(Music by Eric Beug, Animation by Julia Pott)
While stringed puppetry dates back as far as 2000 BC, the term marionette was coined roughly around 1600 AD and means “Little Mary.” Gaining popularity during Roman times, the Christian church eventually adopted puppet shows as a way to covey morality plays. Eventually, puppet shows were banned from the church as performers started using comedy to influence the stories and subvert both church and state. Over time, the great traditions of trickery and magic have subsided to the more commonly known Punch and Judy style, usually geared toward entertaining children.
The Cast Iron Carousel Marionette Troupe explores the old tradition of telling darker and more beautiful stories, often unsuitable for children. A recent retelling of Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men is a good example of the more subtle and complex appropriation of their work. Although the Cast Iron’s Carousel’s founder, Geahk Burchill, considers himself more of a maker than a puppeteer, he is very passionate about storytelling, shown in the attention to detail he gives to each puppet and set he designs. He’s also passionate about keeping the tradition of puppet design alive by avidly teaching affordable puppet design classes at his studio in the St. John’s neighborhood of North Portland.
In this episode of the Process video series, Geahk demonstrates his incredible skill with the first incarnation of the character Asenath, an Appalachian witch who’s set to play a role in their upcoming play The Doom That Came to Fiddle Creak.
Summoned from his cloistered Massachusetts university to rural Appalachia by a cousin he has not seen in years, Ezekiel Whitlock finds himself embroiled in a the strange and dangerous doings of a mystical family torn apart by an ancient and terrible secret. Blood Keys, a Haunted Book, an Ethereal Sword and a beautiful mute girl all seek to entangle him in an eons old struggle between the Thursbanes and what lays in wait on the ‘Other Side’… The Doom that came to Fiddle Creak!
To give a glimpse of the breadth of work and projects of the Cast Iron Carousel, here’s a short musical story they did with Portland area band Ocelli.