Redmoon Theater uses a blend of puppetrty techniques, unique stagecraft and music to put on theatrical shows in a wide range of size, scale and scope. They are very well known in Chicago for there neighborhood pageants and community-inspired events. Redmoon was also quite capable when "confined" to the stage with a smaller crew (six actors, three musicians, and tech) for its recent stage presentation: Salao - The Worst Kind of Unlucky. The show is Redmoon's adaptation of the Hemmingway classic, The Old Man and the Sea.
A bunraku puppet was "the Man" made of a beautifully carved wood and weathered costumery. His boat (the Man's "stage"), a well crafted small dingy , was hoisted, suspended and ably manipulated with an ingenious stage rigging truss created by David Christopher Krause. This enabled the puppet to row out to sea, and have encounters with wonderful sea and air puppets as the boat "floats" and interacts with the simulated sea. It gave the boat dynamics, a puppet-like life of its own, as well as providing other functions for the stage devices and riggings.
The set and props were designed by Stephanie Nelson to give the feel of a rustic sea shanty. The stage had aspects to allow for simple and efficient scene changes, with curious stage contraptions and gizmos, holes in the sea floor for various people and puppets to poke out of, as well as a mechanical backdrop, with sliding night and day elements.
Puppets were all designed by Jesse Mooney Bullock and Lisa Barcy. They ranged from hand and rod puppets that represented the sea and air animals, as well as shadow puppets to visualize a dream and also some fun large scale wood puppets who stage an arm wrestle. The puppets and set design integrated very well with the production's theme. The set and puppets were made from mostly found objects and recycled materials. A wooden sea tortoise puppet that had a shell collaged with pieces of old book covers was one of my favorites, as well as a school of sharks who encroach on the old man's treasured marlin, and also double as an acapella group.
Redmoon's adaptation was accompanied by a talented group of three musicians, who created wonderful sound-scapes using found object instruments and the unique sounds of manipulated piano. The musicians as well as originally scored and composed sea shanty songs were perfectly timed with the mood settings, as well as their use of repeated motifs for reoccurring action. The musicality of the show was an important element of its success.
After the production, all were invited to inspect the puppets, stage scaffolding, boat, and old man puppet. The craftsmanship was excellent and brough the viewer into the process. The welded stage sculpture was both clean, efficient, strong, and usable. The puppets were of well carved wood, with other found object aspects as decoration.
The show's environments were both intense and somber. Redmoon expresses mystery and melancholy well, which gives tension to there scenes, moving from contemplations to actions. The show was well worth seeing for its separate elements alone. The production as a whole was an effective collaboration of puppets of many types, music, set design, props, and the stage engineering.
For more information on Redmoon Theater, please visit there web site: www.redmoon.org
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