COURTESY LEEWARD COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Political puppetry show comes to isle stage
The New York Times has called him "one of the most original and talented political satirists working in the theater."
'Paul Zaloom: Mother of All Enemies'
At Leeward Community College Theatre, 96-045 Ala Ike
On stage: 8 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $23; $19 students, seniors and military
Call: 455-0385 or visit etickethawaii.com
Note: Parental discretion is advised due to subject matter and language
But most people know Paul Zaloom through his family-friendly character -- the eccentric professor on the popular children's TV show "Beakman's World."
Zaloom cautions that his upcoming stage show, "Mother of All Enemies," is not for the tykes.
"I'm a father, and I'd allow kids at least 12 to 14 to see the show," he said by phone from Los Angeles last week. "But it's really meant for those 18 and over. While it's not a kid's show, it's not like there's rampant pornography in it."
"Mother of All Enemies" finds Zaloom moving quickly between a shadow-puppet play featuring Karagoz, a stock character in ancient Greek and Turkish culture ("He's in the tradition of the archetypal bad-boy character, always causing trouble"), and telling stories from his own life using found objects and drawings on an overhead projector.
"I wanted to make a show that showed how we're caught in between the Osamas and the Bushes of the world, where articulating your opinion can be dangerous in this 'either with us or against us' dynamic," he said.
Zaloom considers his TV work the exception to his long career -- 32 years -- as an award-winning performer in more activist-art endeavors such as the longtime Bread and Puppet Theatre based in Vermont.
"Puppetry, traditionally, is not for children," he said. "It can be quite political. The reason why is that authorities generally do not listen to what comes out of a puppet's mouth. They're generally not bright people. It's like being one step removed from prosecution, where cute, little, funny dolls are difficult to take seriously.
"I've been keeping this show in repertory for a couple of years now. The idea is to get people to laugh about very serious things. It's important to see things in a different way. I hope it's something that can help liberate us."
If Zaloom had to label himself, he said, "I guess my position would be of a secular humanist. I'm against the onslaught of religion in the state and public life, and how oppressive that can be under certain circumstances. I criticize fundamentalism of all types, whether it results in violence or homophobia."
According to Zaloom, "Mother of All Enemies" is a very accessible show. "You don't need to be Ph.D. in anything, or have to read a paper every nine minutes, but being well-informed helps. Enough of the jokes involve a lot of visual business. I operate 50 to 60 puppets in the show, so it's fast-moving."