Puppet Crimes at The Stone Church

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BRATTLEBORO — Jana Zeller will be presenting her raucous adult hand puppet show, "Puppet Crimes," at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20. This event promises all the allure of a cabaret style performance, with rude language and puppet roughhousing, delicious food and drink, in the sultry atmosphere of the The Stone Church.

This dark comedy highlights all the glory of traditional, anti-authoritarian, counter-cultural puppet theater. The central theme is about what it takes for a common puppet to survive in the face of tyranny, war and economic oppression. Keeping up a 400-year-old tradition, German hand puppet heroes Kasper and Gretel struggle to survive in an old shack on the margins of society. As the centuries pass through their little puppet booth, war is always raging and Kasper tries to avoid getting blamed, arrested and drafted, yet at every turn this petty puppet is made the scapegoat for larger crimes. In a grotesque world of gun-runners, outhouses, and a declining monarchy, Kasper (with the humor and wit of the common man) ducks out from under authority and manages to survive another 200 years. The third character in this spectacle is the villain Dietmar, corrupt emissary to the king who deals in weapons and bullies Kasper with his gun wielding authority. Each scene poses a grotesque circumstance with a comic twist that explores the tradition of Kasper's character and its timeless relevance to today's world.

Zeller is a second generation puppeteer whose passion for the hand puppet has driven her to research this 400-year-old European tradition extensively. She conducted several interviews with Peter Schumann of Bread and Puppet, who witnessed the old fairground performances in his childhood in Germany and personally knew some of Germany's most renowned hand puppeteers. Eric Bass of Sandglass Theater was co-writer and director of this show, and Ines Zeller Bass made all the costumes. Anna Patton wrote the music.

This is an action packed hour-long show for adults, with snappy rhyme and absurdity, inspired by German, British and Italian hand puppet traditions, and supported by a grant from the Jim Henson Foundation. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at stonechurchvt.com, or at the door on the day of the show.

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