Puppets at Dixon Place

By Marcina Zaccaria . . .

Are we homesick because we are no longer in theater spaces?  That was the question that I asked myself after watching Mine by Shayna Strype.

I spent many hours covering plays in Black Box Theater.  Dixon Place, known for their spirit of innovation, has a balcony and a raised seating area, and a gallery/ open mike setup near a bar on the first floor, creating its own 1,2,3 appeal.  Adding streaming live performance, we’re asked to very cautiously consider performance in a “fourth dimension.”  

It was via TheaterMania Live Stream that I saw the show.  A mix of puppetry, green screen technology, and recorded video, Mine presents notions of house and home in a quirky, space age, post-Wigstock world.  The show begins with a single puppet, introducing a space for an audience in seats.  Then, a great number of puppets, seemingly made with clay, are seen, awaiting a show.  When a performance artist wants to discuss who they are and where they come from, so much of their story is revealed in script, yet the larger questions from Shayna Strype are actually constructed after appreciating the design and pre-taped sequences.  The utilization of video magnifiying tiny finger puppets, poses the question, “what is life-sized,” really?   

While house and home are challenged, the metaphor is much larger than the actual physical set piece or cleverly edited video.  Strype operates rod puppets and finger puppets during the performance, and “wears the stage” several times.  She appreciates fluorescent images and fantastic layering of fabric that tests the bounds of the imagination.  In one segment, she fashions a wearable hoop-dress that has a performance surface.  The green screen garment defies body logic, in some ways, and Strype has to credit her Projection Designer, Britt Mosely, for the effect.      

In another segment, a camera enters window by window of a house set, worn by Strype.  It reminds me of a Chinese bag theater, a type of puppetry setup whereby the puppeteer wears the stage on their body.  With that type of setup, a curtain is built above the puppeteer’s head and the puppets appear one by one, above eye level.  In Strype’s house set, the audience is led from room to room with a camera, and finally left with a sense of loneliness.  What will it take until the artists who perform at Dixon Place feel like they can take the stage and go home again?

Revealing her live team of camera operators and prop coordinators, dressed all in black at Dixon Place, there is an extraordinary sense of solidarity.  While Pop Up Performances are happening around town, there is word that live audiences will be invited back to Dixon Place in May.  I think it’s safe to tell everyone – they’ll find a sense of home soon.  They’ll all find a sense of home soon.

Mine was performed live for Virtual Audiences from April 21-24, 2021 at 7:30pm EDT.  Video on demand (VOD) streaming will be available from April 26 through May 3, 2021. www.dixonplace.org

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