December 19, 2007

Frankenstein (Mortal Toys)

Long ago, paper puppets and toy theaters were popular as parlor diversions and children’s entertainment. Avant-garde artists Janie Geiser and Susan Simpson, founders of Los Angeles-based Automata, experiment with toy theaters and other forgotten or neglected art forms to create original, immersive theatrical productions. Their take on Mary Shelley’s tale, entitled Frankenstein (Mortal Toys), is based on Eric Ehn’s intense, pared-down adaptation first staged as a combination puppet and Noh play by San Francisco’s Theatre of Yugen in 2003.

Press notes say this version “follows the haunted journey of Victor Frankenstein and the startling monster created by his own hands. The menacing beauty of the arctic and the high Alps surround the distraught scientist as he confronts the loneliness and rage of his alienated creature.

Geiser and Simpson elaborated and performed Mortal Toys as a “miniature spectacle” over a three-year period beginning in 2004. The complete work will be staged again January 8-19, 2008, at the HERE Arts Center in New York. The performance includes flat puppets, shadow sequences, short films, and a live score by Severin Behnen featuring a toy piano.

I’d love to see a DVD of this, and to hear the much-touted musical score, but I suspect it works best, as intended, as a live, immersive experience.

Here’s an elaborate presentation of the play and its creators, on City Guide NY.

Read about Automata and Frankenstein (Mortal Toys) on The Manual Archives and USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy.

A review in the LATimes.

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