Puppet Masters

To assume that puppetry is only for children underestimates the art form. Not only does puppetry hold a sock's best chance for a career in entertainment outside of a decidedly unglamorous gig with the Red Hot Chili Peppers it's gaining recognition as a theatrical form enjoyed by adults.

In fact, this weekend's production at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater is billed as "adults-only." Guest puppeteers from Perry Alley Theatre will be pulling the strings, presenting Chinese Take-Out Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday, March 7, and Saturday, March 8.

The show combines the whimsy of puppets with the spontaneity of improvisation, as audience members determine the plot by ordering from a Chinese menu of sorts. Each menu item correlates to a story, and the "chef" presents each "dish" as a short puppet show. The set takes the form of a Chinese takeout box, and the meal ends with the "Wheel of Fortune Cookie." Tales range from "the philosophical" (Celestial Surprise) to "the downright raunchy" (Wanton Soup), and though each performance takes on its own flavor, the prestigious Perry Alley puppeteers insist that every show satisfies.

"Prestigious" puppeteers? And how. Andrew and Bonnie Periale's New Hampshire-based company boasts an Emmy nomination and has performed at the Smithsonian Institution. The group's Phoenix performance is evidence of GAPT's growing commitment to adult programming.

"Everyone seems to be really enjoying the shows," says GAPT puppeteer Lisa Haslbauer, "so we're hoping that this will continue to build."

Upcoming adult events include an April puppet slam showcasing "quirky, edgy puppet shows by Arizona's leading quirky, edgy puppeteers."

In May, Chicagoan Blair Thomas presents his popular Drumsticks and Fiddlesticks show, which the GAPT folks describe as "bawdy and reverential . . . amazing, award-winning puppetry."

Dream big, little socks.

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Jill Koch
Contact: Jill Koch