiana and her henchmen, a bear, a bat, and an anteater. Mighty Bug also managed to woo the lovely and melodious Morpha Butterfly, energetically portrayed by Stephanie Lloyd. Morpha delivers the one musical number in the show, “I’m Buggy ‘Bout You,” which, I will go ahead and warn you, is a perfect ear-worm. (See what I did there?)
Entomologist and Puppet Nerds Unite
Though the show is primarily aimed at kids, adults will appreciate the sophistication of the visuals, combining projection, shadow puppetry, marionettes, and live performers fairly seamlessly. They will also perhaps learn a few things about the differences between insects and bugs, where insects keep their brains (apparently in several places!), and, last but not least, why on earth dung beetles like dung so much.
Furthermore, puppet connoisseurs like myself will nerd out over the combination of projection and shadow puppetry, and particularly over a few clever shadow techniques, like a rolling landscape effect or the use of transparent objects in place of opaque silhouettes. Whether you are an aspiring entomologist, a puppetry nerd, a second grader from the burbs, or an adult “ally”, Might Bug is a thoroughly enjoyable hour of theatre.
Mighty Bug is showing now through March 12 at the Center for Puppetry Arts, 1404 Spring Street NW in Atlanta. Show-times and ticket prices are available at their website: www.puppet.org.
About the Author:
Derek Barton is a performance artist, educator, and director of both film and stage productions. A graduate of Northwestern's Performance Studies doctoral program, his
work explores issues of sustainability, social justice, and artistic
intervention in public space. For more on Dr. Barton, visit www.derekleebarton.com.