Experimental Moves

Missed connections: Visiting theatre artists explore communication breakdown in Poste Restante

Missed connections: Visiting theatre artists explore communication breakdown in Poste Restante

Austin photo: Event_Poste Restante_Poster

Do you remember the last time you put pen to paper and wrote someone a letter?  Maybe, like me, you still have one of these artifacts of an ancient past tucked away in a special place, never sent to its intended, perhaps waiting to be claimed? 

The Secret Agents' Poste Restante, brought to Austin’s Salvage Vanguard Theatre this past weekend by a partnership of Trouble Puppet Theater and Glass Half Full Theater, is an exploration of those lost letters and missed communications.   The charming performance piece is a love letter to the deep human need we have to connect and the terrible trouble we have in succeeding.

Using a mix of dance, puppetry, and film, Tim Gallagher and Bonnie Duncan create a theatrical experience that is hard to put into words.  There is no spoken text in the one act performance only an ambiguous narrative of longing, love and loss.  The story of the two lovers unfolds in a weave of media, opening before the audience like a wonderful package.  Vibrant dynamic physical sequences using dance and acrobatics crash into delicate and fragile dreamscapes in shadow puppetry then explode into whimsical stop motion animation projected on walls and tumbling across bodies. 

Poste Restante is a work steeped in the traditions of physical storytelling.  This is something we tech savvy people have a tendency to dismiss as quaint or sentimental and there is a feeling of nostalgia in the work, the lover’s dream of flying through the air in Victorian machines, and lick the stamps they paste to letters written on paper and sent through the post.  This apparent anachronism is essential to the theme, essential to the exploration of failed connection, to the message, if you will forgive me, that we are, after all, physical beings.

Tim and Bonnie began their work together at Snappy Dance Theater, a collaborative ensemble based in Boston which incorporates “athletics, gymnastics, circus skills, martial arts, vocal work, theater and dance into a fun-filled evening of meaningful entertainment. . .”  This heritage clearly shows in this collaboration.  They have been performing Poste Restante for over four years now, traveling across the globe and earning the Best of Fringe and Best Physical Comedy awards at the San Francisco Fringe Festival.  

It is a great delight that Trouble Puppet Theater and Glass Half Full Theater have brought this work to share with Austin audiences.  I would advise anyone interested in thought provoking and emotionally evocative performance to pay attention to what these two companies are doing.  

The Trouble Puppet Theater Company was founded by Connor Hopkins, the current Producing Artistic Director and Head Troublemaker, in 2004.  Hopkins, also a member of the Rude Mechanicals, has been awarded scholarships to attend the prestigious National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center each year since 2007 and his adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle won a Seed Grant from the Jim Henson Foundation  

Your next opportunity to see what Trouble Puppet Theater is up to will be as a part of Frontera Fest’s Long Fringe when they present The Crapstall Street Boys and then again in April when the team will offer us a preview of their work with Macbeth, set to officially premiere in October 2012.

Glass Half Full Theater, headed by producing artistic director Caroline Reck, was founded in Paris in 2003 by students of Ecole Internationale de Theater Jacques Lecoq.  In March, the company will be presenting a physical theater and shadow puppetry show The Orchid Flotilla, inspired by a trip to the sinking Sunderban Islands in India and Bangladesh, also at Salvage Vanguard.  Later in the year, they will also be mounting a full staging of their 2010 workshop production Fup Duck, for which they have received a Jim Henson Foundation grant.