Up In Arms
’ latest puppet musical, “Monster Intelligence
“, makes its debut with 3 shows free to the public in Orange County, New York on May 10, June 7 and June 14, 2014. Looking back, it’s been quite the journey. Over a year ago, many of my friends in the puppet community had been discussing the hurdles we face as full time artists. Bookings were and continue to be low and balancing budgets and the prospect of producing new shows becomes difficult to reconcile. This article won’t be about the hardships that we all know too well. I’d rather focus on the triumphs and community of puppeteers and supporters who made this show possible.
Last year, I became aware of a grant available through our county office of tourism which promotes arts events here in Orange County, NY. Several grants would be awarded at a maximum of $5000. Part of the funding had to come from the applying organization which just meant I had to show that I was investing in my project as well. It was my first grant and I had two very smart and educated nieces guiding me as they were both familiar with the grant writing process. Months after the grant was finalized, I was notified that I was a successful applicant and my project would move ahead with funds from Orange County Tourism and the County of Orange. This is the major reason why the show was even able to move forward in production.
The grant and budget would pay for the script writer, music arranger, recording studio, puppet materials, additional puppet builder, scenery and props, photographer, talent rehearsal and performance stipend. Along with that, I had a community of people ready to lend a hand. Derek Lux is a builder from LA who was kind enough to buy an Up In Arms t-shirt when I had them printed to raise funds. I always enjoyed his artistry and was happy to be able to employ him as my additional builder. Although the materials were supplied, he jumped in at a reduced fee to help build some of the puppets. Pasha Romanowski from Project Puppet has always been a champion of all we do at Up In Arms and lent his artistry in drawing some initial concept designs for many of the characters. When it came time to construct props, I needed a drawing of a young monster for a cereal box. Of course, Dave Hulteen came to mind and I knew just the character of his I wanted to use. When I asked for use of the character, he not only allowed me to use it but, mocked up what he thought the cereal box cover might look like and it’s now being used in the show. These are all people that I’ve developed relationships with online over the years but, it still fills me with love and support that these people believe in what I do. Relationships in this community are everything to me. I met puppeteer Charlie Kanev at the POA festival in Swarthmore, PA last summer and he wanted to help in any way he could. I want to support this young talent, not only because of the friendship we’ve forged but, because of the amazing artistry and potential that he so obviously has. When I needed a butterfly for the opening scene, Charlie, with his knowledge of rod puppet mechs, built me a beautiful butterfly rod puppet with flapping wings. Charlie was instrumental in designing and painting some of the set pieces as well and will be puppeteering for the premiere performances. A designer I met at the Puppetry Guild of Greater New York (NYC) was Justin DuPont who designed and built a simple rolling frame for the monster’s doors which roll on and off during the show.
I took Colette Searls’ workshop “Directing for Puppetry” at the POA conference and realized that I’ve had to direct from within for my shows, being both director and puppeteer. Having an outside look at your show or having someone with that vision can be so helpful. With all of the great music and artistry that’s already gone into “Monster Intelligence”, I wanted it to achieve a greater vision. One of my favorite puppeteers that I’ve worked with on “Helping Drew” is Amy Rush
as she’s always inspired better performance from me. I also met Joshua Holden
, another amazing artist at the POA Festival, and enlisted the two to workshop “Monster Intelligence” so I could have that outside look and observe what’s possible with the various characters and their scenes. Amy and Joshua were a joy to work with and helped me see a better vision for “Monster Intelligence” that I couldn’t have completely seen for myself.
Of course, there are more than just puppeteers and puppet builders that made this show happen. I’m lucky to be part of an arts community where I live and called upon talented friends for the initial table-read of the show, vocal talent to record the show, Scott Test, our exceptional music arranger, my friend Hannah Blair Butler who created costumes for a few of the characters and, my insanely talented friend John Simpkins in Oregon who painted the backdrop for the show. Major kudos, of course, to my creative partner and script writer Alex Ishkanian for taking on the ‘monster’ task of bringing this story to life. “Monster Intelligence” is ready to be embraced by an audience with a community of exceptionally talented and caring individuals behind it.
Article by David Manley