Aladdin at the Puppet Co Playhouse

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Josh Rosenblum, Christopher Piper, Toni Goldberg, various puppets, and Liz Dapo. Photo by Christopher Piper

In February and March of 2015 and again in October of 2015, I happily performed in Aladdin at the PuppetCo Playhouse with Josh Rosenbaum and Christopher Piper.

I was the lead puppeteer for Princess Badre, Mother, the tailors, the dancing girl, the Spirit, the Slave of the Ring, and I sometimes puppeteer the peasant, older Aladdin, and various props.  It was a challenge to learn the backstage choreography and to get into a rhythm with the other two puppeteers, but once we had our lines down, and got to be on stage, we quickly formed a unit that was able to anticipate the needs of each other, and help out when things went awry.

 

Developing characters for this production was one of the easier processes for that.  Princess Badre spoke with a soft and educated voice that was also sweet.  I try to avoid what I call “stereotypical princess voice” which to me plays down the intelligence of the heroine and makes her too naive and gullible.  Mother was a little over the top and a pushy older lady, who was really very concerned about her son.  She was probably my favorite character in the show.  The Slave of the Ring was just a few pieces of gold colored, sheer fabric on a long rod that waved around quickly, was actually quite magical.  His voice was very nasally and reminded me of a Neptunian from Futurama.  The Spirit was a beautiful long rod puppet that Josh and I voiced together.  We got to a point where we didn’t have to look at each other, but could follow each other during a performance, so that if one of us missed or added a word, the other would instinctively follow.

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The Spirit from a backstage point of view.  Created by Allan Stevens and Christopher Piper

It was a lot of fun and it was the first show I performed with the PuppetCo Playhouse.  I look forward to hopefully many more opportunities.

For a review of the performance click here!

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Josh Rosenblum backstage.

The Winter’s Tale HalfMad Theatre

 

Design by Leanne Mercadante (draft version)

Design by Leanne Mercadante (draft version)

Recently I directed William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale for my company, HalfMad Theatre.  What a glorious and terrifying experience it became.

 

The cast of The Winter's Tale

The cast of The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale is called a problem play, and it is called a problem play for many, many reasons.  Give it a read.  The first time through may be a bit rough.  The second time through you might find more places that are “problematic” that you didn’t discover before.  By the third or fourth read, you’ll think you might be a little crazy for picking this play to produce and direct.  You, dear reader, would be correct.  The play takes place over sixteen years, in two different countries.  There is a scene involving an Oracle and a one time character called “Time”.  The first 2/3 of the play are very dramatic, a jealous husband accuses his wife of infidelity within the first ten minutes of the show, seeming to come out of almost thin air.  He then spirals into a type of madness that gets his wife “killed”, his son dies, presumably of a broken heart, his best friend and his advisor flee the country together, and one of his most loyal subjects gets eaten by a bear.  Then you are smacked in the face with a rollicking comedy, that is a bit abrupt, where there is a satyr dance, a sheep shearing festival, and quite possibly the first dildo joke made in the history of theatre.  Then at the end, after the comedy, we are thrown back into a watered down rom-com where father and daughter are reunited, and dead wife is a statue that returns back to life and isn’t really dead.  Oh and the lady that was the wife of the guy who got eaten by a bear, immediately after learning of his death, is basically forced to marry the advisor that left, but now returned because everything is okay now.

 

Our thoughts exactly.

Our thoughts exactly.

I had a hard time relating to this play.  I wanted to do it.  There is a bear, which is an interesting draw for a puppeteer, but I also thought we could come up with a way to tell the story that is the heart of the play.  A lesson about jealousy and redemption.  I hadn’t been able to think of a way to tell this tale until this last year.  For the first time in my life, I had a family member, and my best friend from childhood pass away.  It was shocking and devastating, and not to go into too much detail, but I was left feeling there were things I never got to say, and that was my fault.  I had my own regrets and that is where I finally, FINALLY, understood how and what I wanted to say with The Winter’s Tale.  I wanted to say: I love you, I miss you, and I’m sorry.  You will never be forgotten.

It can be incredibly easy to think about what you want to do, but when you put it into practice, you find out that it is much more terrifying than you expected it to be.  I had a hard time focusing on little things I needed to do: finish cutting the script, work on designs for the puppets, analyze conflicting parts of the text.  The closer I got to it, the more emotionally raw I felt.  I cried in rehearsal a few times.  I grew distant from my talented cast a few more times because directing this play was turning into a type of penitence.  I was stuck in limbo until the show went up.  Rehashing in my brain every drive home how could I make sure I said everything I wanted to say in this show.  I cried a lot.  A lot.

Tech week was hell.  It usually is.  There are a few things I would have done differently, puppet and set wise, but the actors were phenomenal.  They captured each character in a way that was unique and honest to the story we were telling and the audience was with us every step of the way.

Here is the DC Metro Arts Review  , the Bright Young Things review,  and the DC Theatre Scene review.

