Figures of Speech Theatre savored a moment of national attention this summer, when HUMANITIES, the quarterly magazine of the National Endowment of theHumanities, featured our production of the little match girl passion in a story celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize. Figures of Speech received a Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Initiative grant, administered by the MaineHumanities Council, to support the final production phase of the little match girl passion, a theatrical setting of American composer David Lang’s Pulitzer-winning work of the same name.
Our production takes Lang’s brilliant synthesis of Andersen and Bach and adds a layer of visual poetry to the piece, with a dance of projected shadows, puppet manipulation and masked performance. Rather than illustrating Andersen’s story or the Gospel story in a literal sense, the setting we created extends Lang’s work with imagery examining the spiritual and psychological worlds of the little match girl and her dead Grandmother.
For the world premiere at Bates College, four singers, under the musical direction of longtime FST collaborator Andrea Goodman, delivered Lang’s intricate vocal score with percussion.
After the premiere, John Farrell spoke with Amy Lifson, Assistant Editor at HUMANITIES about his experience directing and building the puppets and mask used in the little match girl passion. Lifson’s article (The Pulitzer Prize Turns 100), published in the Summer 2016 edition, called the show a “haunting, almost sacred tribute,” in which “a magical sense comes from the whole performance.”
We look forward to future opportunities to join you on this journey through the staggeringly beautiful world of Lang’s music.
Over the past year-and-a-half, FST artists have partnered with the Island Institute to work with students from the one-room schoolhouse islands off the coast of Maine: Cliff, Isle au Haut, Islesford, Frenchboro, Matinicus, and Monhegan.
In the spring of 2015, Director of Education Ian Bannon taught the students documentary gathering techniques, which they used to find their favorite oral history from each island. This past fall, four FST artists returned to each island to spend two days filming shadow puppetry adaptations of each of the stories.
This collaboration has culminated in a 35-minute shadow puppet film, The Art of Memory, which combines full-scale silhouettes, over-sized caricature masks, puppets, and a mesmerizing depth of field and textures. The film is driven by a beautiful score from FST affiliate artist Dave Noyes as well as narration from some of Portland’s best voiceover actors.
The Bar Harbor screening will be the first of three mainland screenings. The film will be followed by a short Behind the Scenes documentary and Q&A.
The show is appropriate for all ages, perhaps even more so for adults, who will appreciate the historical underpinnings of the stories as well as the engaging visuals and music!
Last night was the first island screening out here on Isle au Haut. We had about 30 or so folks show up for the potluck. The audience loved the movie and found plenty of laughs. It was described as engaging, multi-layered, and sculptural. The behind the scenes documentary tugged at heart strings. Everything you hope for.
Then Parker Waite stepped up and floored all of us.
He talked for 40 minutes about laying the powerline from Isle au Haut to Stonington, splicing the sections at sea along the seven-mile length, his thousands of hours diving on the ocean floor from Vinylhaven to MDI, about rescuing a leatherback turtle that circled his ship three times in gratitude…he was an amazing storyteller. He even brought a length of the cable with him. He said that laying that line was one of the things he’s most proud of in life and he was just delighted to get a chance to speak to people about it.
The islanders truly honored him for his work. Most of them had never heard the story before. Quotes bandied about afterwards ran something like, “That was the most historically informative event in my 30 years on the island.” Parker thanked me as he left.
Last night is what this project was about. Thank you for the stories!
Casey Turner joined FST artists Ian Bannon and Dave Noyes in the studio to record voiceover narration for one of the stories in The FOSSE’s upcoming shadow puppet documentary, The Art of Memory. Little did she know that she’d land in the recording studio of Rustic Overtones, one of her favorite bands growing up. Rock on, Casey!
The world premiere of the little match girl passion was welcomed with sold out performances despite a storm that knocked out power to 25,000 Mainers. We are completely overwhelmed with the response and so pleased to have shared this weekend with you!
“the little match girl passion” had its first public showing at Bates College on June 19 and 20. Thanks to all who came to the workshop production and shared feedback with us. Pictured here are the Grandmother (Carol Farrell) and the Little Match Girl (Ian Bannon, Laura Collard and Dylan Rohman, puppeteers).
All photos by Phyllis Graber Jensen, Director of Photography and Video at Bates College.
We invite you to our first public showing of this exquisite new work-in-progress, inspired by David Lang’s composition for four singers and percussion, in which the classic Hans Christian Andersen story of The LittleMatchGirl is paired with texts from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.
To Figures of Speech Theatre’s signature weave of actors and puppets, filmmaker Derek Kimball adds video imagery of dreamlike beauty. The resulting work is a visionary fusion of astonishing music and visual poetry, powered by mystery and metaphor.