Puppets take stage in innovative production

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Puppets will take over the Showcase Theatre as the Sam Houston State University Theatre Department’s production of Moira Buffini’s “Dying For It” opens on Wednesday.

“Dying For It” is an adaptation of Nikolai Erdman’s “The Suicide”, a satirical comedy based on Soviet life that was banned from public performance by Joseph Stalin in 1932. The show follows the story of Semyon, unemployed, poor and guilty for living off his wife’s earnings. As he loses hope in himself, he decides to commit suicide. But when others find out about his plan they exploit his plan for their own benefit, ensuing in a hilarious interpretation of Soviet life.

While the show was not originally written for puppets, director Dave McTier, Ph.D., decided to take the risk and offer audiences something never done before at SHSU to create unique visual effects for the audience.

“We’ve never done a puppet show here beforeàand this seemed like a really good script,” McTier said. “When some of my colleagues noted that when they read the show they thought it was a bit dry and having the puppets make [the show] considerably more fun.”

The show will be an innovative new experience at SHSU as the actors, dressed in all black, will voice and move the handmade puppets on stage to bring the characters to life, complete with their own costumes. Also, the set features smaller furniture pieces including a cot and table set made specifically for the puppets.

“Since we’re educational theatre, I don’t want us to get stuck in a rut of the same old things,” McTier said. “We should always be exploring and experimenting. So for us this show is like a big experiment, but with puppets.”

Along with the novelty of using the puppets, came the challenges of timing and working without much of a guide to the art of puppetry, even days before the show opens, according to McTier.

“Even now, we still have things to fix and to finish on the puppets,” he said. “Everything is taking much longer than we thought. There’s a lot of trial and error going on because it’s not like we’re following a recipe or a pattern that says ‘this is how you do it’. We’re doing all of this from scratch making it up as we go.”

Despite the challenges, McTier said the cast has handled them to bring novelty to the performance to connect with the audience.

“I hope [the audience] see the novelty in the show because we don’t have a lot of [puppetry] going on,” McTier said. “Also, that that they find it kind of refreshing because the actors are very passionate about it, they get into it and we think the audience will share that with them.”

“Dying for It” will show from April 3-6 at 8 p.m. each night with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. For ticket information, call the Theatre Box Office at 936-294-1339.

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