Puppets, Run for Your Lives! -- OMG, They Can't!

No puppet is safe when Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre presents its eighth annual puppet slam, PUPPETSPLOITATION, at the Midtown Art Center, so puppets everywhere must be breathing a sense of relief that the slam ended this weekend. Fire is a constant hazard, puppets are murdered and alien puppets have ray guns that work!

In Arachnobat, a young female spider leaves her possessive Daddy spider, who steps on her crush on Spiderman, and she tries to walk a tightrope under a circus tent. She is cheered on: "Break a leg!" corrected to: "Break eight legs!" It takes two puppeteers to manage the attempt at this daring feat (feet?). I don't want to give away the ending -- but you can bet the writers, Paedarchy Puppets, opted for high (get it?) drama.

At the spider finale, a young narrator with considerable stage presence, Chris Crawford, juggles badly but cheerfully, and announces: "What have we learned? Nothing. Where do we go from here? Nowhere." Refreshing.

The Time Is Not Now is a saga told with rear projection and shadow puppets, as Tibet is invaded by the Chinese, who have a confrontation with the United States, and both sides hurl nuclear bombs until aliens interfere with rays that flash red as they zap the poor puppet earthlings. The puppet death toll must have been monstrous, but who's counting -- they're puppets.

Toiletry is a brief bit of conservative-bashing -- heavy-handed, with some wit, involving three toilet seats. I thought: "At least no puppets are slaughtered." Then I heard the sound of flushing -- and I knew I'd spoken too soon.

In Hex, a miniature puppet husband has his head ripped off, but is nonetheless returned to his dinner table to finish the meal. There were a lot of toys involved, apparently to throw us off the scent until the true puppeteer ruthlessness emerged.

Fire Is a Bad Puppet is a video from the archives, and is invaluable in documenting why fire and puppetry don't work well together. Not only can a puppet be immolated -- its screams during this are bone-chilling -- but the entire set can catch fire as well.

The annual Puppet Slam is closer to a workshop than a finished production, as there is little or no attempt to conceal how the illusions are created. For those who want classes in puppetry, or want to participate, there is more information at, or call Joel Orr at 713-259-1304 or e-mail [email protected] Joel and Camella Clements are the producers.

As for me, I'll be busy forming TAPOP -- The Association for the Protection Of Puppets.

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Jim Tommaney