Puppets to come to life on Ellsworth stage

Posted Oct. 06, 2011, at 1 p.m.
“The Outrageous Wisdom of Nasruddin” is one of the puppet shows to be performed during the Great Ellsworth Puppet Festival, Oct. 7-9.
Image courtesy of The Grand
“The Outrageous Wisdom of Nasruddin” is one of the puppet shows to be performed during the Great Ellsworth Puppet Festival, Oct. 7-9.

Puppets are people, too. They experience the full gamut of human emotion with the added benefit of never needing to eat, shower or pay bills. Puppets get along with each other, too, regardless of whether they’re made of felt, papier mache or wood. Aside from things like getting sick or breathing, they’re just like us. At least that’s how puppeteers want you to feel.

The Great Ellsworth Puppet Festival, in its first year at The Grand, is the brainchild of Eric, Robin and Brian Torbeck of the Mount Desert Island-based Frogtown Mountain Puppeteers, and of Kristie Billings of The Grand. Frogtown will perform their seasonal show, “The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow,” at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8.

“They put on their first puppet festival at the Criterion Theatre [in Bar Harbor] a few years ago, but since unfortunately they’re closed, they asked us at The Grand if we wanted to host,” said Billings, The Grand’s arts education coordinator. “We’re thrilled to have them. We’ve got some pretty awesome talent coming this weekend.”

In addition to Frogtown, other performers include the Perry Alley Theatre, a New Hampshire-based troupe using hand puppets. They’ll perform their take on the fairytale “Puss In Boots” at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8. On Sunday, Oct. 9, there are two performances: At 1 p.m., the Rockland-based puppeteer will perform “The Outrageous Wisdom of Nasruddin,” a collection of humorous, traditional Persian, Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist tales of wisdom told by a 1,200-year-old man, Nasruddin, and at 3 p.m., the Tanglewood Marionettes out of Massachusetts will perform “The Dragon King,” based on a Chinese folk tale.

Tickets for the puppet shows are $10 per show for adults, $5 per show for children or $50 for a full festival pass for a family of four.

There’s also a special puppet-centric movie showing during the festival. “The Muppet Movie,” the beloved 1979 film that catapulted the Muppets to Hollywood fame, will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7 and Saturday, Oct. 8, admission is $1.

“We wanted to really celebrate the art of puppetry, so we’ve got a big banner up across Main Street, and a local woman donated a bunch of really cool vintage puppets that we have on display in the lobby,” said Billings.

Coming up the following weekend at The Grand will be two screenings of the film “Handmade Nation,” a documentary film about the modern do-it-yourself crafting community. The movie will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, and 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. Friday also will bring two all-ages performances at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. by Mystic Paper Fool, of its workshop and performance art piece “Art Fool.” Admission to the film is $7, admission to the performances is $3. For information, visit www.grandonline.org.

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