A Story of Artistic Obsession

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Part IV - Pre-Performance Drill

I paid my dues for an invitation to the International Puppetry Festival with two seasons of performing on the streets of several of our city’s more bohemian neighborhoods, places where I thought I might find an appreciative audience.

In the early evening on summer weekends I drove the eye-poppingly decorated, but poorly running, traveling theater through town to a previously vetted parking lot—a highly visible space with room.

First, I would piece together and erect the tent poles, roll out its roof and attach the sides. There was space enough inside the tent to next set up about twenty folding chairs. Thin plywood covers, matching the deep red curtains painted on Carpo’s front end were placed over the van’s windows. The plain proscenium cover was removed from the side, and the previously described baroque golden frame was attached.

Turning my attention to the van’s advertising (as opposed to performing) side, I climbed a stepladder, opened and secured the flying fish, Carpo’s namesake. The giant clamshell holding the pearls of wisdom and jewels of frivolity was screwed in place below the fish. An octopus’ tentacle was attached to the driver’s sliding door so it appeared to be opening the painted curtain for a peek at the magic inside.

If there was power nearby I'd run an extension cord, otherwise I'd hook up my marine battery and run the juice through an inverter.

Appreciation That Kept Me Going
A framework for the stage spotlights went up next, and then the spots themselves were mounted there, as well as on the opposite side to highlight the fish and clam. The boombox speakers were attached above the stage.
A double set of twinkling lights was strung around the tent.

Finally, two sandwich boards were set out to advertise the performance, and a tape of Klezmer carnival music was popped into the boombox and turned on.

If I'd timed it right, we were now just before dusk, about twenty minutes before the main performance would begin. Applying a pencil-thin mustache, donning a Panama hat and gold lame jacket, I became Artie, the barker and ticket taker who would circulate nearby with his megaphone, drumming up a (usually meager) audience for the (almost) free show.

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