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Adults Only: Puppet Slam!

You're probably familiar with the idea of a poetry slam. Writers get a few minutes each to get on stage and recite their verse for an audience.

Well, in Brookline-- the Puppet Showplace Theatre — which usually caters to children-- has put a twist on the slam. Every few months the theater hosts puppet slams for adults — where about a dozen puppeteers perform their latest works. WBUR's Abigail Beshkin attended last Saturday ... and has this report.

CARL WEITING: (applause)I love the first slam of the season...

ABIGAIL BESHKIN: it's past many kids' bedtimes — by the time the slam gets underway. The 100 or so adults in the audience look a bit funny squeezed into benches usually used by five-year- olds. Still... by the third skit it's clear the slam is not a puppet show for kids.

PAUL VINCENT DAVIS: I... am a handmade, mouth-blown Steuben martini glass ...

ABIGAIL BESHKIN: Puppeteer Paul Vincent Davis moves a martini glass back and forth behind a white screen. With Davis narrating from out of sight--it appears as though the shadow of the glass is talking — telling the story of falling in love with a champagne flute.

PAUL VINCENT DAVIS: It was New Year's Eve and the young master had a party... He brought in all kinds of champagne glasses... One was a beautiful tulip shape. I loved that tulip shape. Then at midnight everybody kissed everybody and we kissed too (clink sound...)

ABIGAIL BESHKIN: The rest of this piece is too raunchy to share. The other performances in tonight's show are tamer. They use varying types of puppets: a marionette, Papier Mache masks, hand puppets — even paper cut outs. Many of the pieces-- like Davis' — are being performed for the first time, explains the theater's artistic director Kathleen Conroy Mukwashi.

KATHLEEN CONROY MUKWASHI: It's a great chance to experiment and have the opportunity to do something you haven't done yet.

The Puppet Showplace Theatre launched slams more than a decade ago, for just that reason. Now, explains the slam's M-C Carl Weiting, it's become much more.

CARL WEITING: Over the years, a lot of the people that I've introduced through the slams have ended up working together, creating pieces together and really stretching themselves and the art form.

ABIGAIL BESHKIN: The slam does provide ample time for the puppeteers to network. They show up three hours early to rehearse, and share a potluck dinner. Many of the performers are professional puppeteers, but others make their debut at tonight's slam.

JOHN LITTLE AND STEVEN BAILEY: I'm John, and I'm Sulfy, have you met my brother Rags?...

ABIGAIL BESHKIN: Rags and Sulfy are the creations of John Little. He's spent years watching Muppet Show DVD's... But only began pursuing puppetry seriously about two months ago. His friend Stephen Bailey helps. Both agree the slam is the perfect venue to get started.

JOHN LITTLE AND STEPHEN BAILEY: Everyone wants to share they want to get you to get your vision out there and I think that kind of sold both of us right there, yeah, this is absolutely the place we want to be.

ABIGAIL BESHKIN: And many in the audience say the Puppet Showplace Theatre is where they want to be tonight because the show is so unusual. During intermission Linda Goodrich says she came for her birthday night out.

LINDA GOODRICH: I've taken my daughter who's 3 to see a lot of the shows during the day, and I've always wanted to come. It's a different way to spend an evening, very creative, fun...

ABIGAIL BESHKIN: It's hard not to have fun at the slam. In between acts, the M-C throws candy into the audience and during intermission, people play with the finger puppets for sale in the lobby... maybe thinking about signing up for the next puppet slam.

For WBUR... I'm Abigail Beshkin.

Outro: The next slam at the puppet showplace theater in Brookline takes place in January.

This program aired on November 23, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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