Saturday, December 31, 2011

Francis Whitmore's Wife Shadow Puppet Video

One of the most rewarding things I've gotten to do this year is share a new shadow puppet show I made.

Katherine Fahey, Katie Cuffari Shinsato, and Rebecca Siegmund Williams

This time last year, I was thinking a lot about this song (Mrs. Whitmore's song) and how i wanted to make a shadow puppet show about it.  I had made a crankie (a hand cranked scrolling story telling device in a box) as part of a shadow puppet music video for band Wye Oak, but it wasn't till I met fiddler, Anna Roberts Gevalt and ballad singer, Elizabeth LaPrelle that I thought of making it portable. They had made a couple of crankies they could take around with them and perform. I based the design of my box on theirs.

Even then, i had no idea what kind of adventure this was going to take me on. My first show was in the warm and welcoming Black Cherry Puppet theater in my town of Baltimore. After that, I quickly found myself performing at cafes, schools, parties, music shows. I even got to do several performances at Virginia Center fro the Creative Arts and other shows in Virginia and West Virginia with Anna and Elizabeth.

This new shadow puppet show did several things for me which I never expected. Always having been shy about performance, the crankie allowed me to sing without feeling so much of the attention on me as well as allowed me to share my art with people in real time. I was able to experience the connection you make with an audience in a way that only live performance can create.

Now with January coming around again I have finally a video of the crankie to share with all of you. I know it's not the same as seeing it in person but hopefully it will allow me to share it with more people.

So I guess my lesson for 2010 is to keep doing things I love but am afraid to do. Happy New Year!
Video Credits:
Art Director/Paper cutter/puppeteer/Vocals: Katherine Fahey
Songwriter: Carole Moody Crompton
Director of Photography: Michael Patrick O'Leary
Puppeteer: Katie Cuffari Shinsato
Puppeteer: Rebecca Siegmund Williams
Paper Cutter: Raj Bunnag
Sound: Nick Sjostrom
Crank Box Construction: Neal Golden

Friday, December 30, 2011

12 days of Christmas

I was back as a visiting artist at the Providence Center for adults this December. We put on a shadow puppet show of the 12 days of Christmas. Such a great group of students. A woman was interviewing one of the them today. She was asking him what he wanted to do; what were his hopes and dreams. Do you want to travel? Do you want to get married? No, he said. I want to make more art.

5 golden rings                                  
a partridge in a pear tree                                                   
french hens                                       
ladies dancing                                         
maids a milkin'                        

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Oh Virginia

I spent the month of November at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains doing an artist residency there. I got a lot of work done, enjoyed some great walks, and spent time with some talented and wonderful folks there. There are usually about 30 writers, composers, and visual artists there at a time. I can't say enough how meeting dedicated artists inspires me.

I performed the Elizabeth Whitmore shadow puppet crankie down in Virginia at VCCA, Rapunzels in Lovingston, Amherst Elementary, The Palisades in Eggelston, and at the the Floyd Country Store. The best audience I had was the 50 2nd and 50 3rd graders at Amherst Elementary. They didn't stop asking questions til the teacher made them stop. I will always remember one little girl who raised her hand and just asked me to sing them more songs.

Maggie Smith, a fellow resident at VCCA, began writing poems about the crankie during our time together there. She has written 12 so far. Here is the first one she wrote.


They are alone, the woman and the girl child.
The man has gone over the mountain

to work for a year, maybe longer, and the sunlight
here is a little bitter, the color of turmeric,

the same gold-green as the leaves floating down.
The girl has an eye like a spyglass for birds.

She must be marked, the woman thinks.
Wherever she walks, the shadow of a hawk

falls on her, the way a light trains on something
but in reverse. In this thick forest, light can’t

touch every leaf, but the woman watches
wind touch all of them. If they weren’t paper-

thin, this rustling would be a hammering
like hooves on hard ground. The man will return,

but what a strange homecoming to the world
belonging to the woman and child. They cut

its intricate shapes from nothing, like silhouettes
from paper. They have a rhythm. Mornings,

to the creek on horseback, ochre leaves falling
through ochre air, nearly indistinguishable.

Evenings, at the fire, telling stories the man
won’t know. Maybe there is something about

his hands, rough as bark, the girl will remember.
But if she’s grown wild in this wilderness,

who could blame her. Once small enough
to fit inside the hawk’s fallen shadow,

now she can almost outrun it, only the dark
blade of a wingtip scissoring across her face.

photos above by Margaret Woodson Nea