1 Worlds on a string
Tell your friends that you're going to see something called "Adult Puppet Cabaret" and you might get a puzzled look. Miss Piggy in pasties? Sexy Punch and Judy?
Bridget Rountree's heard it all. Six years ago, she and Iain Gunn co-founded Animal Cracker Conspiracy Co.—a puppet-making and performance outfit—and began putting on shows under the title Adult Puppet Cabaret. That's "adult" as in "sophisticated," not X-rated.
The point, Rountree says, is to encourage grownups to rethink puppetry.
"You say puppets' and everyone associates that with kids," she says. "When we started Animal Cracker Conspiracy, we really wanted to be part of the movement of helping puppetry be seen as an art form and be for adults, in the echelon of fine arts—sculpture, painting or drawing."
For the last four years, Adult Puppet Cabaret's main event has been at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park— this year's happens from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22. Admission is $15. The evening starts in the museum lobby with drinks, a chance to make your own puppet and performances by several accomplished puppeteers. At 8:15, MoPA's theater will screen Heather Henson's Handmade Puppet Dreams, Vol. IV.
The youngest daughter of Jim Henson, Heather each year compiles the best in independent puppet short films, some of which she's produced. One of those films is Sam Koji Hale's Yamasong, which will be screened at the event. Fans of her father will spot its Dark Crystal influences; anime fans will likewise dig the stunning, whimsical, Japanese-style tabletop puppets and the taiko-drumming soundtrack by L.A.'s On Ensemble. Hale will be at the screening to talk about his process.
"It's an incredibly time-consuming art-form," Rountree says. "Just making the puppets alone and then bringing film into the whole scenario—it'll be great to hear someone's process of how they went about attempting to do this."
2 Enemies within
During World War II, the 92nd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army was sent off to the front lines of northern Italy. Nicknamed "Buffalo Soldiers" for the division's buffalo insignia, these predominantly black troops fought fiercely alongside Italian volunteers and ended up penetrating the Nazis' formidable Gothic Line. But as Italian-Ghanian filmmaker Fred Kuwornu explains in his 2010 documentary, Inside Buffalo, they also faced an internal enemy, struggling against the racism and segregation of the Army. To celebrate Black History Month, the San Diego Italian Film Festival will screen the film at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21. Kuworno will sit down for a Q&A after the screening. $10. mopa.org
3 Clouded visions
Collaborations can be disastrous. Remember that Bowie / Jagger version of "Dancing in the Streets"? What a mess! But when they work, the results are magical. That can be expected at Clouds in my Room, a dance collaboration between Patricia Rincon Dance Collective, which is celebrating 30 years of dance, and Swiss choreographer Beatrice Jaccard of Company Drift. The concert, directed by Rincon, marks the kickoff of the UCSD Department of Theatre and Dance's newest dance series. Jaccard will perform the story of one woman's solitude through dreamlike movements, song and poetry that can be at times whimsical and at times bizarre. Catch it at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23, at UCSD's Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre. $10 to $17. rincondance.org