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Edited and Published by Robert W. McDowell

September 8, 2022 Issue
PART 2 (September 5, 2022)

A FREE Weekly E-mail Newsletter Covering Theater, Dance, Music, and Film in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill/Carrboro Area of North Carolina Since April 2001.

PART 2A: TRIANGLE THEATER REVIEW BY MELISSA ROONEY

Paperhand Puppet Intervention's 2022 Summer Show, The Meanwhile Clock
and Other Impossible Dances
, Is Like a Pilgrimage to a Corroboree


Paperhand Puppet Intervention will stage The Meanwhile Clock and Other Impossible Dances on Sept. 5, 9-11, and 16-18 in UNC-Chapel
Hill's Forest Theatre and on Sept. 23-25 in the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh

My entire family was grateful to celebrate Labor Day this year with the Paperhand Puppet Intervention (PPI) in UNC-Chapel Hill's Forest Theatre. Going to a Paperhand Puppet Intervention performance is like pilgrimaging to a Australian aboriginal corroboree, where magical ceremonies teach ancestral truths, pulling everyone present into the community. And it's all the more impactful when it occurs in a ruins-like amphitheater in a forest in the heat of a late-summer sunset.

Paperhand also will present its 22nd annual summer show, entitled The Meanwhile Clock and Other Impossible Dances, on Sept. 5, 9-11, and 16-18 in the Forest Theatre at UNC-Chapel Hill and on Sept. 23-25 in the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. As in past years, each performance is preceded by a 40-minute preshow of live music, during which the audience flows in and sets up blankets, picnic baskets, and children, generally recognizing someone else in the crowd in the process. (Click here to view the preshow schedule.)

At show time, PPI co-founder Donovan Zimmerman walked onto the dirt stage, introduced himself, and called for a moment of thanks to the Native American Tribes who once lovingly maintained the land that we now occupy. The amphitheater was full, with people sitting on the surrounding stone walls, in part because a lot of past interns, volunteers, and artists were in attendance, making the atmosphere positively energetic. Zimmerman asked the audience to embrace their role in the show, encouraging "Oooh's," "AAAh's," and even "Boo's" if we didn't like a character or scene. The amplitude and sincerity of the cheerful vocality around us made it easy to join in.


Paperhand Puppet Intervention will stage The Meanwhile Clock and Other Impossible Dances on Sept. 5, 9-11, and 16-18 in UNC-Chapel
Hill's Forest Theatre and on Sept. 23-25 in the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh

Four giant, brilliantly blue horseshoe crabs crawled out on stage, their intricate legs dangling beneath the black-clothed puppetteers hiding under their shells. They were joined by giant red knot birds in flock, their human controllers walking on stilts. Next, an old man with a large tree stump appeared, followed by a woman named MoMo, who sang, "Hello trees, Hello sky.... hello wind, clouds, rain, sun...." The children play with MoMo and love her, causing the adults in the village to embrace her as well. They have a life of laughter and grateful happiness.

Then the bankers move in -- smoke-encircled men in grey, holding cigars. The people become concerned with efficiency and making and saving money. There is no time to play or chat with friends or even water the flowers. A machine man that stretches from one side of the stage to the other appears, and two giant grey men with giant cigars in their hands and city skylines on their backs tromp around the stage. MoMo rebukes one of the life-sized grey men, then looks at him closely and says, "You sound sad. Are you sad?" He seems overwhelmed by this simple act of kindness.


Paperhand Puppet Intervention will stage The Meanwhile Clock and Other Impossible Dances on Sept. 5, 9-11, and 16-18 in UNC-Chapel
Hill's Forest Theatre and on Sept. 23-25 in the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh

Then, much as in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, MoMo is transported through time and space to a grey-haired, brown-skinned female professor wearing large cat-eye glasses. The professor takes MoMo through the wonders of Nature that have literally comprised all of our histories throughout millennia. As the professor speaks, she magically transforms into a snail, then a trilobite, an octopus, a fox, and more, as giant crabs, birds, and loggerhead sea turtles swim around her. "We have all the time in the world," she sings.

The lights are extinguished, and giant illuminated peace lilies parade up the center of the audience. The show ends with similarly themed shadow puppetry behind a lighted screen, the ticking of the clock echoing in the background.


