Once upon a time, puppetry was an art form enjoyed by young and old alike. These days, though, it’s mostly seen as light entertainment for kids (in America, anyway).
But the Asheville Puppetry Alliance aims to change that notion.
“It’s vitally important to us that puppetry be accepted as an art form in its own right,” proclaims puppeteer Lisa Sturz, co-founder (with Pamella O’Connor) of the alliance. And an upcoming appearance by New Hampshire-based puppeteers Andrew and Bonnie Periale, sponsored by the APA, seeks to further that agenda.
Admittedly, when the two perform as Perry Alley (the moniker helps people pronounce their last name), they will cater somewhat to kids, presenting a piece called Salmagundy: Snow White and Other Tales, whose whimsical cast of characters includes a wolf in a toga, a break-dancing cat, and a talking ketchup bottle.
But their Asheville schedule also includes another gig, in partnership with composer Larry Siegel. The trio, known as Tricinium, Ltd., will be serving up strictly adult fare: three plays, collectively titled Strange Love, which combine puppetry, dance, drama and music.
The first play, “The Tree of Life,” is based on a poem by Bonnie Periale, about a young woman in Edwardian England who feels deeply connected with nature. But when she marries a knight, her new husband effectively fences her off from the natural world she loves. Periale describes the play as “a parable for everyone who’s ever battled the demons within.”
The second play, “Share and Share Alike,” is the core of the performance, and also its longest piece — the tale of a man and his Siamese twin, and what happens when one of them falls in love. “I had the idea of this Siamese twin, and I wrote a poem, thinking it would be song lyrics,” says Andrew Periale, explaining the play’s genesis. “But then I realized [that] what I [was] really talking about [was] myself — aspects of my own personality that have been isolated from one another. So I went on to write the play from the ideas expressed in the poem, and then Larry went on to put music to all the lyrics I wrote along the way. And Bonnie helped develop the characters.”
The third Strange Love piece, “Jack & Yettl,” is a Romeo-and-Juliet story, with cultural prejudices acting as the familial threat that divides the young lovers, who’ve found common ground through dance.
The Periales boast impressive resumes: Both spent several seasons with the Pandemonium Puppet Company of Connecticut. Their recent work has been funded by the Jim Hensen Foundation, and they’ve received a national award for excellence in the art of puppetry.
Composer Larry Siegel splits his time between New Hampshire and Minnesota, and has received music fellowships from Tanglewood, the MacDowell Colony and the New Hampshire Council for the Arts.
Together, says Sturz, these artists will help “illuminate our adult audience to the beauty, dignity and magic of this form of entertainment.”