Theatre Arts

Puppets Confront Anthropocentrism in HS Fall Play

by Bob Sloan
Our planet is currently hurtling on an unwavering trajectory toward mass extinction. And while every day we accrue more information and data, more facts, figures, and charts explaining how this is happening and what the consequences are, we curiously cannot seem to invest ourselves fully in slowing the process down. Perhaps this is because data and information reinforce the very construct that is at at the root of the problem -- our anthropocentric approach to planet.
In his book Being Ecological, philosopher Timothy Morton explores how our anthropocentrism keeps us from engaging in a symbiotic relationship to planet — that we are of it. More information, he cautions, will not help us. The constant barrage of facts, what he deems the “Data Dump,” leaves us only feeling hopeless, guilty and, worst of all, enervated. We see a puppy get loose, start moving toward a busy street, everyone in the area immediately jumps into action, calling out, stopping traffic, chasing after the pooch. Yet when the very environment that gives us life and sustenance is in an equal state of impending danger, our response is not nearly as visceral and committed.
For the high school fall play this year, the theater department will be collaborating with two wonderfully innovative New York puppeteers to create a humorous, insightful, and daringly imaginative theater piece based on the Timothy Morton’s book. The show, Being Ecological — a People/Puppet Vaudeville, will be constructed as a series of sketches featuring a different style of puppetry that each address an aspect of Morton’s provocative approach to what he prefers to call, our imminent “mass extinction.”

The students involved in the production will, under the guidance of Lake Simons (Basil Twist’s Symphony Fantastique) and Rowan Magee (Angels in America on Broadway) build and then master working with the puppets. These will include a ventriloquist dummy, 10-foot high Bread and Puppet-style characters, Bunraku puppets, rod, and Sesame Street-style puppets, marionettes made of garbage, marionettes not made out of garbage, shadow puppets, and others to whimsically complicated to describe.

Along with MS/HS Theater Teacher & Theater Department Chair Robert Sloan, other Dalton collaborators are K-12 Engineering Chair Sloan Warren, MS/HS Theater Arts & Design Teacher Meg Zeder, and MS/HS Spanish Teacher Carmen Campos. Together we will attempt to fortify the audience with a new sense of vitality regarding how we approach our catastrophic environmental predicament.
Being Ecological: A People/Puppet Vaudeville
Auditions: Sept. 17, 18, & 20.
Performances: Nov. 7 at 4:30; Nov. 8-10 at 7:00
212.423.5200 |
(K-3) 53 East 91st Street, New York, NY 10128
(4-12) 108 East 89th Street, New York, NY 10128