After workshopping The Ringdove in summer 2018 with Mettawee River Theater Company in beautiful Salem, NY, I was honored to tour the show in summer 2019 in upstate NY, VT, and MA. Our final weekend of performances will be in New York City at Cathedral St. John the Divine.
I began working with Mettawee River Theater Company in 2017 with the summer tour of Before the Sun and Moon. Immediately, I fell in love with Ralph Lee’s puppets and the company’s mission. The company has been touring folk tales and stories from all around the world in rural communities in the summer for 44 years! This work has had many shapes as the company grew and evolved. In my experience, the company members live in a big farm house in Salem, NY owned by Artistic and Managing Directors Ralph Lee and Casey Compton. Company members rehearse outside in the yard and work together to help the company and household run smoothly during the tour: we cook meals for each other, maintain the touring vehicles, help with production notes, and take turns cleaning the bathroom. When the tour gets going, we pack up the show into the company truck and cars and caravan to each night’s performance location. There, weather permitting, we set up the show, have a picnic dinner and swimming if there’s a good spot, warm up, perform, strike the show, and then drive back to Salem. Each summer I’ve toured, I have been overwhelmed by the large and dedicated audiences that attend these shows. At every performance, someone tells us about their experience coming to Mettawee shows as a child and introduces us to their kids or grand-kids and thanks Ralph and Casey for bringing rich artistry and magic to their towns.
Puppets and Masks
Mask and puppetry work has been an interest since I first got a taste performing with puppets in the Erie Youtheatre production of The Little Mermaid in middle school. Under Richard Davis’ direction, I was able to construct and paint an eel puppet to be used in a big dance number when Ariel is visiting the sea witch Ursula. The eels had glow in the dark paint and the number used black lights. I thought it was the most amazing thing ever.
I went on to study mask with Prof. Shelley Wyant at Bard College for several years. In 2007, I spent the summer as an apprentice with Bread and Puppet Theater in Glover, VT where I devised and performed in mask and puppetry circus acts, sang shape note music and Georgian a capella songs for the first time, gardened and tended pigs, performed with the Lubberland Dance Co, and learned stilting basics. I travelled with the company to the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival where I stilted as a stork! For several years, I continued performing with Bread and Puppet in August in Vermont and in New York in December.
During the Occupy Movement, I became a very active member of the working group The People’s Puppets.
In my own creative work, I tend to incorporate puppets, masks, and objects that demand an imaginative leap. In femme pathos, a chorus of masked fruit heads haunt Claire’s mind and perform a wacky surgery on the Hungry Ghost. In Spectral Findings, I explored Goethe’s experiments with light and color alongside Faust and “Der Erlkönig” as a shadow puppet opera. In <the invisible draft>, the hung fabric set became a shape-shifting actor in the space.
Apart from my work with Mettawee River Theater Company, I’ve had the joy of performing as a puppeteer in New York in Erin Courtney’s The Service Road, in Megan Murtha’s work including Cadillac Play and Too Many Beers, or Sea Legs. I’ve also performed in my own shadow puppet/overhead pieces with Colors Project and Spectral Findings.