Evolution of the Machine by Ora Fruchter

We’re getting great feedback from audience members now! The number one thing we’re hearing from kids is “how does the machine work!?” and it reminded us that it’s finally time to do a post about the machine itself! Here it is, the evolution of the machine!

 “The Machine We Use to Collect Stories” from  Grimm!  at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre 2015.

“The Machine We Use to Collect Stories” from Grimm! at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre 2015.

 Jacob Graham’s drawing of our current Story Machine

Jacob Graham’s drawing of our current Story Machine

 The panels of the machine, fresh from AchesonWalsh studios

The panels of the machine, fresh from AchesonWalsh studios

 they stack flat for easy touring (we hope)!

they stack flat for easy touring (we hope)!

 the finished machine, in all its glory! The gears and reels turn, the lights twinkle, and many of these pieces fall off strategically as the machine breaks in the show!

the finished machine, in all its glory! The gears and reels turn, the lights twinkle, and many of these pieces fall off strategically as the machine breaks in the show!

 Photo by Eric Michael Pearson

Photo by Eric Michael Pearson

End of the second to last rehearsal week! by Ora Fruchter

Geezum Crow! We’re burning the candle at both ends, and soon the candles are going to sprout other ends too!

Sorry we haven’t been updating more often. We’ve been so busy! But here’s a post about Eleonore, our fantastic musician and composer! Click her picture to go to her cool website and listen to her music.

Oh, incidentally, this photo is from the shoot we did with Eric Michael Pearson and shows an abandoned design concept. The concept was “re-use our amazing costumes from Grimm!” (designed by Lex Gurst!)

We ended up with a darker color palette but are still using 3 pairs of Lex’s pants…

 Here Eleonore is playing the hurdy-gurdy - which is like a cross between a violin, accordion and barrel organ made out of beautiful and somehow nautical looking wooden parts.

Here Eleonore is playing the hurdy-gurdy - which is like a cross between a violin, accordion and barrel organ made out of beautiful and somehow nautical looking wooden parts.

 Now we just wanted to include more photos of us in the colorful costumes…

Now we just wanted to include more photos of us in the colorful costumes…

 Zimmer, Charlotte, Willa, and Fritz

Zimmer, Charlotte, Willa, and Fritz

 And just because we’re on a photo kick, look at this beautiful wolf puppet. He didn’t end up in the show but Eric photographed him anyway, because wolf puppet. He only appeared for a minute onstage in  Grimm!  - had one line and got beaten up by the little girl hero of the show. Which is bonkers when you consider the hours and levels of detail lavished on him by Ora.

And just because we’re on a photo kick, look at this beautiful wolf puppet. He didn’t end up in the show but Eric photographed him anyway, because wolf puppet. He only appeared for a minute onstage in Grimm! - had one line and got beaten up by the little girl hero of the show. Which is bonkers when you consider the hours and levels of detail lavished on him by Ora.

Finishing the set... by Ora Fruchter

We were working on the set in the lobby of the Tank, and Jacob (creator of www.creaturesofyes.com and our resident wizard) was painting amazing expressionist flourishes on the machine. A stage manager for a dance show walked by….

Stage manager: is this a Christmas show?

Us: Nope! It’s a puppet show…

Stage Manager: Oh… I hope you won’t be offended, but it looks like Santa’s workshop!

Us: We are the opposite of offended! That’s the best thing you could have said!

 Chris’s fingers - they were much much paintier a few hours before, but he was just smart enough not to play with his phone then.

Chris’s fingers - they were much much paintier a few hours before, but he was just smart enough not to play with his phone then.

Five images in 1 by Ora Fruchter

We thought it’d be cool to show you how Eric Michael Pearson made our main promo image, which is this:

 Eric combined 5 different images to make this picture - we’ll show all five of them below!

Eric combined 5 different images to make this picture - we’ll show all five of them below!

 First, us with no puppets…

First, us with no puppets…

 Just the hedgehog… but perched exactly where he’ll be in the finished photo…

Just the hedgehog… but perched exactly where he’ll be in the finished photo…

 Just the Brave Little Tailor…

Just the Brave Little Tailor…

 The hare, and the extra wire that he’s holding in the finished photo…

The hare, and the extra wire that he’s holding in the finished photo…

 The witch, posed on Caroline (she’s posed on Eleonore in the finished photo!)

