Two invigorating weeks, several rolls of wire and masking tape, and one box of wine later….
La Cenerentola was a smashing success. By no means flawless (but obviously fabulous) the show went on to a crowd of 30-odd good spirited guests at The Well. The accents were thick, Cenerentola's aria was smooth as silk, and the strings were a tangled mess. Luckily, our fine puppets were patient with us bothersome puppeteers, as were our fine guests. And the hand of god needed only touch down once or twice to put out the occasional wayward flame form the fireplace.
Not yet having taken our puppets' headshots, we felt it would be prudent to bring you 'The Making of La Cenerentola'.
Our story began with the best kept record of Italy's version of Cinderella: the spirited opera 'La Cenerentola', by Rossini. With such a beautiful score and script, we were never short on inspiration.
Realizing early on that with a cast of 7 characters and only 2 puppeteers, the show would be best puppeteered from above, allowing us the flexibility to work several characters at once, and pass them between us as need be. We bravely ventured into the land of marionettes.
Our exploration of the form of our characters began with a new set of materials - some sturdy wire and masking tape. Character bodies were sculpted and jointed piece by piece, allowing us great freedom in the manipulation of our characters.
I carefully sculpted the limber and well endowed Dandini. While the wire offered great control, it was somewhat limited in the degree of detail available and was thus a source of some exaggeration of features.
While I twisted and taped, Tangle got to work on the fine faces of our stars.
Finding our first attempts at clay modelling + papier mache to be a bit beyond us on our timeline, we decided to go for a quick and dirty [but effective] method of balling up newspaper and sculpting it with masking tape. The process gave a fine expression of brow, eye sockets, nose, lips and hairline - the key ingredients for building up any face. The faces were then painted with a colour matched to the brilliance of each character. Cinderella would be grey, to match the ashes she swept. The sisters, Clorinda and Tisbe, were to be a flattering purple while their father, the Baron Don Magnifico, would sport an infuriated flushed complexion. The other boys (Prince Ramiro, Dandini the Valet, and Alidoro the Philosopher) took their colours in kind.
While the paint dried, Tangle puffed up Don Magnifico's flustered rage with a big balloon.
With bodies and heads a plenty, the Puppet Sweatshops began. Our helpers this week were Tonda and Lynette - and what talented helpers they were! Tonda's a talented man with a brush in hand, and took charge of the faces of many of our characters. Lynette took on wardrobe and some hair styling. Tangle kept busy with some additional bodywork, and I took to fixing heads onto bodies.
Last but not least, there was La Cenerentola. her skirt began as a flower, with her bare toes exposed to reveal her lowly lot in life. Her warm smile would melt all hearts, though, and she was shaping up nicely. There ended the first night of sweatshop labour. Our mascot Leela the Chiweenie was ready for bed...
Puppet sweatshop continued as days blended into nights, and back into days again. Character motion studies were undertaken, and we took to work on the sets. There was much to build: a Baron's house, the Prince's palace, and a wild and magical carriage.
The finishing touches are always most important. Our last evening left us with one epic task: to string the marionettes. To make a long story short, we didn't know quite what we were getting ourselves into, and for future performances there will be some adjustments to come for the characters we strung that evening. But we made it through, and even found some time for other finishing work... Dandini received some glorious chest hair:
And late into the evening before the performance, before a rehearsal audience of one kindly Chris (lured to stay by the boxed wine), Tangle and I got to our puppeteering.
And on into the night we went, like the innocent Cenerentola running from the prince's palace. With much rehearsal left, we decided to start fresh in the morning. Before a patient audience, our characters took the stage with all the life we could muster. Amidst blenders from the café counter, and the interference of some pesky tree branches from the set, the show went on.
Proud of the effort that brought us thus far, Tangle and I took a few days rest. Our proper documentation of the show will commence shortly, and we beg your patience in the meantime. Hope all is well with you as it is in the land of puppets. Thanks for keeping up with us.