'Dragons' stars puppets, people
by Anna Oakes
“Dragons in the Mountain,” an ecologically themed community puppetry production, takes place Friday and Saturday, Oct. 26 and 27, at ASU’s Broyhill Events Center.
Show times are at 8 p.m. both days, and tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and children.
“The show is a real weaving together of many artistic voices from throughout the High Country,” said Alistair Burke. Star of the Sea Studios, the theater company of Burke and wife, Kathy Ford, has spearheaded the production.
The original theater work utilizes exquisite puppets, masks, poetry, song, video, photography and live music to weave story and place in a mythical Appalachian landscape.
The story follows a worn-down, burnt-out environmental activist as he embarks on a visionary journey to reconnect with a sustainable energy of the soul. His quest through a mythic Appalachian landscape is marked by encounters with ancestral spirits, wild beasts, celestial companions, wizards, trolls, gnarly crones, elemental forces and dragons.
“It’s about people and place and the relationship that we have with our surroundings — and how we treat ourselves personally and how that extends then to the greater world,” Burke said.
Star of the Sea Studios produced several shows in the New York area before Burke and Ford moved to Boone several years ago. In 2010, the studio produced “The Shining Seas: A Prayer for the Oceans in Puppets, Poems and Song,” a response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The show of 40-plus puppets, 45 performers and 65 participants sold out at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, resulting in an encore performance at ASU’s Valborg Theatre. ASU arts faculty and administrators saw the show and later invited Star of the Seas to produce a community show as part of the annual Performing Arts Series.
“ASU Performing Arts Series folks shared with us that they had been looking for a while to do some kind of community-oriented performance in their series,” Burke said.
Burke said the show involves more than 80 people, including musicians, dancers, puppeteers and actors.
“We like to not only have professionals involved in the show, but also folks who have never had experience with theater before,” he said. “We’ve discovered that there’s really a real thirst, a real hunger from people to come together and participate in a meaningful community event.”
Ford, a veteran artist with experience working with K-12, collegiate, special education and women’s communities, is the chief puppet maker. Burke is a digital artist, photographer and filmmaker.
Liz Rose, a Hayes School of Music faculty member, directs the musical components of the show.
The performance is funded in part through $7,717 raised through an online Kickstarter project.
Tickets are selling fast. Purchase tickets by calling (828) 262-4046 or visiting the box office at Valborg Theatre, located at 480 Howard St. in Boone.
The show is presented in collaboration with ASU’s Sustainability Council, Department of Theatre and Dance and Hayes School of Music.