A puppet slam is like a cabaret, and a puppet show, and late-night TV, and a big family reunion all rolled into one. It happens at the Puppet Showplace Theatre at night, after the usual audience of children has gone to bed, and has a cult following of adults who work with puppets, or work in theatre, or are dating people who do either of the above, or gave birth to either of the above, or are just plain old excited about the puppetry arts.
There’s a Web site (and if there’s a Web site you know it has to be real) called the Puppet Slam Network, which is the umbrella organization under which Slam sites exist. It reads:
“Underground puppet slams are popping up everywhere. They feature contemporary short-form puppet and object theater for adult audiences, often late at night in small venues, nightclubs, and art spaces. Puppet Slams exist at the nexus of vaudeville, burlesque, and performance art through the intersection of experimental theater, art, music, and dance as a viable alternative to the culturally homogenous digital mass media.
Spearheaded by IBEX Puppetry, The Puppet Slam Network aims to catalogue, connect, support, and raise awareness for the Puppet Slam Nation. The Puppet Slam Network fosters connections in the growing field of independently produced puppet slams, cabarets, and showcases so that puppet artists know where they can perform, venues can find puppet artists, and audiences can enjoy this intimate, tactile, and compelling form of entertainment.”
The closest Slam to me, both in proximity and in my heart, is at Puppet Showplace theatre in Broookline (M.A.). I’m been working with them for almost a year as the official Slam Tech, which means I help get each performer’s sound and lights and set pieces and puppets loaded in, set up, cued, ready to go, and amazing before the audience shows up (or, right before the audience shows up. or, heck, sometimes while the audience is there, in hushed voices, frantically, backstage). That’s really the best I can do to describe it and, let me tell you, it’s a rush.
But why – oh why – would a Puppet Slam be good for YOU? If you’re still wondering, take some inspiration from puppeteer Carl Weiting (reprinted from the Puppet Showplace Theatre Web site):
Why do adults need to see live puppet shows?
Because the Internet can’t heckle you back.
Because it’s fun to see the soul of an old lady in a tomato.
Because if you watch talking furniture onstage it’s less likely you will start talking to your own furniture.
Because the revolution is never over.
Because it’s fun to watch adults in a state of arrested development.
Because it’s healthy to arrest your development for short periods of time.
Because nothing out of Hollywood can actually reach out and touch you.
Because old memories need to be kept young and new memories need to be made.
Because where else can you see 4,083 uses for felt & the common coat hanger.
Because even though you can’t see the puppeteer’s hands, you know what they are doing with them.
Because the world has too many televisions and not enough storytellers.
Because it’s nice to know your trash is being put to good use.
Because instead of dumbing down, puppets smarten up their audience.
Because if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em with a stick (says Mr. Punch).
Because the news doesn’t run enough happy stories.
Because most puppets are actually smarter than most politicians.
Because the worries of the world never stop, but you can put them on hold till the end of the show.
Because why should kids have all the fun.