BED OF LIGHT
written, designed and directed by: Jane Catherine Shaw
musical score by: Brien Engel
puppeteers appearing: Frank Dowd, Eva Lansberry, Hjordis Linn, Angela Tucker, Sara Roucloux and Kelley Schoger
lighting by: Federico Restrepo
Ms. Shaw began by collecting dream stories: some from people she knows, some from as English as a Second Language class, some contributed anonymously, and one found on line at a dream site. She used their texts and created vignettes to bring them to life. Six puppeteers, dressed in florescent wigs, will animate the various-sized puppets. A musical score is created by Brien Engel.
"The Naked American" conveys the familiar dream of a man who must go about his day with no pants on. Nobody notices the omission; despite this, he is uncomfortable. The man is represented by a clear plastic lower torso, complete with extended penis, that glows from within.
Ms. Shaw's own dream is used in "The Bed of Light," a puppet scene taken from a recurring dream in which she is paralyzed and looking back on herself in bed. In college, she took a philosophy class where the professor offered material on altered states. Upon hearing this dream, he told her that she was astral projecting. Following his advice, when the dream returned, Shaw saw the sleeping place as an empty bed of light, over which she first floated and then fell to the floor, where a toy unicorn nuzzled her and took her back to bed.
"Japanese Doctor" is staged in a room with V-shaped mirrors, in which a flat puppet's thin side faces the audience so it can be seen only in reflection. The scene dramatizes the nightmare of a man who retired after practicing medicine successfully for 25 years, but who repeatedly dreamed he could not pass his medical licensing exam.
"The Naked Jamaican" portrays the dream of a man being chased by assailants beating him. He awakens with people punching him, then flees to a park where a man menaces him with a machete. The scene starts with B/W video and ends in shadow puppets.
"Colombian Passageway" comes from a man who dreams that as a boy in his childhood house, he finds a passageway to squeeze through, knowing there is a special room or treasure at the other end, but it eludes him. The scene is rendered with lighting tricks and a large hand that comes out looking for the passageway and heads to the ceiling. A one-foot high puppet, eight feet in the air, crawls over the audience's heads.
"The Devil in Mexico" uses fire animation and a Devil puppet of driftwood which is trying to ignite a girl whose head is constructed of screen wire. The girl puppet starts out six feet high and grows to twelve or 15 feet. The girl spins and inside her dress, you see the shadow of a woman running.
"The Poor Italian" depicts the dream of a man who was dirt-poor in Italy during the 1940s, and dreamed of giving away thousands of lire, but awakened to find he was still poor. The scene is staged inside two antique oval frames: in one is a man whose arm contains a bunch of lire, which fly out of the frame. In the second, a man sits up in bed, reflecting his reality.
"Lions in Singapore" uses a puppet of a man done in Chinese basketry. He is surrounded by lions who follow him and keep him in a state of fear. Puppeteers hold up mirrors with lions drawn on them, projecting the image of the lion around him and on him.
"South African Lions" deals again with threatening felines. This time, a woman, relaxing at home, spies a male lion regarding her. She rushes around to secure the house, closing windows just in time to keep female lions from entering.
"Frenchman's Paradise" uses an enormous lampshade projection, filling the entire theater space, to stage the dream of a man who escapes the modern world to a nature paradise in an idyllic dream he calls a "green dream."
Between the scenes, the puppeteers will create a butoh "sound event," for which four audience members will find flashlights in their seats and instructions to light the percussive scene.
Ms. Shaw relates that people's shyness in sharing the details of their dreams varied with how far away they were: people who lived nearby were extremely forthcoming in revealing their private dreams, while folks far away were pretty guarded. She fiddled with the play for a couple of years, and with the support of HERE Dream Music Commissioning Program and Arts at Saint Ann's Lab, brought it to a workshop stage last Spring.
Jane Catherine Shaw
Jane Catherine Shaw began her work with puppet theatre in 1986 and has performed over 2000 times in her own and other artists's productions. She has been a resident artist at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia, where she curated and produced its Xperimental Puppetry Theatre Series and its Family Puppetry Theatre Series. She has received grants from UNIMA-USA (an international puppetry guild) and has taught overhead projection shadow puppetry technique at the TAL Theater in Istanbul. She has worked at La MaMa with Theodora Skipitares on "Under the Knife" (Parts 1, 2 and 3) and "Body of Crime." She has had five other shows and short works produced in Atlanta. In New York, her solo short work, "The Roach and Randy Dupre" was seen at HERE in 1998 as part of an evening of puppetry works. She collaborated with director Erika Bilder, a resident artist of La MaMa, on "Youth Without Age, Life Without Death," an outdoor drama with giant to miniature-sized puppets, in the First Assos Festival in Turkey in 1996. In 1999 at La MaMa, she created "The Lone Runner: The Mythical Life Journey of Nikola Tesla," a puppetry work based on the life and times of a pioneer of electrical engineering (who introduced such innovations as the motors and apparatus that made the use of alternating current possible) but whose contributions were overshadowed by such men as Edison, Westinghouse and Marconi. The production was the subject of a picture story by Jane Hogan in Entertainment Design which strongly affirmed Shaw's craftsmanship and creative choices in the sometimes abstract piece. Elyse Sommer wrote in Curtain Up!, "The puppetry is truly mind-boggling....This is not a family puppet drama, and probably not mass market adult fare either. However, for those willing to hitch their imagination to Ms. Shaw's, it's an opportunity to learn about an unusual man of science and see puppetry once more leap beyond the bounds of the expected."