Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wyatt Cenac Embraces his Inner Puppet

Tonight, Wyatt Cenac steps out of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and into our hearts.  Well, I don't know about our hearts, but certainly into our shop.  Okay that was months ago,  but, boy, did we have fun!  After we built the puppet versions of Jon Stewart, John Oliver and Mr. Cenac back in October, Wyatt stopped by for a tour.  What a gracious guy--and a real puppet sympathizer, so we like that!  Tonight I finally understand it, though.  The discovery of his puppet self seems to have been a real epiphany for him.  Go Wyatt!  There's no shame in it.  I look forward the day when we get all our news from puppet journalists.  Heck, we're already getting it from comedians.

My thanks to Mary Brehmer, Isabelle Dufour, Anna Paniccia, Michael Bush, Jean Marie Keevins, Diana Schoenbrun and Stephen Rotandaro for working all weekend to meet the deadline.  It was challenging, but we really had fun cranking these out--and even more fun watching those guys perform their own puppets!  (Although, I'd like to point out the work of James Godwin who picked up the puppeteering for Wyatt in Washington DC yesterday--nice work, James!)

We'll miss watching Wyatt on the Daily Show, but wish him the best of luck in all of his future endeavors.

Artist Diana Schoenbrun built puppet Wyatt.
Artist and performer James Godwin with puppet Wyatt in Washington D.C.
See?  Check it out--he's really there!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Imagine Dragons: "Radioactive"

Just yesterday we all got together in the shop to watch the music video for “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons as released on YouTube.  Despite Hurricane Sandy, which arrived the first day of shooting, it came out really well.  I want to commend John Lathan and Cisco Newman of Syndrome for their fortitude, vision and style and for inviting us to be a part of it.

I also wanted to thank the team of artists in our workshop, specifically  Henri Ewaskio, Isabelle Dufour, Steph Cathro, Michael Bush, Diana Schoenbrun and James Godwin for their beautiful work on such a short schedule.  (If you read my previous post, this is the mess we left behind before the storm.)

Also of note are the great performances behind the puppets by Michael Schupbach, Carole D’Agostino and Michael Bush.  They suffered quite a pummeling during the shoot and laughed all the way through.  The work is never finished until the cameras roll, and you guys topped it off expertly!

Here’s the video...

...and some photos...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

God hates puppets, or does He? Some reasons I am especially grateful this Thanksgiving.

It’s a ridiculous thing to try and make a living out of something like puppetry.  For me, it’s a living and it’s a passion, so naturally I can be pretty single-minded about it and often get frustrated when the going gets tough.  But of course it’s frustrating.  I’ve replaced hunting and farming with puppets.  I think I would have a difficult time explaining that to my ancestors.  At my worst moments, I’ll throw up my arms and sigh, “God hates puppets!”  I say this a lot.  Out loud.  And I sometimes believe it.  Especially when so many brilliant puppet artists have left this world too soon.  So, either God hates puppets, or He must love them so much He’s gathering them around Him in heaven.  Must be one hell of a show.

Anyway, this Thanksgiving, right after Hurricane Sandy, is a particularly poignant one for me.  With so many businesses, homes and lives blown away by the storm, the worst I can report was that I was not more than a little inconvenienced by a week without heat and power.  I remember waking up the following morning in my little suburban town thinking it wasn’t so bad, without any way to know otherwise.  Like so many others, I was dumbstruck to finally learn the extent of the devastation all around me.  Particularly in Hoboken, our shop’s hometown.  Of course, I was worried about Puppet Heap and got there as soon as I possibly could.  I found that our puppet shop weathered the storm unscathed while the town all around it was utterly washed out.  We had not even a leaky window.  So I guess God doesn’t hate puppets after all.  Or maybe we’re just not good enough to be taken right now.  Either way, I was grateful to be spared.

But in the wake of all this, I’m grateful for something else.  I’m grateful to even have the privilege to worry about my silly little puppet studio.  With so many people right next door who lost everything, I can comfortably panic about these tiny imaginary creatures, which could easily be replaced, and probably with something even better anyway.  

And I am grateful to our clients around the world who reached out in support as soon it happened, all them primarily concerned that our people were safe.  And for the wonderful, caring team here at Puppet Heap, who stayed connected throughout the whole thing.  We are a bit like family here, and that kind of love and community within a company is something only fortune can provide and any business owner would be grateful for.

So often I plunge myself into one existential crisis or another, usually centered around being an artist in capitalist society, blah blah blah.  Well, I play with dolls for a living, and somehow, despite enormous forces of nature, I’m lucky enough to fret about it another day.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Maurice Sendak

Thinking about the death of Maurice Sendak over the last few days, I'm struck by how much my generation owes his.  Mr. Sendak belongs to a small group of artists who, along with an even smaller group of forward thinking producers and editors , changed the face of children's literature and entertainment forever. I'm referring, of course, to artists like Tomie DePaola, Theodore Geisel, Ezra Jack Keats and Jim Henson--all of whom were breaking ground for an entire generation of creative people who were just coming into being.  But for me, the king of these was Maurice Sendak.  There is so much about his work that has influenced and inspired me over the years--his sentimentality, his line, his theatrical composition--but most of all, his unflinching courage to be truthful in his work.  More than anything, it's his bold, naked integrity that inspires me most.  We can only work hard and hope to live up to the legacy he has left behind.