The Paper Hat Game at 3-Legged Dog

Torry Bend Blends Media with a Punch

By: - Jul 08, 2016

The Paper Hat Game
Created & Directed by Torry Bend 
Produced by The Tank and 3LD
3-Legged Dog Theatre
Video Designer: Raquel Salvatella de Prada
Puppet Designer: Aaron Haskell
Puppeteers: Angela Olson, Steve Ackerman, Yoko Myoi, Drina Dunlap, Alex Young
Stage Manager: Luisa Sanchez
Sound design: Colbert Davis and Matt Hubbs
Light design: Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew
Movement Director: Kate Brehm
Assistant Video Designer: Thomas Kavanagh
Assistant Light Design: Christian Specht
Electrician: Tomas Del Valle
New York, New York
Playing through July 17, 2016

Scott Iseri, gave out paper hats on the CTA in Chicago, and surprised and delighted hundreds of riders on the El.

Random acts of kindness, whether it’s handing out surprise hundred dollar bills to unsuspecting recipients, or paying the toll of the person following you on the thruway, who then tries to catch up with you and find out which ‘friend’ has donated the fee, are all fun to hear about and contemplate.

Iseri's acts inspired multi-media artist Torry Bend to weave a tale out of video, sound and most delightful puppets.  Contained in the small frame of a traditional puppet show, dimensions are mixed by the use of pre-made videos, live puppetry and sound which sounds both canned and live. Phrases hang out, cut letters from stencil drawings which hang on clotheslines, as the train whizzes by.

The disorienting perspectives are unified by Iseri’s point of view.  Subway riders everywhere recognize the anonymous bond of city travelers.  Seldom are irritations threatening.   Loud music when you want to read, someone addressing Jesus vehemently and an occasional ribald take on subway announcements irritate.  No knives and blunt fists however.

Bend takes a darker view, reversing what could be a joyous story to one of urban gloom.  While the set is a miniature, and the puppets are as well, the fists coming in to beat up Scotty Iseri, are attached to the real arms of puppeteers.  They are gigantic compared with other set elements. When Iseri, is encased in a Joseph Cornell-like box of an apartment, with the city collapsing around him, his head is very large indeed. 

Sounds of paper scratching as hats are being made are the loudest sounds in the show, as though what ever else about urban life is impinging and discomfiting were being overridden by the pleasure of the hats. 

Ezra Pound the poet wore paper newspaper hats as he waltzed joyfully down the halls of an insane asylum or so the poet Elizabeth Bishop has it.  Pound was probably not crazy, just politically volatile.  Because he was a celebrity, he was institutionalized instead of being tried for treason.

Is Iseri, the real and fictional character of Torry Bend’s inventive take, crazy?  He seems very sane, but beleaguered in a tough city.

The apartment in which Scott lives in this toy theatre production could be drawn by Chris Ware in his iconic graphic novel which takes place in a Chicago apartment building.  External references abound and intrigue.

The show is crammed with moving images, box scenes, live puppets manipulated by live puppeteers performing before projections, with loud live sounds.

Like many well-meaning citizens of modern American cities, the good-hearted Scott is mugged.  Here we see humanity as puppeteer's arms, beating him up. 

The bleacher seats at 3 Legged Dog distance viewers from the miniature happening.  Probably a more intimately laid out setting would have helped the audience enjoy the show even more.  At a distance, it was charming and moving, disquieting and lively.  

Experimentation with multi-media is yielding productions that beat through the noise of social media and YouTube.  This is an important enterprise supported by The Tank, an innovative agency organized to support emerging artists.