Tuesday, October 28, 2014

31 Days of Halloween – The Headless Horseman of Silly Hollow at The Center for Puppetry Arts

http://www.puppet.org/perform/headlesshorseman.shtml
Monday was Lil' Troublemaker's birthday, so on Tuesday we took him out of school to see the current family performance at Atlanta's Center for Puppetry Arts. 
 
Before I get to the show, I want to talk about the Center itself. Not only are there theaters where you can enjoy various forms of puppetry, there are also museum sections. In these you can get an up close and personal look at puppets from all over the world, throughout history and many forms of media. 

We had a great time seeing a huge variety of puppets, including famous characters such as Madame, Punch and Judy, Kermit the Frog, and a Skeksis from The Dark Crystal.

The rooms and displays are very organized and clean and friendly to the general public. You in now way have to be a puppet insider to appreciate what's on display. There are many pieces that will educate you on the history of puppetry and its various forms. All in all it's worth visiting the Center for Puppetry Arts just for the attraction itself, even if there isn't a specific show going on.

In this instance, however, there was. The Headless Horseman of Silly Hollow was imagined and is performed by three siblings – Robin Erlandsen and Brian and Erik Torbeck. The trio are known as the Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers and are based in Bar Harbor, Maine. They travel around the United States performing various shows, but obviously when you're deep into the 31 Days of Halloween it's time for something a little spooky. And silly.

Horseman is a family friendly show; not to be confused with a childrens show. The distinction is that it is not simplified or dressed down for the kids. It's something with humor and cleverness that anybody of any age can enjoy. Think of your better Disney animation for comparison. And I have to say – you will enjoy it.

No photography was allowed during the show, but here's the stage set.
The entire show – lights, music, vocals, and puppetry – is run by the three siblings and it is quite a spectacle to behold. Over the course of just under and hour (a perfect time for kids' attention spans) the classic and familiar story of Ichabod Crane's encounter with the Headless Horseman is retold, but chock-full of humor, heart, and hilarious sight gags. The puppeteers have been performing and evolving this story for fourteen years now and it shows. The pacing is tight and the jokes are timed to kill. Without fail, all of the big gags had the kids laughing riotously in the way that only the young can. The performers know their audience and their craft.

Each of the puppets has not only a very distinct personality – some of which play charmingly into well-known archetypes – but also character-specific quirks and physical movements. In a very short time you will pick favorite characters and already be awaiting the appearance of their various personal cues. No two puppets behave in quite the same manner, and you'd be hard-pressed on many occasions to pin down which puppeteer was responsible for what. The action and comedy blend together so smoothly that there's never a moment for the mind to wander.

Obviously I'm not going to spoil any of the story, but Ichabod Crane as he is presented in this narrative is a heroic character that can be admired and looked up to. He is pure of heart and motive and goes out of his way to help people that he has no particular reason to assist. There's a clever, subtle lesson to Silly Hollow, and those are always the best kind.

The Headless Horseman of Silly Hollow is great fun and perfect for the season. The familiarity of Washington Irving's classic tale is mixed with a modern sense of humor and pop culture references that will delight kids and their parents. I highly recommend you make it out to the Center for Puppetry Arts and take in a great puppet show. Moreover, I find myself hoping that we can make a Halloween-themed puppet show are part of our annual festivities. We all had a great time and it's a concept that's just perfect for the spooky, fun season.

Photo courtesy of http://www.frogtownpuppets.com/
By Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers of Bar Harbor, ME
2014-15 Family Series
Oct 28 - Nov 9, 2014
Downstairs Theater
Recommended for ages 4 & up
Showtimes
•Tues-Fri: 10am & 11:30am
•Sat: 11am, 1pm & 3pm
•Sun: 1pm & 3pm

An audience favorite, the Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers bring their unique brand of hip humor to the famous Washington Irving short story. In this comedic version, schoolteacher Ichabod Crane helps the Headless Horseman find a new head and a spookier image.

To learn more about Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers, click here!
Puppetry Style:
Hand-and-Rod, Rod
Create-A-Puppet Workshop:
Make your own Sheepish Sheep Shadow Puppet


 

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