‘Marionette Land’ tells the original story of puppeteer Lancaster at the NEPA Film Fest on April 3


NEPA Stage Staff

Excerpt from a press release:

The fifth annual Northeast Pennsylvania Film Festival will wrap up this Sunday, April 3 with a screening of “Marionette Land” from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at the Ritz Theater in downtown Scranton.

The screening includes a special Q&A with director and Clarks Summit native Alexander Monelli, as well as his subject, Robert Brock.

Winner of Best Documentary at the 2021 Omaha Film Festival, “Marionette Land” takes audiences behind the curtain of the Lancaster Marionette Theater and its eccentric owner Robert Brock, who lives above the tiny theater with his 85-year-old mother, Mary Lou.

Together, they’ve nurtured this Lancaster treasure for 30 years with unique family-friendly versions of classic puppet shows (“Peter Pan,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Aladdin”) and cabaret-style adult shows where Brock straps on his heels to become famous Hollywood divas of the past like Liza Minnelli and Bette Midler. He writes and performs all the shows himself and even makes the puppets.

“Rob takes his acting very seriously. It’s no joke for him. The amount of time, effort and dedication to get a small detail right is why I was interested in telling his story. The passion is contagious and I believe Rob’s journey will be an anthem for artists, creators and performers everywhere. It proves that there is still wonder left in the world if you just look for it,” Monelli explained.

The film chronicles Brock’s unique relationship with his mother and the revival of his adult show business while trying to prepare for the puppet theater’s big 30th anniversary, though unforeseen circumstances threaten the charismatic puppeteer’s plans.

“The Lancaster Marionette Theater is a place where people can escape for 35 minutes, where they can enjoy a happy ending, where virtue is rewarded and the wicked are redeemed,” Brock described.

The film premiered at the 2020 Philadelphia Film Festival, where it was cited as one of the first feature films to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Philadelphia magazine called him “eccentric and charming”. In 2021, the Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival hosted the film’s first live, in-person screening.

Monelli graduated from Long Island University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in film. His acclaimed debut feature “At the Drive-In” about the revival of the Mahoning Drive-In Theater in Lehighton won Best Local Feature at the 2017 Philadelphia Film Festival. He currently produces videos and documentaries for various customers, including “Agnes 50: Life After the Flood” for WVIA-TV, which will receive its first broadcast on Thursday, June 23.

Tickets for NEPA Film Fest at The Ritz (222 Wyoming Ave., Scranton), ranging from $20 (day pass) to $95 (festival pass), are on sale now at nepafilmfestival.com. See the full schedule with movie descriptions here.

“Marionette Land” was released on iTunes and other VOD streaming services on January 18, along with a DVD with over 17 minutes of deleted scenes, two Omaha Film Festival and Philadelphia Film Festival Q&A sessions, and a feature audio commentary track with Brock and Monelli.

While the new version of the feature delves deeper into Brock’s story, personality and artistry, Monelli previously captured the spirit of Brock and his theater in 2014 with the short film “Man with Puppet.”


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