Tag Archives: puppet

Ubu’s Dreams

Ubu’s Dreams is a shadow puppet show featuring Père Ubu and surreal characters from his unconscious. This play was created by Mark Petrakis and Fabrice Florin, with Edward Janne, Dan Cantrell, Phyllis Florin, Jean Bolte and our friends at Pataphysical Studios.

We premiered Ubu’s Dreams at the Canessa Gallery in North Beach, San Francisco on November 3, 5 and 12, 2016. Watch the video here. The show was part of the ‘Pataphysics of Dada exhibit for the Dada World Faire hosted by City Lights Books.

What’s it about?

Ubu’s Dreams stars Père Ubu, the protagonist of Alfred Jarry’s plays at the turn of the 19th century. This shadow puppet show features many surreal characters from his unconscious: big faces, talking ravens, exploding cows and other creatures from the wild ubu-beyond.

Ubu’s Dreams explores new ways of telling stories with shadows, combining laser-cut wood figures, mechanical automata, a rich musical soundtrack as well as video and multimedia scenery. This 12-minute show consists of three separate plays with music interludes.

Watch the video below. For more details about this first show, check out this scripts page.

Where was it shown?

We premiered Ubu’s Dreams on November 3rd, 5th and 12th, 2016, 6-8pm, during our ’Pataphysics of Dada exhibit at the Canessa Gallery in North Beach, for the Dada World Faire.

We may perform Ubu’s Dreams again in 2017. Please contact us at info@pataphysics.us with any questions or suggestions of possible venues for our next show.

In the meantime, you can watch the video of our first performance here on Vimeo.

And here is our photo album from recent shows, including the ‘making of’ Ubu’s Dreams.

How are the characters made?

The shadow puppets in Ubu’s Dreams are made of wooden figures and shapes created in Adobe Illustrator and laser cut onto ⅛” birch plywood. We animate these puppets by hand from behind the screen, holding them on thin vertical sticks planted on animation stands. A few of the characters have moving parts, such as arms or mouths — and some of the parts light up.

We plan to bring some of these figures to life by making them move with small motors. We’re also experimenting with spotlights and other forms of automation. Some long-term aspirations for this experiment are outlined in this Theatre Mécanique blog post.   

 

What does the show look like?

Here are photos for each scene in the show.

See more pictures in this photo album — including the ‘making of’ Ubu’s Dreams.

What is going on behind the screen?

Here are photos of the performers and their puppets.

How does it work?

This shadow puppet show takes place inside the Magic Theater, a mobile stage for interactive storytelling we created for this project.

The Magic Theater is based on a wooden cart with a PVC framework. It includes a powerful projector over the performers’ heads, which illuminate the top of the screen, so the show can be seen even in a crowded room.

 

Who created this?

Here are the fine folks who created this project:

Created by Mark Petrakis and Fabrice Florin

Written, Performed and Directed by Mark Petrakis

Designed and Produced by Fabrice Florin

Animated and Engineered by Edward Janne

Music by Dan Cantrell

Stage Design and Construction by Fabrice Florin, Phyllis Florin, Edward Janne, Mark Petrakis and Jean Bolte

Special Thanks to our friends at Pataphysical Studios

 

How can I learn more?

Watch the video here. See also: photo album, scripts page and timeline.

 

Théatre Mécanique

Theatre Mécanique is a proposed interactive storytelling system for recreating a wide range of stories with animated puppets.

Theatre Mécanique is a proposed interactive storytelling system featuring animated puppets and computer-controlled multimedia.

I propose to create a Théatre Mécanique — a project which I would like to work on in coming years, in collaboration with others. (For a visual overview, check out these slides.)

The idea is to build an interactive storytelling system that would let you experience and remix some of the great myths and legends shared by all cultures around the world. It would enable small groups of people to collaboratively reenact some of these universal stories, connect them with their daily lives — and better understand each other as a result.

This theater cart would enable small groups of people to experience some of the universal myths we all share.

This theater cart would enable small groups of people to experience universal myths, and select plot elements.

This mini theater would be mobile, like a hot dog stand, so it could be located anywhere, from birthday parties to street fairs or even on the Playa. It would feature animated puppets, which could either be controlled manually by live performers, or automatically by small computers like Arduino: the puppets could slide in and out of the stage, face one another and/or move their heads and limbs, as shown in the prototype we’re now developing for a balinese cuckoo clock.

Animated puppets would act out short stories selected by participants, set against colorful images on a rear-projected screen.

Animated puppets would act out short stories against colorful images, rear-projected on a background screen.

This mixed media system would include a good sound system for amplifying background music, sound effects and character voices, either live or pre-recorded. A rear-projection screen would set the mood by displaying a wide range of images for each scene, from landscapes from around the world to historical or futuristic scenes. An interactive controller at the front of the stage would let visitors and performers select different types of stories, characters, images and sounds.

