A Real Boy
A Real Boy by Stephen Kaplan
This Is Water Theatre, Summer 2014
A First Production
(World Premiere: Ivy Theatre Company, NYC, Fall 2017)
Why this show?
A play about a world where puppets and humans live side by side, this show drew me in for two reasons. First, it was a moral play without a clear moral. The central metaphor (puppet characters vs human characters) evoked several different marginalized populations in turn, but stopped short of making a moral pronouncement. Every character was messed up and misguided to some extent, but they were all certain they were right. It was a fascinating satire. Second, the script had never been performed before. The opportunity to work with an unpublished an unproduced play was one I didn't want to pass up.
The third and final show of This Is Water's inaugural season, this show led to our first attempt to immerse our audience in a world. We constructed a kindergarten classroom, designing our three locations on stage out of materials that we imagined a kindergarten class might have had on hand. The audience arrived and were randomly assigned seats, being separated from their friends much like they might on the first day of school, and a roll call of the audience was held before every performance.
The puppets were designed by committee, ultimately combining our main designer's heads with the bodies of some rehearsal puppets we constructed.
My stage manager was terrified of doing a show with puppets - thankfully I was too inexperienced with them to be afraid of the undertaking. Ignorance, in this case, was bliss, and I now know first-hand how much work goes into the design and creation of puppets that function well. However, because of my ignorance, I also know how possible it is to create something pretty amazing and functional out of paper, glue, wire and string.
Overall, the immersive element accomplished exactly what I hoped it would: it shook the audience out of their preconceptions of theatre, and while it was definitely polarizing, even the folks who hated it still came back to other productions. This was one of the first shows where I felt confident about the choice we made even in the face of criticism from some patrons.