Cthulhu: A Puppet Play – Kelly Switzer

Cthulhu: A Puppet Play was a full-length puppet production based on the works of horror author H.P. Lovecraft. It utilized a live, original score, and filmed, as well as live, puppetry. We explored the question of liveness, both within the context of our story and also in our ever-changing technologically-driven world.

Our main character, Professor Derleth, has purchased a mysterious object. He holes up in his ancestral home (conveniently a spooky tower on a seaside cliff) and spends every waking moment researching the object via the internet: social media, email, forums, interlibrary loan, etc. He is utterly alone and yet so connected that the information he is uncovering drives him insane. His tower just happens to come with a futuristic console and flat-screen monitor that allow us to see everything he types, videos he’s watching, and Skype interviews with occultists. Some portions were filmed ahead of time and the live puppet “interacts” with these puppets. Additionally, large portions of the play were voiceovers of the puppet mulling to himself from some point in future time; these portions were pre-recorded, while the mic’d actor provided all the live dialogue. Often the audience could not distinguish between the pre-recorded portions and the actor’s live voice, expressing surprise when they are told that most of what they heard had been spoken weeks earlier.

We tried to bridge, and also point out, the gap in liveness we experience in our everyday lives—it’s easy to go hours or days without seeing another human face, while interacting nearly constantly through social media and email. This fits nicely with the PQ National Exhibit’s theme of Weather in that we explored technology and its use with puppets (perhaps one of the least human of live performance methods). We were also very interested in melding filmed and live puppetry; the two are usually separate, and are indeed separate experiences, but Cthulhu fuses the two together.

In the images enclosed, you can see the actors working together with the main character puppet, as well as closeups of one of our secondary characters (who was used in a filmed portion called “Storage Pickers”, a spoof of modern television shows like “American Pickers” and “Storage Wars”). Also included are images of the puppet on stage interacting with the screen. Additionally, there is a photograph representing our green screen work with the puppets and dancers featured in the filmed portions.

The video is a full-length video of the performance from a stationary point. Please bear in mind that this performance was not staged to be viewed on film; it was, first and foremost, meant to be a live performance that utilized film. This show will be re-produced by the Texas A&M University theatre as part of its 2014-2015 season.