Participants would be invited to approach the theater and pick a topic, place or time on the controller. The puppets would then act out a short 1-3 minute scene based on your selection. At the end of each scene, they would ask you for more plot ideas, to guide what happens next. The performance would be recorded on video, which could be emailed to you afterwards, as shown in this first example.

This is an ambitious project, but it appeals to me deeply, because it has the potential to support a wide range of applications: from simple party entertainment to more creative uses, like a time machine simulation — or even scenario planning for group discussions.

In coming months, I would like to explore this idea with friends and collaborators, starting with simple low-tech theatrical experiments and eventually building small prototypes for key parts of the system. I am quite aware this is a large, multi-year project, so I am proposing to start small, and spread research and development over time, with actual fabrication starting a year later. This process is inspired by our collaborative work on the Pataphysical Slot Machine, which we aim to exhibit in public this year.

For this Theatre Mécanique, I hope we can find the right balance between existing storytelling traditions and new interactive technologies — so that the human qualities that make great performances possible are supported by these tools, rather than supplanted by them. Interestingly, this also ties in with the larger challenge we all face as a species, as we look for the right interplay between human and machine intelligence. To that end, I hope that we can tap diverse communities of artists and engineers to participate in this creative experiment.

Fortunately for us, there is a large community of puppeteers already practicing around the world, from Guignol to ‘toy theaters’ to Wayang — and these creative artists have already paved the way for this art form to evolve in a computer-assisted setting! I look forward to discussing these ideas with interested collaborators later this year. For now, I have included below a variety of links that might inspire us in planning this project.

Onward!

Greetings from Bali

I had a wonderful trip to Bali with my yoga studio in March 2014. We spent a week near Ubud, in the heart of island — and found a healthy balance between cultural and spiritual explorations.

Here is a short slideshow with highlights from this trip, set to the hypnotic gamelan music we heard everywhere.

To see more, check out this full slideshow. The individual photos can be viewed and shared here on Flickr (browse the full photo archive here).

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The trip was led by my longtime teacher Erika Trice, and organized by International Yoga, in partnership with the Bali Institute.  We stayed at Furama Villas, a lovely resort in the rice terraces near Ubud, where a friendly staff provided a great service with gamelan, incense and sweet fruits.

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We usually started and ended each day with an energizing yoga session — and ventured off in the island during the afternoons and evenings.

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On day 1, I met with the master mask maker I.B Anom, who introduced me to some of the special powers of his art. With the help of my driver Pinda, we found a nice miniature Garuda for our art project — and went off on a chase for Ooga-Oogas, giant demon figures which each village is building to fend off evil spirits for the upcoming New Year.

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On day 2, we went into nearby Ubud to visit the inspiring Neka art museum and watch a mesmerizing Legong dance performance.

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On day 3, we joined a cleansing ceremony to purify holy objects with ocean water — thousands of villages across the island made the same trip to the beach and we were honored to be part of this ritual.

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We then visited a master puppet maker, who brought a few of his characters to life for us and showed us around his family compound.

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And we ended the day with a hypnotic performance of Kecak — a ‘choir’ of men sat in a circle to re-enact the Hindu Ramanya epic with a spellbinding chant.

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On day 4, I met the talented young mask maker I.B. Anom Suryawan. We connected on many levels, and he is excited to collaborate on our Balinese Cuckoo Clock project: I now feel like I have a new friend in Bali.

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We then joined celebrations for the Balinese New Year, when every village in the island parades ‘ogoh-ogoh’, large demonic statues symbolizing malevolent spirits that need to be exorcised. It was really fun to meet our neighbors in the small village of Bindu, who made us feel part of their community.

On day 5, the entire island shut down to observe Nyepi, the Day of Silence, to reflect and meditate: no flights in or out of Bali, nobody in the streets, no electricity; we stayed in our hotel and I did my part by not taking any photos. 🙂

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On day 6, we went to Tirta Empul, where Balinese purify in the holy spring waters, then visited the Prince of Paliatan to discuss the future of Bali.

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On day 7, we went to the amazing Royal Pitahama for an afternoon by the river and a divine yoga session in this enchanted spot.

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Overall, this was an amazing experience for me, at all levels: physical, cultural and spiritual. I will miss this special place — but I now have some new friends I hope to meet again on my next visit.

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Throughout this trip, I’ve been moved by the kindness of our hosts, who are incredibly friendly with strangers like us: I hope we can bring some of that goodwill home with us, our western world could use more of that communal spirit and generosity, which seems especially strong here at the local level.

We have much to learn from the Balinese, to whom I say: Suksuma — thank you!

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