BooTown Presents "River Bottom Rules": A Strange Story of Childhood

The kids in Highlands, Texas, have strange childhood stories.
The kids in Highlands, Texas, have strange childhood stories.

When you think about the rules you learned as a kid, you probably remember that sharing is caring and if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it. But, the children of Highlands, Texas, learn to follow three completely different rules: Never love a pet, always count on a flood and always wear white underwear.

For the final show of its fifth season, BooTown presents River Bottom Rules -- a docudrama-puppet show that tells an odd story of childhood in Highlands, Texas, Friday and Saturday.

The story follows a little girl as she learns those three golden rules. These are not ordinary lessons to teach children, but in Highlands, they are the rules of the land. It's a show you have to see to understand.

BooTown's Associate Artistic Director, Lindsay Burleson, says she grew up thinking that everyone had the same childhood memories she had, but after telling stories of forklifts, outlaws and hill-size dumps, she realized her past was unusual.

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"For years I thought everybody grew up like that," Burleson says. "The people [that others] would see as scary, those were my babysitters; I saw a different side of them."

Burleson uses shadow puppetry along with projectors, photographs and video to give the audience a full sense of what life was like in Highlands. The photographs and videos document the floods or any crimes that occurred during the early '80s and '90s, says Burleson.

"The set is built out of two screen doors with a projector," BooTown Artistic Director Emily Hynds says. "There could be video projected on one screen at one time with another puppet."

The story is told through the innocent eyes of a little girl.

"A child remembers more of the images and the feelings and the sensations of it," Burleson says. "They are fantasized through imagery."

This is the second shadow puppet production from BooTown. Hynds explains that the manner in which this show is produced is more complicated than their previous show, A Bloody Puppet Show.

"We are using all kinds of things," Hynds says. "We are experimenting with liquid, using multiple projectors so we can have scene changes...We have done a puppet show before, [but] this is completely different."

For this larger show, BooTown asks all attendees to pay what they want after the show to give them feedback on how each person enjoyed the production.

River Bottom Rules will take place in the backyard of 1740 Harold Street, June 29 and 30, at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

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