The witch, posed on Caroline (she’s posed on Eleonore in the finished photo!)

And it all came together into this! Like magic!

 the finished product one more time

the finished product one more time

Who are the Grimms and do they have mustaches? by Ora Fruchter

We spent more time than you would imagine debating what, if any, kind of facial hair the Grimms should have. Chris became entranced with the idea of greasepaint mustaches (like Groucho’s). Jacob Graham (our resident wizard aka scenic, sound, and video projection designer) believed we should wear fake mustaches that fall off as the machine is breaking. Ora said “I think this is ridiculous and we shouldn’t have facial hair, but IF we do, we should go all in and have big bushy fake beards.”

Then we snapped out of it and said “let’s just make a puppet show - no mustaches”

How did we fall down such a weird rabbit hole? Chris grew a muttonstache for Grimm! in 2015, and wanted to bring it back (despite the protests of his mother, girlfriend, and Ora) and suggested if everyone had mustaches it might be more of a thing. Weird. We know. We made the right choice. Chris’s stache looked good in period costume but in everyday life it was a little offputting.

 Period costume! Mustache makes sense.

Period costume! Mustache makes sense.

 The real world! Who is this guy?

The real world! Who is this guy?

We also have a great new idea that came out of our feedback session from our Puppetry at the Carriage House residency. We’re not the original Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm with some kind of unexplained timeloop wormhole. We (and Caroline and Eleonore’s characters) are like lesser cousins and 8th generation family members of this famous storytelling family, trying to make our mark in the storytelling business….

A show is born... by Ora Fruchter

Welcome to The Amazing Story Laboratory! Our goal here is to share interesting behind-the-scenes stories about our development process.

So, how did The Amazing Story Machine begin? In one sense it began with the three fairytale musicals we created at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre…

 This was the image we submitted with our grant application to the Jim Henson Foundation - all of these photos (taken by Ken Ek) are from Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre.

This was the image we submitted with our grant application to the Jim Henson Foundation - all of these photos (taken by Ken Ek) are from Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre.

Creating Gruff!, Grimm!, and Growl! (the Grilogy), we learned a lot about the kinds of puppets we’re interested in. We also got more puppet-centric with each new show. Gruff! mostly just had hand-and-rod puppets representing a few of the characters, then Grimm! used rod puppets, some shadow puppetry, and floating smart phones. Growl! was the most puppety, using complex tabletop puppets, overhead projectors, and tiny miniatures.

As we were applying to the Jim Henson Foundation (something we did every year), we wanted to make a true puppet show (as opposed to a musical with puppet elements). We also wanted to explore the Grimms further. In Grimm!, Jacob, Wilhelm, and their malfunctioning machine act as comic relief and part of a side plot to the main story. So we decided to zero in on them. The Grimm family would be the base characters for the puppeteers - and all the puppets would be made out of machine parts and other objects once the machine breaks.

Our shows always draw inspiration from the things we loved as kids. In this case the main inspiration for the Grimms are…

 Ludwig von Drake! An eccentric Prussian duck and mercurial narrator…

Ludwig von Drake! An eccentric Prussian duck and mercurial narrator…

 Dreamfinder from Journey into Imagination! a ride at Disney World that Ora and Chris were both obsessed with as kids (we’re still somewhat obsessed with it)

Dreamfinder from Journey into Imagination! a ride at Disney World that Ora and Chris were both obsessed with as kids (we’re still somewhat obsessed with it)

In another sense, the show began with this guy and the foundation he created:

muppet-2.jpg

Not many people realize that alongside his famous films and TV shows that Jim Henson was an advocate for live puppet theatre in America. Early on in his puppetry career, Jim traveled through Europe to learn more about traditional puppet theatre. Later in his career he created the Jim Henson Foundation to encourage the creation of new works of American puppet theatre. America doesn’t have the same long history of traditional puppet theatre that the rest of the world does - so the continuing work of the Jim Henson Foundation is vital to American puppet artists like us!