Puppets interpret struggle of OC, Alzheimer's at Pittsburgh Festival of Firsts
By Kellie Gormley
Published: Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts includes two quirky and very simple shows that rely on puppets and body language rather than dialogue: “The Pigeoning” and “It's Dark Outside.”
It's those blasted, filthy pigeons causing all the problems, Frank says.
“The Pigeoning,” a story about obsessive-compulsive behavior, features a 2-foot-tall, grumpy main character named Frank — a Bunraku puppet — along with pigeon figures. Three puppeteers, dressed in black and their faces concealed, operate the figures, backed by video and original music.
“It's a lot like watching a living cartoon even though the themes are a bit grown up,” says Robin Frohardt, creator and director of “The Pigeoning.” “There's a simplicity of watching one character struggle, and I think people get sucked in.”
“The Pigeoning” tells the story of Frank, a New York City office worker in the early '80s who is obsessed with order and cleanliness. The scavenger pigeons become his nemesis, and he launches an investigation into a perceived pigeon conspiracy.
“The pigeons are sort of the embodiment of the ... germs and disorder of the city,” Frohardt says. “They seem to continually cause problems.”
Frank thinks, “Maybe the pigeons are involved in a greater plot against him,” says Frohardt, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Frohardt compares Frank to Buster Keaton, an actor known for his deadpan delivery and stoic expression.
The play contains no dialogue: It's all puppet movements and music.
“It keeps people engaged, for sure,” Frohardt says. “It's very refined and choreographed. ... It's very visually stimulating.
“I would say it's funny and a little dark,” she says. “It's surprising how easy it is in a way. The audiences that we've shown it to have been very receptive to it.”
“The Pigeoning” will show four times Oct. 9 through 12 at 937 Liberty Ave. Every show is sold out except for a recently added show at 7 p.m. Oct. 11. Tickets are $25.
‘It's Dark Outside'
Alzheimer's disease and dementia create misery for people who suffer from them, and “It's Dark Outside” may help audiences understand and sympathize, says an Australian actress from the show.
Wearing a latex mask, Arielle Gray plays the tall, lanky old man in “It's Dark Outside,” a production of the Australian Perth Theatre Company. You won't know it's a woman playing the man, because the play has no dialogue. It relies exclusively on body language, puppets, shadows, animation and an original music score.
The 50-minute play depicts the man as he gets agitated at dusk and wanders outside into the night, where a shadowy figure ends up rescuing him. This shows the stress of Sundowners syndrome, wherein dementia patients feel especially unsettled when the sun sets.
“It's certainly not a documentary” about Alzheimer's, Gray says. The play is, rather, a heartfelt, creative interpretation of a patient's struggle, she says.
The play captures the real person that remains buried underneath the confusion of dementia, Gray says.
“I am very fascinated by this idea that these people who have lost so much of their abilities — something stays in them,” she says.
“It's Dark Outside” plays at 9 p.m. Oct. 9, 10 and 12 at the Trust Arts Education Center, 805-807 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh. Tickets are $25.
Kellie Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-320-7824 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- CBS: Steelers to lose draft pick over Tomlin mishap
- Worst of winter storm expected to miss Pittsburgh
- Nelson Mandela: The real legacy
- Penguins’ Orpik taken off ice on stretcher in loss to Bruins
- Rossi: Penguins’ Orpik among select NHLers going without gluten
- State police kill knife-wielding suspect in child abduction from Brentwood
- Breaking down the Pirates’ needs entering winter meetings
- Donora woman found dead in burning home
- Rampant misuse of antibiotics poses growing global threat, experts warn
- Le’Veon Bell active for Steelers against Dolphins
- Little change in small-town life