Based in New York City, Kate Brehm is a self-proclaimed âmovement directorâ and professional puppeteer. Since 2003, his company imnotlost has staged productions known for what their website describes as “weird stories” and a “delusional character”. Brehm is the puppet maker for Theater, Dance & Media’s Concentration Show, “The Danube,” which runs May 2-5. This fall, she will join TDM as a visiting professor and teach a course called âPerforming Puppetryâ. Harvard Crimson spoke with Brehm about his artistic philosophy and his practice of bringing objects to life.
Harvard Crimson: What initially attracted you to puppetry?
Kate Brehm: When I was little I really thought I was going to be a good performer until I got into acting and decided I like acting. So the puppet was a really perfect mix for me to do stuff and play and direct. I have the impression that in television and in the cinema people tend to specialize either as a performer or as a builder. In the theater, it often happens that there is a mix and match, that we do a little of both.
THC: What does it mean to be a âmovement directorâ?
KB: I have 16 years of training in a physical theater technique called “Margolis Method”. Kari Margolis is a genius. I followed his exercises to teach the puppet because I find that movement is the essential part of a puppet’s consciousness. She envisioned a way to create a story through movements that involve the story of what you just did. If I say, âHere’s one, and two, andâ¦ three,â you understand when I give you this third beat, it’s the end of something. So if I give you âone and twoâ¦â, I set you up that I was going to give you âthreeâ, but I didn’t give it to you, which is driving you a little crazy. This is the kind of hold I want to have on the audience.
THC: How is a puppet different from a costume or an accessory?
KB: I define puppet theater as anything where the thing you are supposed to watch is an inanimate object. So if an actor has a drink, the actor uses it for some sort of emphasis. But if this scene is about the glass itself and the actor is sort of secondary, then it’s puppetry. The role of the puppeteer is fascinating because there is always a duality. You see the illusion and the mechanism that creates the illusion at the same time. I actually ran a workshop on âPerforming Invisibility,â but my favorite part is teaching how to do both: you bring attention to yourself and be a part of what’s going on, then you disappear into it. new.
THC: What informs your creative process?
KB: I design my own works. I tend not to work from a script. I’m starting from zero. But I find it a bit backwards, right? In traditional theater, you start with a story and then think about how you’re going to tell it. I usually start with some sort of design element and then find out what stories it tells. I tend to have an image in my head, and it’s probably inspired by a book I’m reading. Previously, these were almost entirely critical theory books, which I love, but which are also ridiculous. I really liked the way writers always try to invent new words to describe ideas that there are no words to describe. I was like, “What would that be like in real life?” So sometimes you just need to play. It is really important to remember how to be like a three year old.
THC: How did it work on âThe Danubeâ?
KB: Reading the script it seems to me that [playwright] MarÃa Irene FornÃ©s was thinking of some sort of tabletop puppet show, but in the design conversations with Morgan Green, the director, I laid out a variety of different types of puppets that we could use. I had no idea Morgan was going to go for the strangest option I gave him. They stand out because they are quirky and fun. But on another level, they do not stand out because they are of the world: the setting is also transformative and the costumes are also transformative. I would say this is a clear example of performance design, that the design of the show is also a very clear storytelling element as much as the language.
THC: How is the medium of puppetry evolving today?
KB: Over the years, I have expanded to suggest that you could puppeteer all of the design elements of an entire production. I did quite a show inspired by the framing. It was born out of the desire to make cinematographic techniques – close-ups and long shots and panning and zooming – with puppets. The first image was basically a wall of windows that opened and closed to create a small frame or a large frame or a lean frame. The puppet has become very popular in large theater spaces. I think it has to do with the time we spend on screens. People love it because it’s a real thing in space. I also think it connects to video design in theater, although it’s the opposite in terms of analog versus digital. People are excited about illusions and virtual reality. Anything to do with an alternate reality is interesting.