Puppets bring theater to life

The International Puppet Festival in Jerusalem is celebrating 27 years, featuring both local and international performers.

August 12, 2018 21:28
3 minute read.
CREATED BY Norwegian playwright Yngvlid Aspeli, ‘Ashes’ uses hyper-realistic puppets to tell the sto

CREATED BY Norwegian playwright Yngvlid Aspeli, ‘Ashes’ uses hyper-realistic puppets to tell the story of a writer documenting a pyromaniac who sets fire to buildings in a nearby Norwegian village.. (photo credit: KRISTINV AAFLØY OPDAN)


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Puppets are not just silly toys for kids – they may be the newest trend in theater for adults as well as children.

This year, the Jerusalem Puppet Festival, celebrating 27 years, features 29 Israeli puppet productions and six international shows from France, Poland and Germany, including opening play Ashes from France, the leading country worldwide in puppet theater.

Created by Norwegian playwright Yngvlid Aspeli, Ashes uses hyper-realistic puppets to tell the story of a writer documenting a pyromaniac who sets fire to buildings in a nearby Norwegian village. The play, being performed on Monday, is based on the book Before I Burn, written by Norwegian novelist Gaute Heivoll, who was inspired by the acts of an arsonist in Norway in the 1970s.

Puppet theater has been around as long as traditional theater, said Ashes actor and puppeteer Viktor Lukawski, adding that puppet theater can often be more efficient in telling a story simply because the realm of the puppet opens the door for things that a human actor cannot do.

Especially in plays like Ashes, which combine human actors and hyper-realistic puppets, Lukawski said puppet theater can blur the lines between what is real and what isn’t – which can evoke more emotion from the audience.

“The puppets can be as realistic sometimes as the human beings, just by the act of how well they’re manipulated – and I think that’s what makes it even more magical,” he said. Although many people associate puppets with children, Lukawski said he sees that as a mischaracterization of the true craft of puppeteering – but also something he believes is important and helps him enjoy his work.

“The joy of playing with toys and manipulating objects is something that we all have, actually, from childhood. It’s just a matter of tapping back into that as an adult,” Lukawski said.

He said that his role in Ashes is complicated because he is one of the only human actors in the show, but also manipulates the puppets simultaneously throughout his scenes.

By getting into character as the author, invoking past memories of an arsonist, Lukawski said he is able to channel the emotions into the movements of the puppets.

Lukawski, who has spent the past six years of his career in puppet theater, said he has felt an attachment to puppet theater ever since he saw his first puppet show in France several years ago.

He said there’s a part of each human that wants to connect emotionally to objects, like animation, which is why puppetry and puppet theater work so well.

“There’s an innocence that exists in these objects… that I think really touches us on a much deeper level,” Lukawski said.
Although puppet theater has been popular since its creation, Lukawski said it has gained traction in the past 15 years and people are beginning to appreciate the potential of puppet theater. He said it’s something that everyone – no matter what age – can gain something from, which makes it more powerful.

“It’s a universal thing – we connect to it universally. For me, that’s actually a huge amount of strength and power in a performance – that you can actually do that through an audience, that everyone can be in on it together,” Lukawski said.

The International Puppet Festival is hosted by Train Theater and runs from August 12 to 16 in various locations throughout Jerusalem. The festival includes activities for adults and children of all ages. For more information and tickets visit https://www.traintheater.co.il/he/festival/2018/program.

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