The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

A predilection for puppets at Aesop’s Fables: the latest Little Theatre show

When dealing with children, there is always a fine line between entertaining and teaching. The production staff of this year’s children’s show decided to take the familiar stories of Aesop and display them in a unique light.

The thought of having actors parade around the stage dressed as animals, or staging a storybook  tale did not appeal to director William Cusick.

When the idea of puppetry came up it simultaneously solved and created issues. Puppets offer a physicality that actors cannot express onstage, from spinning upside down to floating in a dream sequence.

Unfortunately they cannot act without the assistance of a few carefully placed hands. Actors can show sadness simply by crying. These puppets, although expertly crafted, cannot shed tears or speak and must rely on body language and visual cues to communicate emotion.

The burden fell to puppet designer Matt Leabo to create beings that could exist both onstage and in our minds. Essentially discovering the art of puppetry on his own, Leabo was able to create puppets that resemble their life counterparts with a Picasso-esque edge.

While easily identifiable as human or animal, the puppets also have a surreal quality that adds personality to their foam selves. With careful manipulation by the cast, a calculated head tilt can result in any number of emotions.

The audience can draw on their own behaviors to relate to a character.

Costume designer Tara Fawn Marek outfitted the puppets using consumer products, a silent nod to the greed of society and its eventual downfall.

The audience should not expect to see the satire or styling of Avenue Q or the docility of “Sesame Street.”

This experience is unique to the cast and crew of the show, drawing from their own failures and breakthroughs.

The intent is to teach without lecturing. The characters become parodies of real life while still maintaining their fantasy personas.

The history of Aesop is as obscure as the works attributed to him. Part of his life was as a slave in Thrace, Greece (circa 620 BC), where he used his creative story telling to pass on life lessons. Many of Aesop’s fables seek to teach morality and revolve around the themes of greed, pride and justice.

Though he is credited with more than 500 fables, the exact number is unknown since they were passed on orally until the 1st or 2nd century AD.

They were translated into Greek verse by the poet Babrius, and again in Latin by the Roman poet Phaedrus. Since then, many different versions of Aesop’s fables have been adapted into modern literature.

The show runs from March 27 to April 8 with tickets available to the public for Saturday shows (April 1 and 8 both at 12 and 2 p.m.)

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