For the last time in 2012, a group of dedicated puppeteers and puppet fans gathered together last Saturday for a Puppet Slam at Fabrefaction Theatre Company in Atlanta. And not just a puppet slam–it was the Holiday Puckin’ Fuppet and the largest gathering of puppeteers at a Puckin’ Fuppet Show ever, along with what was the largest crowd for this series. And, for their patience, the audience was rewarded with the highest quality and most entertaining puppet slam this reviewer had ever seen. Hosted by Beau Brown, who also organizes the Puckin’ Fuppet Show, the event kept the audience laughing well past 2 am.
The Puckin’ Fuppet show has been running for several years in Atlanta and was in several venues before landing most recently at Fabrefaction Theater. During its premiere in November, the event sold out and overflowed the “small” theater space at Fabrefaction, with a crowd that appeared to double the numbers they drew at shows even just a year ago. This time they were moved to the main stage of the theater and still filled nearly every seat. The puppeteers were performing their routines and bits on the stage of Little Women, the musical, but no one seemed to mind. They were too busy being entertained.
For those who do not know what a puppet slam its, puppeteer Maya Ajuja summed it up as “short form puppetry that allows an artist to get an idea in a quick and dirty manner. The focus is not on the performance, but instead on getting the piece out to the audience.” These pieces in the puppet slam tend to be humorous, but not all are. Some pieces can be irreverent or even cross the boundaries of good taste, but it’s a chance for the puppeteer to experiment. When asked about the growth of the Puckin’ Fuppet Show, Maya explained that “because of the center for puppetry arts, Atlanta has a strong puppet community,” and that strong community brings a lot of talent to the Puckin’ Fuppet Show.
While it is true that Puppet Slams are juried and prizes are given out for the top three performances, Beau Brown runs his Puckin’ Fuppet Show with much more democracy than some slams. There is no assessment before performing, and no vetting of the acts for “pure puppetry.” Puppetry is the universal art found in all cultural and in all times, and the tools used are varied as shadows against a backdrop, or socks with eyes glued on…or even just cardboard cutouts!
The standout performances from The Holiday Puckin’ Fuppet Show underscore the diversity and artistry of the format. This year there were fourteen puppets acts this year, causing many of the traditional holiday games to be eliminated. There was still time for “Drink a Quart of Egg Nog from a Funnel” and “Deep Throat a Large Candy Cane.” Both of those games are self explanatory.
Solistice, By Jacqui D, was a shadow play using snowflakes and patterns on an overhead projector shining on a plain scrim. This touching piece showed the weather changes of snow to rain and back again as a lovely ballet. In contrast, It’s not the End of the World showed the hedonism of two people who though the Mayan Prophecies were real and quit their jobs, shopped, and had lots of wild sex….puppet style. Dueling Jingle Bell Monkeys was classic marionette work delivered by Peter Hert as two monkeys danced and challenged each other, one controlled by each of his hands.
The three winners were announced and applauded for their originality, quality and production value, and puppetry.
3Rd Place: First Time Competitors Molly Coffee and Robert Keith Brookes for Merry Christmas Time
2nd Place: New Puppet Order’s new video A NPO Christmas, which dealt with what happens after a Christmas party with puppets.
1st Place: Charles Pillsbury with Maria Walters Stephen King, and Thom Stanley acting out Jonathan Coulter’s “Re: Eat Your Brains,” about office zombies.
While we are not aware of any set plans for the Puckin’ Fuppet Show in 2013, you can be assured that Beau Brown and the PF Show will be building on the existing success and continuing to work with puppeteers and audiences to continue bringing late night, kind of dirty puppetry to you through the new year.