Carol H’s Review: In these COVID-19 days, perhaps these musings might have crossed The Bard of Avon’s mind…In this brave new world, all our yesterday’s have departed in one fell swoop. As good luck would have it, my fellow Bard Perry and her merry troupe step forth to provide mirth for the masses. Warning: Not for the faint hearted.
A few days after the virus interrupted our daily lives, a teacher friend posted some thoughts on Facebook about instructing her students with puppets. Her puppet comment stirred some nostalgic emotions within me. When my son was young, my father made him a puppet theater. I cobbled together some scruffy, notably unbeautiful puppets with which we entertained ourselves, neighbors and friends in our delightful, homegrown shows. When I say entertain, I mean my son and I enjoyed this activity until he was too old to play with puppets. We are still waiting on the reviews from neighbors and friends.
Years later, we passed the puppet theater on to some new kids on the block before we packed up and left for Asheville. We mistakenly believed we would never need to use this puppet theater again. How wrong we were, I have been informed by the puppet master within, who has currently taken over for The Circus. I felt strongly that I had kept the puppets…in a box somewhere in our current basement.
After spending three minutes staring at the 30 or so boxes in the basement (many which house the belongings of my son), I decided to make new puppets. I have a hidden talent for making creatures from socks. I have a bag full of socks which have been donated toward this cause. The sock puppet, being the natural offspring of used socks, is a simply-assembled toy for children of all ages. Some 63-year-olds are easily pacified by a few stitches, buttons and stuffing which constitute the creation of new, delightful personalities. Yes, as the lips are formed and the eyes attached, something magical occurs. A poet, a policeman, a matron of flower shows, a child of four, a mystical witch. Someone arrives at my sewing table. And then stories are unleashed from within.
Last Sunday, I visited with some old church friends on Zoom. Seeing those faces and hearing how everyone was faring was a soothing and enjoyable experience. Then someone mentioned the plays. Yes, the plays that I wrote. And directed. Which were performed by a group of hardy, good-natured actors from that church. I felt instantly dragged to the past in the Way-Back Machine, to that time and place where I bravely explored my comedic side and boldly recruited friends to say my words out loud. The memory of that time caused the Broadway producer in me (yep, there are a lot of creative forces in there!) to leap for joy. Puppets! Plays! A joyful combination. Get writing! So, I did.
Then what? Recording my creations seemed the most prudent method of showcasing their fabulosity. The following information is provided for those not in the film industry:
Vocabulary Lesson #1: Conundrum, noun: When you know fuck-all of what to do about something. Case in point, filming a puppet show. I got a new camera for Christmas. It’s a fancy Olympus, completely waterproof, in case I want to photograph sea turtles in their natural habitat or something. There’s an on switch and an off switch for making movies. The Olympus T-6 manual gives its operators no further instructions. Zilch on lighting, zip on sound, zero hints on playback, editing or popping that sucker onto your blog. Which seem like fair exclusions until you try to make a movie from a puppet show. All hell breaks loose and the problem solving that ensues could very well break a lesser being. Unless you happen to have a good problem solver in residence. Lucky me. My husband joined me in this cinematic adventure.
Vocabulary Lesson #2: Bugbear, noun: An ongoing irritant. I love to make up words and I wish I could take credit for this lovely one, but it’s a real word in the dictionary. Here, I’ll use it in a sentence: Making a movie when you don’t know how to make a movie is a real bugbear. It’s much more polite than the words I am accustomed to using when describing irritants.
Vocabulary Lesson #3: Persevere, verb: Continuing to do something you can’t do until you pull out all your hair or you actually get it done, even if it’s in a sort-of, kind-of way. Never let the bugbears stop you from doing something for which you are ill-equipped. The sound track for this word is Don’t Stop Believing by Journey.
The first problem to arise was the lack of a puppet theater. When I asked myself: WWSD? (What would Shakespeare do?) I decided that he would drink a beer, because that’s what they all drank back then, even the children. I drank a beer. It was really good, from the local brewery down the street. Then I got distracted by something on TV and forgot about the puppet theater, which turned out to be a good thing because we decided to use our dining table, which provides a means of hiding the puppeteer and that’s all we really needed.
Next was the camera. In the absence of film editing software, we decided to “go live.” Then we discarded that idea as completely stupid because it would be beyond our digital fumbling and technical guesswork. Perhaps what we meant was “go raw,” with no editing. At this point, I felt we would be recording this play multiple times until we got it right, or just drink more beer and go with whatever. At the very least, we could mount the camera on the tripod and see what happened. We decided that drinking beer with every problem would either result in a drunken, fumbling series of mishaps or the most magnificent movie ever to hit the screens. Then I fell asleep on the couch, which made me grumpy when I had to wake up to go to bed.
Lighting was very tricky as we have very little natural lighting in our dining room and no stage lights. Our overhead light fixture resembles something sewn together by Dr. Frankenstein. It’s ancient, with several limbs reaching out like the snakes of Medusa. Each arm houses a light bulb. Some emit a yellow light and others a white light. This results in a mottled, hoary look for all who assemble beneath it. Without the benefit of beer, we decided mottled and hoary was exactly the look we were going for in terms of the play’s ambiance. Gray, leaden and primeval. The drear of yore.
The last problem we encountered was sound. Hearing the voices from under the table proved difficult on film. We do not own any microphones. So, I adopted that time-tested technique used by Shakespearean players of old, I shouted! As silly as that felt, from there under the table, it worked. A thundering bellow, a keening wail, a blasting dialogue, a howling yowl. They all seemed perfectly at home when spoken in the words of The Bard. You be the judge.
Film equipment assembled, puppets, dialogue (thanks to Willie S) and crew at the ready, we forged ahead with the silliest thing we’ve done in a while. So, pop some popcorn, pour your beverage of choice, it’s all of 3 plus minutes. Possibly the best/worst 3 plus minutes you’ve wasted today. If we aren’t exhuming Shakespeare, he’ll surely, vengefully rise from the dead to defend his name.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome!
Wash Your Hands You Filthy, Rotten Scoundrel
This is what boredom begets,
Guest Editor Carol H. is keeping busy in these days of social distancing with her two new dogs! She may have a direct line to our mutual friend named Shakespeare as you can tell from her review. Her vocabulary suggestions added greatly to the tone of this story. In defense of her integrity, she had nothing to do with the making of this silly film.