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Bewildered Anew

Bewildered Anew



by Lei-Lei Bavoil
(Latest recipient of an UNIMA-USA Examine Overseas Scholarship)

When I discovered myself within the viewers of Loco on the Pageant Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes in Charleville-Mézières, I had been working as a puppeteer for some years, and as an actor for some extra. That’s to say that although Iʼm nonetheless early in my profession, as an viewers member, Iʼm not precisely harmless to the tips of the commerce. However as I sat and watched Tita Iacobelli and Marta Perreira flit across the stage with the puppet made by Natacha Belova, I grew to become as soon as extra a toddler earlier than a party magician. Or slightly, a party magician earlier than an actual wizard. It jogged my memory of the primary time I noticed puppetry as an grownup – that day, I used to be enraptured by how vivid these characters had been; it regarded like magic, and I sat in awe of the puppeteers who had been making all of it occur. However there, within the viewers of Loco, I used to be bewildered anew. The magician earlier than the wizard, the home cat earlier than the lion, the bell pepper earlier than the new sauce. When the chance arose to be taught from the wizards themselves, I sprang.

The corporate, Belova-Iacobelli, relies in Belgium, although Natacha and Tita are from Russia and Chile respectively, and Marta, their collaborator and Natachaʼs studio assistant, is Brazil born. They had been providing a workshop entitled “LʼAutre” or “The Different” which might entail a two week exploration of the grey area between the puppet and its puppeteer. I utilized concurrently to each the workshop and to UNIMAʼs Examine Overseas Scholarship, and had the good fortune to be accepted by each.

The workshop description states:

“Ranging from a textual content or a picture the place we are able to see « the opposite » or « others » who problem us, who provoke us, who modify our respiration, by way of the development of a puppet and manipulation methods, we are going to attempt to assimilate the presence of this « different ».”

This theme spoke to the precise feeling that I had whereas watching Loco, the place the presence of the puppeteer was not simply assumed, not simply seen, not simply practical, however one thing else. One thing different. I remembered my Balinese masks courses in faculty, the place the picture saved inside the masks would journey down my backbone and infect my cells. As we had been taught, it was not me who moved the masks, however one thing different. I needed to dive deeper into this query with puppetry.

Earlier than the workshop, the members had been inspired to reach with some inspiration – textual content, photos, tales, or initiatives in progress. On day one, we arrived at Espace Zinneke, a bric-a-brac artists collective with communal gathering area, workshops, rehearsal rooms, and a basement stuffed to the enamel with a creatorʼs dream of recuperated supplies. We had been a global bunch – 13 members hailing from Spain, Argentina, Belgium, France, Russia, Israel, and the USA (that was me). Natacha Belova and Tita Iacobelli launched themselves, their backgrounds and work, and all of us translated for one another. Between French, English, Spanish, Russian, and an honest quantity of miming, we hopped over the varied language obstacles with relative ease.

For the work forward, Natacha insisted on a laboratory course of. This was an opportunity to discover our private universe, our initiatives, our visions. She, Tita, and Marta, would offer development methods, supplies, manipulation ideas, workout routines, and views. They sought to not impose their universe upon our personal, however to help us within the quest for our particular person creations. She and Tita created an environment the place all types of inventive fancies had been welcome. No mission or persuasion or risk was discounted. Later that day, we descended into the inventory of Zinneke, and explored like treasure hunters their large assortment of knick knacks, costumes, uncooked supplies, and oddities, looking for inspiration and assets – free for the taking – for our subsequent two weeks. The day concluded within the rehearsal room, the place, in pairs, we selected puppet heads that had been supplied by Natacha, and below the path of Tita, created novel characters. Adorned with costume items and swaths of cloth scavenged from the inventory, there was an deserted bride, an previous girl pilfering in an attic, and an ethereal god misplaced in an ocean of emotion. The subsequent day, we’d launch into the analysis and development of our private puppet.

