Recently, I’ve had to think about how I live my life to its fullest, and honestly…it’s puppet shows.
Outside my work as Program Director at New Country Day Camp, I make theater with puppets and perform as a puppeteer.
I try to remember every day that life is an opportunity to learn as much as I can about as many things as I can, and to bring the things I learn to the people around me–people I know and love and people I’ve never met before.
And I do this by making puppet shows.
The first step in making a new work is listening to my preoccupations. I almost never go looking for a subject of a project–finding my subject is more like getting hit on the head by it. I’ll realize that my mind has been returning to something again and again, and a project starts to come into focus.
For example, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way communities arrange themselves around values and spirituality, and about the impact of celebrity on society. Those two things started to resolve themselves into a story in my head: what would it look like if a small community came together in spiritual practice around a celebrity?
Only one way to find out: make a puppet show.
Once that was clear, and I started to understand that I’d definitely end up making some puppet theater about this idea, I started reading. I read books about spirituality in a time of consumer culture, I read theories of fame and celebrity,and I read about the histories of small religious communities. Eventually I narrowed my focus to neolithic goddesses worship and Diana, Princess of Wales.
Suddenly I was making a puppet show about a religion where people worship Princess Diana.
And that led to research and a lot of questions: what kinds of rituals did goddess religions enact? In what kinds of spaces did they worship? What were the values of those communities? What was behind the Princess Diana phenomenon? What did her biggest fans love about her the most? What did she represent for them? What kinds of materials and objects were created that held those meanings?
I developed some rituals, designed an environment, and conceived a giant Princess Diana puppet that would be used in the practice.
THEN I had to learn what kinds of skills and materials I’d need to produce all the stuff in this world. Another round of research, then developing skills, designing and redesigning, and then a LOT of time in my studio. I spent my days at the table saw and my nights at the sewing machine, building prototypes, developing techniques, covered with sawdust and paint and pricked all over with needles and burned with hot glue.
I assemble a team of performers, work with them to build the performance itself–sometimes leading them through the process of devising choreography, sometimes taking their lead. We have long conversations about the topic at hand, about making art, about friendships and families and goddesses and Carly Rae Jepsen (just because).
AND THEN the whole process culminates in finally showing the piece to the public, (last weekend at St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO) and the richest, most complicated part of the experience–talking to people about their impressions and interpretations, and about my intentions. And in this case, talking to someone who knew Princess Diana (and who assures me she would have loved the piece, or at least, wouldn’t have been too offended).
To me, this is living fully: thinking deeply, listening to my instincts, investigating culture and history and art and kitsch, learning facts, developing skills, getting my hands dirty, collecting my community around me, and engaging with people from outside my circle and making new connections.
Puppet shows. Yes.
Interested in hearing more stories from the LGBTQIA+ community? Join us at Full Disclosure!
Full Disclosure: A night of storytelling celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community
Monday, June 17 | 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Caveat, 21 A Clinton Street, NYC
To celebrate the diverse history that lives at the heart of the LGBTQIA+ community, we are hosting a night purely dedicated to sharing these stories. You will hear from EA staff and members about who they are, where they are from, and what it means to be an LGBTQIA+ person. Putting their stories at the forefront, this night will be a night to celebrate and come alongside them in their journey to live free, love fierce.
General Admission $15. Must be 21+
Learn more about other PRIDE events happening at the 14th Street Y and across Downtown Manhattan.