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A CurtainUp Review

Terra Prenyada
By David Lipfert

Overview of The International Puppet Festival '98, Schedule of Events and Links to Other Shows

As if by magic, Joan Baixas captures images of first one child's face then another on a white paper in the darkened Danspace at St. Mark's Church in-the- Bowery. The faces already exist as a projection from the rear into empty space, but it takes the intervention of a person to make them visible. After donning a dirty white work outfit, Baixas sprinkles pulverized earth and then water onto a translucent colorless plastic sheet. Talking all the while, he expounds his theories on theater, image and communication among people. Baixas captivates the audience as he tells of a man who took his family to live in the desert to keep it company. In return the desert granted him and all his descendents super-human storytelling capabilities, the ability to make words visible. Baixas surely has this power in full. Now raising the large sheet, he begins at the back side to make designs that are lit from the rear. Like a join-the- dots design, he makes a funny face appear almost unexpectedly from the mud swirls. A second piece on the same plastic sheet he calls Conversation. A man and woman gradually take shape. Seated in a bar, he attempts to engage the woman, but she decisively rejects him. Increasingly violent verbal exchanges follow until she reveals her inner desire for money and security. Using his brush on a stick, Baixas manages to recount this entire dialogue with vectors coming out of the couple's mouths. Naturally, the universal symbol for money is the familiar dollar sign.

It is rare to be in the presence of an artist like Joan Baixas. His long career as performer and visual artist coupled with a great humanity lend a profundity to his explorations on stage. Baixas drags out an old raincoat suspended on strings from a metal triangle-an image instantly recognizable as a limping old man. We are invited to project our feelings onto this Everyman marionette, which ends up suspended from a wire over the set. In the end it is in the moral dimension of his stories where Baixas has the most to say to us.

Vocal artist Paca Rodrigo is his collaborator in the show. She utilizes repeated syllables and sung vowels to create a varied and interesting sound texture that ideally interacts with Baixas' visuals.

In a post-performance discussion moderated by Cheryl Henson, Baixas talked about Conversation. While performing inside the ruined shell that was once the National Library in Sarajevo, an audience member related that for her Conversation depicted exactly how the Yugoslavian war began. "Yes, yes. No, no. And then a violent, irreversible escalation that no one knew how to stop."

Ms. Henson remarked that although Baixas uses few recognizable puppets, he works with their essence, which is the language of images.

Editor's Note: Although this show has closed, we at CurtainUp wanted to cover Terra Prenyada because it exemplifies the high caliber of the groups that participate in the Puppet Festival

Overview of The International Puppet Festival '98, Schedule of Events and Links to Other Shows

TERRA PRENYADA (The Pregnant Earth)
Performed by Joan Baixas and Paca Rodrigo
Danspace Project at St. Mark's, Second Avenue at 10th Street, NYC
Performances: 9/10/98-9/12/98 Festival Hotline: (212) 279-4200
Reviewed on 9/11/98

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