By Danielle Hanson
Every year dozens of artists come together in Xperimental Puppetry Theater (XPT), a program at the Center for Puppetry Arts that offers professional and emerging artists the opportunity to explore and experiment, creating original and bold puppet theater guaranteed to inspire and surprise adult audiences. From traditional forms of puppetry used in startling new ways, to films and installation pieces, XPT offers an array of stories, puppetry styles, and sensibilities in a single evening. It’s guaranteed to inspire, surprise, amuse, and provoke.
This year’s XPT features ten pieces from artists around the country and world. Two of those pieces, “Haunting the Wrong House” and “My Day,” are written and presented by artists living in Grant Park.
“Haunting the Wrong House” is a compilation of three poems, written by Grant Park resident Danielle Hanson, that together build a narrative about relationships and loss. From the chaos and terror of an infestation of angels, to the careful construction of a shared life, and the ending of that life together, the piece explores the tension between the spiritual and physical, between life and death. Directed by former Grant Park residents Therese Aun and Lorna Gentry, the piece is puppeteered by Grant Park resident Ann Peterle and Aun, with Hanson narrating. Chosewood Park resident Simon Reynolds is the scenic designer. “Haunting the Wrong House” will be performed using a variety of puppetry styles, including bunraku, shadow, and found object puppetry. Lighting and sound design are critical components in the piece and will be designed to create an immersive environment for the audience.
“My Day” is a live-action puppetry performance written and performed by Grant Park resident Annika Leisure. Leisure is a puppeteer and mental health professional interested in the promotion of mental well-being and the eradication of stigma over mental health issues. Up to 84% of people will hear a voice in their lives, with between 15-28% of people hearing voices somewhat regularly. Not the voices of people passing by, or in the next room over, or someone just in front of you – but they hear the voice or voices all the same. Voices can be positive, negative, or neutral. They can be male, female, or agender. They can be any age. They can appear to come from any direction. They can fade into the background in a mumble or get so loud that it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Modern horror and other media might have us believe otherwise, but in truth hearing voices is neither rare, nor inherently pathological. Under certain circumstances most people would hear voices. “My Day” is about a voice-hearer on an average day. It will use shadow, mask, and found object puppetry.
XPT will be performed May 16 through 19 at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Midtown. Tickets can be purchased at www.puppet.org/buy-tickets/2018-19/xperimental-puppetry-theater.