Center for Puppetry Arts goes 'Ghastly'

12:17 PM, Oct 9, 2012   |    comments
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Ghastly Dreadfuls: The Last Ghast

ATLANTA -- Never mind Bert and Ernie, considering the hit Broadway shows War Horse and Avenue Q, puppetry is clearly not just for kids.
Ahead of its seventh and final season, we're taking you behind the scenes at the Center for Puppetry Arts on the Atlanta stage.

"It's like vaudeville or cabaret," explained Jon Ludwig, Artistic Director of the Center for Puppetry Arts while the cast and crew of the Ghastly Dreadfuls: The Last Ghast were getting ready for opening night.

"The show is a Halloween festival," he said.

For this spooky stage production, the musicians and actors share the stage with puppets. Ludwig has been with the Center for Puppetry Arts since its inception in 1978 and created this show.

"Performing with a puppet is like an extension of yourself. You're not making it do something, you're sending your energy through it out to the audience," Ludwig explained.

There are rod puppets and marionettes. And just like a human performer, there can be injuries.

"Strings break, legs fall off, heads fall off. They get tangled on everything and everybody. They get tangled up backstage and you can't get them onstage," Ludwig said.

When they are on stage, then comes the challenge of bringing them to life. It's common for it to take as many as three puppeteers to manipulate just one puppet.

Spencer G. Stephens is an accountant turned puppeteer and introduced us to his puppet, Lester.

"He actually represents a part of me, like an older part of me that is wise and has done all of these things and is just an extension of me as a performer," Stephens explained.

Puppetry is centuries-old and at its core is storytelling. The Ghastly Dreadfuls: the Last Ghast tells nine stories and has 10 songs.

Just because you hear or read the word 'puppet', this production isn't for children. While it's more macabre than evil, it's designed for mature audiences, ages 16 and up.

"We go to the dark side," Ludwig explained with a wry smile.

And just as Lester, the puppet, catches the 11:59 train, also looming over this Atlanta cult-classic, is its final curtain call.

The Ghastly Dreadfuls: The Last Ghast is on stage October 11-27. You'll find more information about the show on the Center for Puppetry Arts' website. The Center for Puppetry Arts is the biggest non-profit in the U-S dedicated to the art of puppetry.

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