Shapeshifting

Beast by Shelley and Brenda

Beast by Shelley and Brenda

Wednesday, June 5th 2013

In my Monday meeting with Michael, Sonja and Farah on Monday, we talked about what elements of our production we would like to have ready for the Solstice (June 21st).  We agreed that it would be great to have a puppet performance prepared, and that we would like to have some audience interaction with the puppets.

One of the challenges that I have been pondering is how to create new characters, while using this performance as an opportunity to display the beautiful puppets that we made for Under One Tent.  I like the theme of Creation Story, and I have been excited about the possibilities for creating lush and flamboyant puppet creatures to suit the voice-characters that we recently developed.  I haven’t wanted to return to the original characters that we made for the cone-puppets, because we spent a lot of time working with those throughout the winter, and our group needs something fresh.

Beast by Rebecca and Shelley

Beast by Rebecca and Shelley

During our meeting, Sonja suggested that we create storylines that feature some kind of a transformation.  She suggested that we make mythical-creature costumes for the puppets – these would be fairly easy to construct, and would allow us to add a new element while building on what we already have.  I think that given the construction of the puppets (hard, clay heads with long fabric bodies that fit inside of a cone), an easy costume design would be to make a head-piece that fits securely on to the puppet head, and can be built upon to create a flashy, magical headdress.  To transform the bodies, it would be fairly simple to create a standard cloak that can be painted and embellished with fabric, sequins and feathers.

I did some research on various shape-shifting stories, and I discovered that one of the main narrative features is to have a transformation occur for reasons of either imprisonment or liberation. In Beauty and the Beast, for example, the prince has been imprisoned in a Beast’s body, and only love without judgement can set him free and turn him back into a prince.  In other stories, such as the Selke stories of Scotland, Ireland and Wales, captive seal-wives find the sealskins that their human-husbands stole, and they are thus able to return to their true homes in the ocean.

Beast by Michelle and Marlene

Beast by Michelle and Marlene

Based on experience, I think that an effective way to develop stories with this group is to start with the characters, and then move toward story-development.  This also keeps in line with Michael’s aim to maintain a stronger focus on the act of creating vs. the ideas surrounding creation (sounds like grad-school therapy to me).  I decided to start with the game of ‘exquisite-corpse’.  I asked the participants to think of a habitat, or several habitats that their creature might be able to live in, and then I interviewed them about what the creature looks like.  I asked them to draw the head of the creature, using pastels, on the top portion of a large white piece of paper that I had folded into thirds.  After each head was finished, we passed the creatures to our left.  I asked the participants to draw the torso and bottom-third of their creature as though its body were a cloak, while keeping the top-third folded over.

Beast by Brenda and Michelle

Beast by Brenda and Michelle

The interview and drawing exercise (including an opening warm-up and sit) took up our entire two hours.   I had been hoping to make it to some story development this week, but that will have to wait.  I plan to ask participants some basic questions that can be expanded into larger stories.  I.e. ‘Is this the creature’s natural form, or did it start as a human?’  ‘Did it become this creature as a form of escape?’  What was it escaping from?’ – etc. etc.  I might also try to think of ways that our stories can relate to remembered events in our lives.  I think that sometimes magical stories rise from real stories regardless of the teller’s intent, but it might be interesting and fun to deliberately turn our lived-stories into myths.  There is a danger, however, that this will make the activity too structured and complex, which could have the effect of dampening creativity.  I will need to think on this one.

–          RB

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About lilman

Leftist Cowboy.
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