Performance students to debut stage puppet show Zoetrope on March 27

Puppeteering forces theatre students to re-learn basics of storytelling


Reported by Sam Mowers

Actors are giving up the spotlight, but are still pulling the strings, in Studio 58’s first puppet-only play.

In Zoetrope: The Curiosity of Puppet Oddities, the story is told through body language, not dialogue. Students learned new techniques to tell the tale of love and death set in a 1930s circus with some unusual characters. The performance is part of the Risky Nights Series, which has linked the classroom experience to a full theatre production for more than 17 seasons .

Cast and crew rehearse Studio 58’s Risky Nights production of ‘Zoetrope: The Curiosity of Puppet Oddities.’ Photo by
Sam Mowers

Actors re-learn basics of story-telling

Cast member William Edward said learning puppeteering required him to re-learn the basics of acting.

“As an actor it’s kind of like you’re doing the same job,” he said. “You really have to put yourself out there and be able to translate that emotion into a physical form.”

One of the new techniques students learned was three-person puppetry. Edward said coordinating with two other actors was a unique challenge.

“If you’re working with a puppet that has up to three people on it, you all really have to be listening to each other and breathing together,” he said.

Animating the inanimate

Zoetrope also everyday objects, like lamps, as characters. Cast member Heather Barr said that because puppets are inanimate, they demand more commitment from the audience, which can be a more rewarding experience.

“Everyone has a suspension of disbelief when they go to see theatre or go see a film, but when it’s puppets it’s like there’s this new level because they’re not people,” Barr said. “I feel like it automatically creates more of an investment from the audience.”

Stephanie Elgersma, one of Zoetrope’s directors, said though she has performed in a puppet show before, she had never directed one, and the Risky Nights Series is a good venue to try something new.

“There’s something really mysterious and curious about puppets that we respond to in a way that we don’t respond to digital things,” she said.

“I think there’s something to the fact that we’ve gone so digital in our world, that to come back to something tangible is quite beautiful.”

Zoetrope runs from March 27 to April 2 at Studio 58.



Cast and crew rehearse Studio 58’s Risky Nights production of ‘Zoetrope: The Curiosity of Puppet Oddities.’ Photo by Sam Mowers

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