Paperhand Puppet Intervention will stage The Meanwhile Clock and Other Impossible Dances on Sept. 5, 9-11, and 16-18 in UNC-Chapel
Hill's Forest Theatre and on Sept. 23-25 in the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh

If you are expecting a plot, don't. This performance is primarily a series of dances and pageantry, strung together by the common theme of slowing down our unnecessarily and unhealthy rat-race lives to care for the earth and ourselves. The show lasts an hour and 40 minutes; and though there were many preschool children in the audience, I never heard a cry or any other sign of disgruntlement.

The puppets are amazing, as always; and the band's live music, narration, and sound-making are jazzy, bluesy, percussive, and tribal, often at the same time. But the feeling of community and connection with the audience is the highlight -- it's a magic that can only be created with the right people, at the right place and the right time. Paperhand Puppet Intervention finds that sweet spot every year.


Paperhand Puppet Intervention will stage The Meanwhile Clock and Other Impossible Dances on Sept. 5, 9-11, and 16-18 in UNC-Chapel
Hill's Forest Theatre and on Sept. 23-25 in the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh

For more than two decades, Paperhand Puppet Intervention's directors, Donovan Zimmerman and Jan Burger, have been using cardboard, papier-mâché, bamboo, old house paints, cloth, and other assorted "trash" to create giant puppets, masks, and shadow plays and provide celebratory, activism-based performances for all who will attend (they still don't refuse those who don't have the money for tickets). According to PPI's website, "Community is the lifeblood of Paperhand," and it goes far more than just buying tickets. Their village of volunteers ranges from elementary-school children to retirees, and volunteers serve as assistant puppet creators and performers, in addition to performing supplementary roles, such as taking tickets. Paperhand Puppet Intervention also provides five internships every summer. Here's more on how to help sustain this wonderful organization: http://paperhand.org/sustainus/.

Paperhand Puppet Intervention's 22nd Annual Summer Show, THE MEANWHILE CLOCK AND OTHER IMPOSSIBLE DANCES (In Person at 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, with a 6:20 p.m. preshow, plus 7 p.m. Monday, with a 6:20 p.m. preshow on Sept. 5th and 3 p.m. Sunday, with a 2:20 p.m. preshow on Sept. 11th and 18th, at UNC-Chapel Hill's Forest Theatre and 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Sept. 23-25, in the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Amphitheater at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh). VIDEOS: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnsoFSoJA3mx0F6nyD-YUMw. (Click here to view videos and photos from past summer shows.) 2022 SUMMER SHOW & PRESHOW SCHEDULE: http://paperhand.org/calendar/. 2022 SUMMER SHOW Q≈A: http://paperhand.org/qa/. THE PRESENTER: http://paperhand.org/, https://www.facebook.com/PaperhandPuppetIntervention, https://www.instagram.com/paperhandpuppet/, https://twitter.com/PaperhandPuppet, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnsoFSoJA3mx0F6nyD-YUMw. THE VENUE: https://ncbg.unc.edu/visit/battle-park-forest-theatre/, https://uncatoz.com/entry/forest-theater/, and https://museum.unc.edu/exhibits/show/names/forest-theatre. DIRECTIONS/PARKING: https://ncbg.unc.edu/visit/battle-park-forest-theatre/. MAP: https://maps.unc.edu/history/unc-museum/forest-theatre/. COVID DASHBOARD: https://carolinatogether.unc.edu/dashboard/. TICKETS: $20 ($10 for children aged 4-14, and FREE for children 3 and under), plus taxes and fees. Click here to buy Chapel Hill tickets and here to buy Raleigh tickets. NOTE: No one will be turned away for lack of funds. INFORMATION: paperhand.org@gmail.com. PLEASE DONATE TO: Paperhand Puppet Intervention.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A Durham, NC resident for 20 years, Melissa Rooney is a scientific editor, freelance writer, and author of several science-based children's picture books. She has published children's stories and verse in Highlights Children's Magazine and Bay Leaves. Rooney earned undergraduate degrees in English and Chemistry from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA; and she earned a Ph.D. in Chemistry in 1998 from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Her stories Eddie the Electron and The Fate of The Frog form the basis of two workshops offered through the Durham Arts Council's Culture and Arts in the Public Schools (CAPS) program, through which Rooney teaches elementary- and middle-school students about electrons and atoms or sustainability and rhyme, respectively. When she isn't writing, editing, reading, teaching, or experiencing theater, Rooney volunteers as an Associate Supervisor on the Durham's Soil and Water Conservation District.

 


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