Time was a major character who moved the action along.  We set the story in Leontes’ memory, the final memory of a dying man.  It was his limbo too.  Time kept the show moving, taking out the need for an oracle and playing many different characters.  The two had a dynamic relationship always pushing forward and hesitant at the same moment.  Time made Leontes live through the hard moments of his life, never hesitating to point out the truth, even if it was incredibly hard to swallow.

Connor Hogan as Leontes.

Connor Hogan as Leontes.

 

The cast was comprised of four ladies and five men.  Camillo, traditionally a male role, was changed to female so that a) there was another role for a woman and b) there could be an interesting relationship between her and Polixenes, the man that is accused of sleeping with Hermione, Leontes’ wife.  The Winter’s Tale is like an episode of Springer….

The puppetry was difficult to figure out in terms of style and simply put, I ran out of time and money to put towards the puppets.  The bear ended up being very simple and not what I wanted at all.  I would do it better next time and will make a bear that is up to my own personal standards.  I was, however, very pleased with the puppet we used for Mamillius.  Mamillius is the son of Leontes and tragically dies after he thinks his mother is going to be sentenced to death.

Justin Mohay, Frank Mancino, Paige O'Malley, Connor Hogan and Mamillius

Justin Mohay, Frank Mancino, Paige O’Malley, Connor Hogan and Mamillius

The puppet was an accurately proportioned six year old child.  I made my sister measure my niece and send me the dimensions.  He was a bunraku style puppet and if I do this style again, I would not have put leg rods on, instead would have made his legs like a table top puppet, so he could stand independently and move a little easier across the stage.  He was wood, foam, brown paper, and cloth. His arms broke once or twice, so I would think of a better way to build them, but overall, I was really happy with how he turned out.  Audience members either forgot he was a puppet and empathized with his death, or were totally creeped out because he was too life-like.  Either way, a huge success.

At the end of Shakespeare’s text, Hermione comes back to life.  It’s strange and clunky and I didn’t want it to  end on a happy note.  Our Hermione was much more ambiguous.  More of ghost, an embodied gift of forgiveness and love that was neither alive or dead. While this experience was heartbreaking, it was also incredibly beautiful.  People laughed.  People cried.  It made people reflect on their own feelings and more importantly, how fleeting life is.

The Winter’s Tale played at Capital Fringe’s Trinidad Theatre from March 13-29.

The Murder Room at Bowie Playhouse

The next show I will be performing in, opening October 31st of this year is The Murder Room, by Jack Sharkey, directed by Gayle Negri.  This is a fun show with a great cast and I would implore that you come out and see if it if you get a chance.  We are still in the rehearsal process (which has been loads of fun) and I’m still working on my accent and “being 60”.

Click here for more information!  Hope to see you there.

Left to right: Joel Consolati, me, Eric Smith, and William Hardy hard at work. Or hardly working.

Left to right: Joel Consolati, me, Eric Smith, and William Hardy hard at work. Or hardly working.

My expression is how I look...often

My expression is how I look…often

Washington Post

I was SUPER EXCITED to be interviewed by Clinton Yates of the Washington Post for puppetry and puppet videos I’ve been making with Revolution Messaging.

 

Click here for the article.  

Social Media

Social media! I’m learning it! For a more up to date following of puppets and art being made, follow me on instagram @lizdapo  or follow me on Twitter @lizdapo.

Keeping it simple!

Stormy and Baker

I’m super excited to be part of this project based in Philadelphia.  Working with the Monkey Boys and director Kevin Kelly, I was fortunate enough to be puppeteering the part of Sophie, the adorable raccoon puppet.  We filmed three short episodes and if all goes well, we will be filming more throughout the course of the year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FM9SK5P-YO4

 

Video

No Bosses in My Bedroom

I built the puppets and sets for this puppet short.  Written by Lizz Winstead, made by UltraViolet and Revolution Messaging.  So. Much. Fun.  My friend Kevin Chick helped out by puppeteering the Puppet Boss.  I hope we get to make a few more of these awesome videos.

Sesame Street Workshop Audition

I auditioned via video for a workshop being held in New York. I didn’t get it this time, but that won’t keep me from trying again. 🙂 I posted it here for your viewing pleasure!

Video

Maryland Educators Puppet Project

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lb9A1NpBhxs&feature=c4-overview&list=UUw_TAUNEyGBPadi7jRmG1FQ

 

I was contacted by a friend to make four puppets in three days for the above project.  It was a great challenge that worked out beautifully.  We had a lot of fun filming this short and sweet video and I got to work with one of my colleagues Stephen Hildebrand in a new context (outside of educational children’s theatre)

 

 

See How They Run at Greenbelt Arts Center

I just finished a very fun run of the British farce, See How They Run, in which I got to play the delightful and charming American actress Penelope Toop.  This was a great way to start making more friends and getting involved in theatre in the DC area.  I had a great time and was sad to see it close, but now I have a few auditions coming up, as well as puppeteering full time during the day!  Making this acting thing work my way. Please see my press page for photos.  I also will keep updating my puppet page (new puppets new pictures!)

I also went to Comic Con in New York for the first time ever and had a great time with my friend Jess.  I will post some of those pictures soon as well!

 

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