Bell pianist: Margaret Leng Tan
performers: John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin, Alessandra Nichols, Jenny Romaine, Roberto Rossi, Mark Sussman, Isaac Bell
music: Erik Satie, John Cage, Aristide Bruant, Toby Twining
movement director: Clarinda Mac Law
film: Meredith Holch
projection: Rand Huebsch
masks: Stephen Kaplin
technical director: Dave Overcamp
stage manager: Noah Harrell
lighting: Mark Sussman, Boualem ben Gueddach
scenery: Mark Sussman, Alessandra Nichols
photos: Orlando Marra
Includes American premiere of Geneviéve de Brabant
(Satie's miniature opera for marionettes)

Performance Schedule:
December 20 - 30, 2001
Thursday - Sunday 7:30pm
Sunday Matinee 2:30pm
The Annex Theatre

The Obie-winning ensemble Great Small Works has a gift for dramatizing autobiography with unusual puppetry, exceptional music and astute acting. The troupe's last work was the stunning "Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln" (La MaMa, 2000), which adapted a pre-modern Yiddish memoir of a pious Jewish wife into picture recitation form, using an orchestral score by Frank London of the Klezmatics. Now the ensemble shifts its creative eye to the fin de siecle life and work of French modernist composer Erik Satie with "A Mammal's Notebook: the Erik Satie Cabaret," directed by John Bell, featuring pianist Margaret Leng Tan and showcasing the American premiere of "Geneviéve de Brabant," Satie's miniature opera for marionettes.
The production utilizes Satie's drawings and his acerbic, prescient letters and speeches, as well as words others (including John Cage and Jean Cocteau) wrote about him. Great Small Works performers perform the variety of avant-garde and every-day characters inhabiting this turn-of- the-century urban world of new life and new art. The play is staged with a changing combination of dance, shadow theater, mask performance, film, bunraku puppetry and vaudeville performance forms. It is a variety spectacle about what it means to make music, art, and theater at the beginning of the last century, in a society marked by constant, destabilizing change. John Bell, well-known for his work with Bread and Puppet Theater and The Ninth Street Theater, is one of the foremost US experts on popular performance and puppet theater and a professor of performing arts at Emerson College. Foremost among the show's attractions is Margaret Leng Tan, the "diva of the avant-garde," who is renowned for her performances that defy the piano's conventional boundaries. Erik Satie's music spanned an enormous range: he wrote for Chat Noir Cabaret shadow puppet shows, mystical Rosicrucian theatricals, solo piano, popular song hits, puppet operas, oratorios and Dada spectacles. One of Satie's most well-crafted works of art was his life: he consciously invented himself as one of the first "avant-garde" artists. "A Mammal's Notebook" examines, recreates, and celebrates a crucial period of his life (1893-1914), when Satie plunged into the social and commercial life of working-class Paris and emerged a confident and determined composer, able to fuse the disparate worlds of avant-garde art and everyday urban life. Music of the play also includes familiar and irresistible works by Satie ("Gymnopedie" and "Je Te Veux") as well as the unfamiliar and cryptic pieces born of Satie's forays into Rosicrucianism. Alongside music by Satie's contemporary, Aristide Bruant, are eloquent twentieth-century tributes to Satie: John Cage's idyllic "In a Landscape" (as accompaniment to a stroll through nineteenth century Paris) and Toby Twining's haunting "Satie Blues," a piece written for toy piano and piano. "Geneviéve de Brabant," Satie's miniature opera for marionettes, was written for a pantomime destined for the Comèdie Parisiénne. The manuscript was discovered after Satie's death, behind one of the pianos in his tiny room in Arcueil. This rarely-heard operetta will be staged with shadow puppets designed by Stephen Kaplin. Great Small Works is a New-York based collective of theater artists--John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin, Jenny Romaine, Roberto Rossi and Mark Sussman--who draw on folk, avant-garde and popular theater traditions to address contemporary issues. The company creates theater on a variety of scales, from gigantic outdoor parades, circuses and street spectacles, to theater on miniature proscenium stages. Its productions include "The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln," directed by Jenny Romaine, the Fifth International Toy Theater Festival at HERE, "Toy Theater of Terror As Usual Episode 10," "King George and the Devil" for the 2001 Chicago Puppetropolis Festival, "The True Story of Charas," "Procession to End All Evil" at the DUMBO Arts Festival and ongoing Monthly Spaghetti Dinners at P.S. 122. In awarding an Obie to Great Small Works in 1996-7, Village Voice drama editor Ross Wetzsteon said, "they have breathed new, pointed life into the form of Toy Theater." Reviewing "The Memoirs of Glückel of Hameln" at La MaMa, The New York Times (Lawrence Van Gelder) praised "the array of theatrical art and artifice marshaled in the telling of the story" and its "admirable cast." The Village Voice (Alisa Solomon) called the group's aesthetic "direct, smartly self-conscious and profoundly poor" and culturally powerful enough to be a formative force of a "new Yiddish culture." Margaret Leng Tan is recognised as "the leading exponent of John Cage's music today" (The New Republic) and "the most convincing interpreter of Cage's keyboard music" (The New York Times). She has appeared in the PBS "American Masters" films on John Cage and Jasper Johns and her latest Cage recording, "Works of Calder", will be released in March on Mode Records. In 2OO2, she will present Tenth anniversary commemorative Cage tributes worldwide including Carnegie Hall's "When Morty Met John" Cage/Feldman Festival, the Berliner Festspiele and the Melbourne Festival. Ms. Tan is also the world's only professional toy pianist, "a keyboard virtuoso like no other who turned toys into art " (The San Francisco Chronicle). Her 1997 album, "The Art of the Toy Piano" (Point/Universal), received major media acclaim. As a Cage protegée and pioneer in the vanguard of American new music, Margaret Leng Tan represents an unbroken trajectory from Erik Satie through John Cage to the present. "A Mammal's Notebook: the Erik Satie Cabaret" is performed by John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Aya Kanai, Stephen Kaplin, Margaret Leng Tan, Alessandra Nichols, Jenny Romaine, Roberto Rossi, Mark Sussman and Isaac Bell. Set design is by Mark Sussman and Alessandra Nichols. Lighting design is by Mark Sussman and Boualem ben Gueddach. Costume design is by Alessandra Nichols, Jenny Romaine, Trudi Cohen and Mildred Cohen. Puppet Design is by Stephen Kaplin. Movement Director is Clarinda Mac Low. Film is by Meredith Holch. Projection is by Rand Huebsch. Shadow Puppet Text is by Burt Porter. Dramaturgical support is by Remi Paillard. Technical Director is Dave Overcamp. Stage Manager is Noah Harrell. The production acknowledges the generous support of the Jim Henson Foundation, Scherman Foundation, NYC Dept. of Cultural Affairs, NY State Council on the Arts, Kornfeld Foundation, NY Times Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, Rockefeller MAP fund, Florence Gould Foundation and The Emerson College Stearns Distinguished Faculty Award.
2001 page