Tired, she said, of people referring to her only as a “singer-guitar playing girl,” Ronley Teper slid on a sock puppet.
The puppet then led Ms. Teper’s band through a song. After which Ms. Teper played guitar, as the band – Her Lipliners – worked a chorus of sock puppets to accompany her.
Later on in the show, called Feed the Birds – a cabaret of puppetry and performing objects that had its third installment this Wednesday at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre – the musicians backed up bekky O’Neil, as Ms. O’Neil performed a work of lantern puppetry titled Infinity in the Palm of your Hand: A History of the World.
Going to Feed The Birds, I was expecting a show of slightly eccentric craftsmanship, after watching toy with me, a stop-motion puppetry video by Quality Slippers Productions, to be screened that night.
Not only was the work a bit quirky though, at times it was on a whole other level of experimentation from what I’ve seen.
In one work, titled Conflict Resolution by Do What You Can, we see its performers, their heads covered by cardboard tubes with big faces painted on them, dispute over the placement of an onion. One team would move it a few feet to the left on stage, to the exaggerated glee of comrades, before the other team would – with great care – move the onion back a few feet to the right, to equal accolades on their own side. Suddenly, a singing man in a dress unites the two sides for a few moments.
In Untitled by What is Needed, featuring Adriana Disman and Sophie Traub, the performers do things with a birthday cake that elicited laughter and sounds of disgust from the audience.
Ms. Traub later performed a chorale ode from The Bacchus, while playing an enormous keyboard.
During a short intermission, a picnic blanket was spread in front of the stage, in preparation for “it is always best to start with the potato…” OR “Sources of Starch” by The Bricoteer Puppetry Project.
“it is always best to start with the potato …” OR “Sources of Starch” is what’s called ritual theatre, which draws heavily on audience participation. It also featured a character named Mister Egg Timer reading an abridged history of the potato, and a lot of rice throwing.
Additionally, David di Giovanni performed two works. The Andy Kaufman-esque, The Birth & Death of Sheesus Part I: She’s Alive, and one in cross-dress titled The Birth & Death of Sheesus Part II: I will always love you.
Couched between these performances, presided over by Marco Bernardi, were three filmed works – the aforementioned toy with me, The Krellant Evening News Holiday Special, and Begging To Be Told by Short & Tall Pictures.
The latter were technically meticulous puppetry pieces, and, especially in the case of toy with me, and Begging To Be Told too, quixotic in tenor.
The Krellant Evening News Holiday Special was more political satire; like the Krellant Special Report on Occupy Toronto.
The audience seemed to have a really good time – I know I did – laughing a lot, cheering – particularly for the epic fantasia that is Infinity in the Palm of your Hand: A History of the World – and, indulging in – free! – vegan grilled cheese sandwiches.
I’m not sure when the next installment of Feed The Birds is. But this night of fantastic imaginative fecundity is now part of the Puppet Slam Network, so theirs is a good website to check. I’d very strongly recommend going.
Photo: bekky O’Neil performing Infinity in the Palm of your Hand: A History of the World; photo taken by Amanda Michael Row