Friday, April 26, 2013

20th Anniversary Memories - Cat's Cradle, Brains & Puppets, & Hiroshima

Barry Weil in Brains and Puppets

Hi, Barry Weil of Evolve Company here. My creative partner Tanya Khordoc and I are puppeteers, and our company has been given some amazing opportunities (as well as some really weird challenges) through the work we’ve done with UTC61. When Edward asked me to write a reminiscence of the 2008 Walkerspace plays (Cat’s Cradle, Brains & Puppets and Hiroshima: Crucible of Light), I have to admit that it took me a while to actually come up with anything. Not because it was an uneventful experience – far from it. It’s just that Tanya and I were so involved in all three plays that our memories are a very tired blur.

At one point, while Cat’s Cradle was running, I remember ending an evening performance and heading uptown to Edward’s place to help Tanya cut out Brains & Puppets shadow figures for hours, catnapping on Edward’s couch briefly and then getting up to perform a matinee of Cat’s Cradle. Tanya’s schedule was similar, though she probably wins the crazy award for setting her model of the Trinity nuclear site watchtower on fire in her living room (not out of frustration, I should add, but for filming purposes).
One of many models from Cat's Cradle

Confused? It went down like this: Tanya and I designed and built two huge bakers’ racks full of puppet/models for Cat’s Cradle, which I puppeteered while also having an acting role in the production. Tanya created stop-motion models for Hiroshima, and we each directed, designed and performed one of Edward’s two single-person plays that made up Brains & Puppets. On top of that, I designed the brochure and graphic art for the entire endeavor. Now, when you’re in college, staying up all night is fun, and you can do that amount of work without breaking a sweat. When you’re forty and attempting it…well, you just want to lie down for a few minutes. Or a week.

So why would anyone in their right mind do things like this? Well, the plays were amazing, and we’d have to have been insane not to be a part of them. How often do you get to create a model airplane that mounts to a video camera and crashes into a sand castle, or a pair of elegant Leonardo da Vinci wings? A tiny period UNIVAC computer decorated for a Christmas party, or Matisse and Kandinsky paintings that come to life? A multicolored dragon with an East European growl, or a miniature Caribbean dictatorship with its own flag, buildings, hotels, shantytown and taxicabs?
Tanya Khordoc in Brains and Puppets

We’ve always loved the way UTC61 incorporates puppetry into its work, and appreciates its value as a unique form of theatre. And Edward has always shared our joy in getting to create and use cool things. That’s definitely worth a few days’ sleep. Over the years, Evolve has provided UTC #61 with living houses, electronic sheep and intricate temple arks that contain shadow puppet shows. And we always look forward to hearing a crazy idea and realizing there’s no way we can say no.

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