Natacha guided us by way of the steps. As she defined to us, she is self-taught, and sees no particular method as superior to a different. Due to this fact, she purposefully gave us solely essentially the most simple directions, and inspired us to seek for the precise methodology that suited us greatest. Whether or not we needed to work quick and make many mockups, or deal with one sculpt from the start, all was attainable. First we constructed up our heads in clay, mounted on picket platforms and a few rebar. As soon as we had been happy with the quantity of the face, we switched to warmth forming with worbla. Iʼd by no means performed this earlier than, and had all the time been a papier-maché devotee, however worbla is extremely straightforward to make use of and I beloved working with it. As soon as we had constructed up two layers, we might sculpt within the particulars, all whereas working with a warmth gun and varied carving instruments. Then, we emptied out the clay physique, glued in some dowels to behave as handles, and the heads had been nearly stage prepared.

This primary interval of puppet constructing took many of the first week. We might work within the atelier within the morning, after which within the a ernoon, within the rehearsal room with Tita. She took us by way of heat up workout routines that targeted on dissociation methods: the traditional patting your head and rubbing your stomach on the identical time however to a virtuosic stage. A er, we’d play out scenes utilizing Natachaʼs puppets, the place, like in Loco, the puppeteer was current. Not current as a personality of equal worth – the puppet remained the topic – however the puppeteer was there like a spirit physique, or a reminiscence, or an different. One memorable train: a gaggle of 6 or so assembled on stage as if to take a household portrait. The mother and father sit in chairs in entrance with the varied youngsters and grandchildren grouped round them. All of them smile for the digital camera. However, every actor is hiding a puppet someplace on their particular person. Slowly, and with out wanting away from the digital camera, the actors would deliver their puppets into view. The puppets surveyed the household. Simply, a slew of tales emerge: jealousy, rivalry, longing. Then, the puppets take a look at the digital camera, they huddle in nearer to get in body. Now, the puppeteers take a look at the puppets, they take a look at eachother. The puppets take a look at them, again to the digital camera, to at least one one other, and so forth. This easy sport of adjusting focus laid the groundwork for our seek for the Different.

The second week within the atelier was dedicated to constructing a easy puppet physique, discovering a dressing up, including hair, eyes, an articulated jaw if we wished, arms, and paint. Within the rehearsal room, we transitioned from working as a gaggle to working individually with Tita, trying to find scenes with every of our puppets.

I loved the sculpting a lot that I ended up making two puppets: slightly boy and not using a identify and an older character whom I dubbed Mole Man. I selected a small a part of a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to strive with Mole Man, and with the boy, I created a easy scene between a younger mom and her son. Tita directed me, serving to me discover the completely different planes by which to play. As a puppeteer, I by no means need to be a distracting presence, so the trick got here to selecting the moments after I needed the viewers to deal with me, and after I needed them to deal with Mole Man.

The workshop concluded in two methods: we held an off-the-cuff presentation for one another and a few invited associates the place we every carried out our scenes. Splendidly, each scene and puppet was vastly completely different, starting from camp horror to summary motion to whimsical, charming, diverting. And at last, Tita and Natacha introduced of their buddy and photographer, Pierre-Yves, to take knowledgeable portrait of every of us with our puppets. Not solely was this an enormous gi for every of our portfolios, nevertheless it was additionally one other kind by which to see the different. Pierre-Yves labored with every of us to discover a composition that highlighted our relationship with the puppet, and the images are magnificent.

I didn’t have a selected mission for these puppets after I arrived on the workshop, however one has sprung up for them since. The laboratory model of the workshop allowed me to work with full inventive freedom – free from my very own initiatives as effectively, and so I might riff off my concepts within the second with out the necessity for them to suit into any sort of format. These puppets had been fully impressed by the clay, the worbla, my arms, the inventory at Espace Zinneke, the summer season climate in Brussels, the music we performed whereas working within the atelier, the ebook I learn throughout my commute. They got here from the center. After I made them, I didn’t know if both would ever play, however now I do know they have to.

photograph by Pierre-Yves Jortay

Infinite gratitude to Natacha, Tita, Marta, Pierre-Yves, and UNIMA for creating this stunning expertise.



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