by Andrew C. Periale
"It's humongous!" says Nina Totenberg, describing the scene at the opening of the trial of Neo-con bad boy "Scooter " Libby, and specifically how much Libby's legal defense would cost: "Eleven lawyers from three top Washington law firms, and for every lawyer
in the courtroom there's three or four more back in the office."
"I'm trying to do the math," says host Scott Simon. "
I took note of this not merely because the amount of money in question would be sufficient to completely fund Puppetry Inter- national for 150 years (it actually would), but because, in reading through the submissions for this issue, several authors used that word: humongous.
As our issue focuses on examples of the world's smallest puppetry, it is useful to have a word even a made up word like "kajillion" or "gazillion" to confer standing in the world of the itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny by juxtaposing the flyspeck with the elephantine, the lilliputian with the humongous.
In the early 1980s, John and Carol Farrell (Figures of Speech Theater), newly returned from a summer course at the International Puppetry Institute in Charleville-Mézières, France, described a performance by one of their fellow students. The puppet booth was a washing machine. Tiny figures would rise out of a ground of styrofoam beads, manipulated by rods from underneath. Spectators (of which there could only be two or three) would look into the machine as if Gods peering down on mortals through some
Olympian camera obscura. They must have felt humongous. One can imagine the difficulty of gaining exposure (never mind earning a living) playing to such small groups. Artists working in the micro scale have employed a variety of techniques for expanding their audience base. Their strategies include providing spectators with opera glasses, committing the work to film or video, using actors or dancers to mirror the actions of very small puppets, and using live-feed video projection of the action, projected simultaneously. As impressive and appropriate as the technology can be, it is also thrilling to see the work of practitioners such as Ken Feit, whose too-brief career was filled with memorable performances for one or two persons: "using only a toothpick, a wad of chewing gum and his two index fingers."
This issue is full of such ingenious, original and, yes, very, very small work. We hope it brings you humongous pleasure.
George Latshaw was a giant in the puppet world. His influence is incalculable. His passing in late December was sad news to the generations of puppeteers who knew and loved the man. Manuel Moran shares with us Latshaw's impact on puppetry in Puerto Rico. For all his accomplishments in film, live performance, writing, editing, directing, teaching a lasting part of his legacy will surely reside in the tiny messages he sent out on postcards. There must be thousands of them magneted to refrigerator doors all over the world. The last we received, just a few weeks before his death, was characteristically joyous and oddly prescient:
I ve been captive too long, but they say I may be sprung Nov. 14 or 15. I hope that is true. I have met you in my dreams and the wine was A-1.
*Ms. Totenberg's words were transcribed on a napkin while driving. We apologize for any slight deviation from the original wording. From NPR's Weekend Edition® Saturday, February 2007. Weekend Edition® Saturday, February 2007.