Thursday, January 17, 2013

Article About FLYING DONKEY THEATER: Fall Tour 2012

Article about "Police State Cabaret" Fall Tour 2012 From Red Hook Star, Brooklyn, NY

 Puppet Cabaret: The Flying Donkey Puppet Theater appear at Red Hook’s Jalopy Tavern

 by Brian Clancy
Puppet Cabaret: The Flying Donkey Puppet Theater
appear at Red Hook’s Jalopy Tavern

by Brian Clancy

I arrived at the Jalopy tavern and few minutes before the performance of The Flying Donkey Puppet Theatre's A Police State Cabaret was due to commence and was directed to the small backyard at the back of the Tavern for the show. The four performers were busy with preparations for the show, applying make up, constructing their stage and finding the optimum place for setting their lights. All while trying to get as many spoonfuls as possible from the bowls of the Artichoke and Kale Special provided by the house. When I told them who I was and that I was here to write a piece on their show they allowed me to stay. The stage was simple made from net curtains and table clothes and lights mounted in large tomato cans which illuminated the puppet playing area. They talked with me graciously and informed me that this was their last engagement of a tour
that had just brought them throughout the North East to places that included Dorchester, NH; Brattleboro, VT; Montague, MA; Boston, MA and Providence, RI. I also learnt that only 2 of the performers were the Flying Donkey Company and so they were billing themselves on this tour as the The Flying Donkey Theatre and Associates. Fantastic Frederica and Jason Hicks were the regulars of the troupe while Sam Wilson and Greg Corbino completed the quartet.

At this point the audience began to arrive but they were kept outside in the bar while the final preparations were being made and because the first of the night's many vignettes would be played out in the bar as a means of ushering the audience to the makeshift theatre in the backyard. This was a general lampoon of any candidate running for any office but was made topical of the presidential debate held in Baton Rouge the night before. Greg Corbino sang and played piano accordion through the Cantastoria and at its climax led the procession of performers and audience into the backyard to their quaint stage.

The show continued with all 4 performers playing an assortment of trombones and
harmonicas with cardboard cut out cherries on their heads being harassed by tiny
cardboard police. Don't Ask! Jason and Frederica then went on to play out a tale of love
with clever use of a suitcase full of props which takes a subversive turn when the lovers'
wine bottle suddenly becomes a molotov cocktail. One of the show's lighter pieces
followed with Greg Corbino performing a Bette Midler favorite "Otto Titzling" in the
form of a cantastoria. Corbino warns us that this is a cautionary tale but not the one we
might expect and goes on to inform us of how the brassiere came into existence after a
Frenchman named Phillipe DeBrassiere stole and patented the idea of German Inventor,
Otto Titzling. The song ending with "the result of this swindle is pointedly clear - do you
buy a titsling or do you buy a brassiere". The Cantastoria is a theatrical form where the
performer sings the story while gesturing to the series of images painted on a large
erected canvas. Sam Wilson performed a parody on the Ted Talks entitled the Ned Talks
in Cantastoria from and she has ideas worth spreading not least of which is the
disappointment our generation feels that Hoverboards have still not been invented.
Delivering her supposed inspirational talk about the great technological advances of our

time, she instead highlights the hypocrisy of a society that allows and facilitates the
continued investment of billions in Military Proliferation while the funding critical issues
such as cancer research is cut. Ms. Wilson is indeed politically aware and her choice to
perform the piece in a bathroom with a glass of wine in hand to critique her own
hypocrisy for using such technological devices as a Cell Phone while she denounces such
devices as a means for governments to monitor and control the population. Ms. Wilson
gave us plenty to think about while making us laugh throughout. The Final Piece
performed in the tiny proscenium arch with arms unapologetically reaching in to move
the cardboard cut out puppets around was the main event. This little vignette chronicling
State repression through police brutality from ancient Rome through the middle ages to
the Present day. The rich capitalists recruiting police from the masses to in turn keep
those same masses poor and the few at top rich. A prominent theme I also saw recently in
the Drilling Company's production of Dario Fo's "We won't pay! We won't pay!" This
theme of course has been topical for the last year or so with the Occupy Wall Street
Movement. Having spoken with the performers after the show this is not something they
have just caught onto in the wake of events in Zuccotti Park last year. They are all
politically aware and have all been influenced by Bread and Puppet theater, the Vermont
based non profit theater company that originated in New York's Lower East Side in the
1960s. All four performers have long been performing pieces of this nature. Sam
Wilson's interest was in Politics through which she found Bread and Puppet Theater
providing her with a means of expression for her dissatisfaction of the political status quo
through Puppetry and Cabaret. Upon entry I noticed that their show was a suggested $5
but, not one would be turned away for lack of funds. There message here is clear too, that
art and theatre is not just the privilege of those with money, that it is for everyone. When
a performer is willing to perform for no reward, they have already won my respect and
admiration. And the Flying Donkey Puppet theatre's A Police State Cabaret is wholly
deserving of respect and admiration. The show ended with a paper scroll being rolled
across the tiny stage reading "We are the people not the enemy". A slogan Frederica told
me they adopted from the student demonstration which turned violent in Barcelona last
February. They used it as the core idea for this new show. Frederica tells me after the
show that we all need to be like the catalan students, that we need to see more
Manifestations as she calls it, to manifest not protest, to declare our position peacefully,
to express our dissatisfaction with how things are, to remind our elected representatives
that we are the people not the enemy.

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