Geppetto Dreams Puppet Company
Death comes for the puppet
In the end, there is always a new beginning. One of the saddest victims of the recession has been Geppetto Dreams Puppet Company, the remarkable East Austin puppetry group which closed its doors last September (see "Geppetto Dreams Puppet Company," Sept. 25, 2009). Yet the grave has not taken it, and the company will return for one last run – suitably entitled The Death Show.
Gathering every last remaining penny of kind gifts from the city of Austin, the Texas Commission of the Arts, and longtime donor Steve Spencer, self-described puppet geek and company impresario Ricki Vincent calls the show "the best I've ever put on because it has a lot of meaning to me." While the production – complete with a live score from klezma anarchists That Damned Band – will be grand, what's biggest about it is the theme: the end of life. Inspired by a dream, the passing of a close friend, and his own imminent 49th birthday, Vincent says he wrote the show "to look at death in all the ways possible, including fear, denial, and acceptance, and people's different reactions to it."
There may be a moment of mourning March 21 when the curtain falls for the final time. Vincent says, "It's our last show as a group unless something pops up and we start getting funding again." Unless that happens, not only will Austin lose the company's shows but also its youth programs and that, he adds, "is the part that kills me and the part I'll miss the most." Yet in this end, there is a new beginning. Vincent returns in the fall with his one-man show, based on the final 24 hours in the life of Hunter S. Thompson, called The Doctor Is Out. After that, he has a full-length feature film planned and a kids' TV show that he's developing. "It's called Fergus' Funhouse," Vincent explains. "It's got the color and the energy of Pee-wee's Playhouse but the format of a Captain Kangaroo."
First there will be the final celebration of Geppetto Dreams. In total, there are seven vignettes, which Vincent describes as stretching from the childlike to the esoteric. He explains: "There's an angel who questions the powers-that-be about why there has to be death in the first place, and an old man for whom Death comes quite literally knocking on his door." His favorite piece, he admits, "is called 'Death Comes for Christmas,'" where a family gets an unexpected dinner guest. He's already had one positive review from one seasoned critic of his work: His wife, Kim. While rehearsing the angel sequence at home, he saw how moved she was. He says, "If I made my wife cry, I know this is a really good show."
The Death Show will be performed March 20 & 21, Saturday, 8 & 10pm; Sunday, noon & 1:30pm, at the Off Center, 2211 Hidalgo. For more information, visit www.geppettodreams.com/death.