3-dimensional storytelling: Paperhand Puppets wrapped up ‘The Beautiful Beast’

Reviewed by Nancy Drago
Times-News correspondent 

   GREENSBORO — Music, storytelling and mixed media puppetry intertwined in Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s most recent production of “The Beautiful Beast” on Saturday at the Carolina Theatre. The production was written and directed by Jan Burger and Donovan Zimmerman with music composed by Jennifer Curtis. This is the first time the troupe performed in the Carolina Theatre and it was the final performance of “The Beautiful Beast.”
The production is comprised of four stories each with a specific message. The show inspires discussion within its audience on topics of tolerance, acceptance and cooperation. It covers the environment within us, close to us, and all around our world. This project promotes having a voice, practicing activism, and educating others. It speaks for people and things who cannot speak for themselves.
Before the show starts, an actor appears to engage the audience. He encourages them to react to what they see, hear and feel with appropriate responses. It creates an environment that involves the audience and gives them the feeling that they are a part of the action. The audience members applaud, cheer and even boo, as they see the stories unfold.
   The puppets are beautifully crafted from many different materials such as cardboard, plastic shopping bags, fabric and more. Paperhand has more than 150 volunteers who worked to make the spectacle. The variety is remarkable and includes gigantic creatures, shadow puppets, marionettes and others. Set pieces come together like a puzzle to create the backdrop for the story. The puppeteers move like dancers, choreographed to carry their creatures upon the stage. The uniqueness of each puppet makes it difficult to name just one that is extraordinary.
The live orchestra members perform and vocalize the stories. All of the music is an original composition. Each piece complements the visual elements on the stage and assists in engaging the emotions of the audience members. The musicians never stop, keeping the stories flowing from one to the next.
“The Beautiful Beast” received a standing ovation from the crowd. It’s impossible to watch this company without an appreciation of the art they have created and the messages they raised. Paperhand Puppet’s studio is in Saxapahaw. It accepts donations to continue the three-dimensional storytelling. For more information on future productions or how to become involved, find them on social media or visit paperhand.org.

Nancy Drago is a freshman at Chapel Hill High School and a Teens & 20s writer.

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