Carrboro Commons

Puppet show plays with imagination

Posted on March 3rd, 2011 in Carrboro children,Events by jock

By Alex Linder

Carrboro Commons Staff Writer

When most people think of a puppet show they imagine “The Muppets,” or marionettes, small puppets controlled by the hand. In Carrboro, people enjoy puppet shows in the form of giant puppets, papier-mache creatures, engaging masks and shadow plays.

Paperhand Puppet Intervention, a group of artists, actors and musicians based in Saxapahaw, a town near Burlington, has carved out their unique vision in the community. Their most recent production, “The Big Tent Cabaret Road Show,” opened in the Carrboro ArtsCenter last weekend.

Donovan Zimmerman, the co-founder of Paperhand Puppet Intervention pumps the crowd up before the Big Tent Cabaret Road Show. Staff photo by Alex Linder

“What I expected I was going to see was something very different from what I got,” said Amy Collins, 36, of Carrboro, after seeing her first Paperhand performance. “I was really shocked by the size and creativity of their puppets. It was the furthest thing from people just talking with their hands.”

The first part of the show consists of seven vignettes, or short scenes. Donovan Zimmerman, 40, the co-director of the show and co-founder of Paperhand Puppet Intervention, said that the different pieces cover a range of human emotions.

“The production is a collection of really fun vignettes that range from really silly, to touching and sweet, to somewhat exciting and crazy,” said Zimmerman, who plays many of the characters in the performance.

The show felt familiar to many in the audience who had seen a Paperhand production before since it included some favorite puppets from past performances.

“When my daughter saw the frog puppet she let out a little yelp of glee,” said Beth Dunlap, 42, of Carrboro, who has taken her daughter, Samantha, to see Paperhand shows five times. “She really gets a kick out of him.”

Daniel Woodard, 40, said that he has taken his children to the Paperhand performance in the Forest Theatre every fall for the past three years. This was the first time he had seen Paperhand at the less spacious ArtsCenter.

In the front row, Martin Gonzalez, 10, and Alex Stewart, 9, are amazed by a giant puppet. Staff photo by Alex Linder

“It was quite different; the performers were closer and it felt a bit more intimate,” he said. “Still, they opened it up by taking the puppets into the audience, which is always such a real treat for the kids.”

Zimmerman said that he really tries to get the crowd involved with the performance.

“It’s really all about that connection with the audience,” he said. “I think that’s why people love our work and come back in big numbers, especially because they feel they are a part of it in some way.”

Zimmerman said that there is also a part of Paperhand that is constantly pushing and looking for new, interesting ways to entertain the audience and produce emotion. The show’s second half, “Lumanity,” exhibited this effort.

An experiment with light and dance, the performance takes place in the dark. The performers wear suits with stick figures of light that appear to be floating off the ground.

“The performance begins with a cell and out of that comes the different characters,” Zimmerman said. “It unfolds from there and gets funky when we bring in the drums.”

Woodard said that both the adults and children came away very impressed. “I thought it was amazing,” he said. “I rarely see Jordan sit so long without moving, so I know that he was just as stunned as I was.”

“The Big Tent Cabaret Roadshow” continues through March 6. Show times are available on the ArtsCenter website.

“We are so lucky that Paperhand calls Carrboro one of their homes,” Dunlap said. “They are a real gem and a Triangle secret.”

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