Adult puppet play


POSTED: Friday, April 30, 2010

Puppets and shows they appear in are usually assumed to be children's entertainment, and most of them are—with the noteworthy exceptions of “;Team America: World Police”; and “;Avenue Q.”;

Well, get ready, Honolulu. “;Adult”; puppet theater is coming soon!

Manoa Valley Theatre will be presenting its version of “;Avenue Q”; in 2011, but there's no need to wait until then. University of Hawaii-Manoa MFA candidate Morgan Lane-Tanner's fresh and entirely original production, “;Madge's Shimmy Shack,”; described as a “;totally adult puppet burlesque review,”; opens tomorrow at the Earle Earnst Lab Theatre.

“;An adult puppet show is pretty different, particularly for Hawaii,”; Lane-Tanner acknowledged last weekend. She conceived and wrote the show, and also designed puppets that are significantly different in size and operation from the “;Sesame Street”;-style hand puppets seen in “;Avenue Q.”;






        Presented by Manoa Valley Theatre


» Where: Earle Ernst Lab Theatre, University of Hawaii at Manoa


» When: 11 p.m. tomorrow and 2 p.m. Sunday; also 11 p.m. next Friday and May 8


» Cost: $10 general admission; $8 for seniors, military, UH faculty/staff and non-UHM students; $5 for UHM students with valid ID


» Info: 956-7655 or


» Note: Recommended for audiences 13 and up




“;These are larger and a little more complicated,”; she explained. “;You could almost say that they're based on (the Japanese puppet tradition of) bunraku. They've gone pretty far away from that, but they probably started there.”;

The most notable similarities are that Lane-Tanner's puppets are similar in size to bunraku figures and are animated by visible “;puppet helpers,”; bunraku style, rather than by hidden puppeteers.

Lane-Tanner added this is “;late night”; entertainment and includes partially nude puppet burlesque dancers.

“;I knew that UH had this late-night venue, and I'm really interested in playing with puppetry for adults. It's something that's being done on the mainland a lot more, and Hawaii doesn't get to see it very often (so) I wanted something that was comical (and) something that would keep everybody awake at 'Late Night.'”;

The star of the show is Madge, bawdy longtime emcee/comedian at the Shimmy Shack Burlesque Club, who finds her livelihood in jeopardy when her husband decides to claim the club for himself. Madge and a loyal purple poodle named Rocky decide that if the Shack is going to be forced to close, it'll close with a final show that no one will ever forget.

Lane-Tanner traced her interest in puppets back to her childhood in Portland, Ore., and early encounters with the Tears of Joy Puppet Theatre. One of the things she finds interesting about puppetry is the way that people of all ages will accept the illusion of life that the figures create.

“;It's so funny—especially with children, but adults will act the same way—if you go into a classroom with puppets, the children will stop talking with you and start talking with the puppets,”; she said. “;They'll ask the puppet questions and interact with the puppet.

“;You're just this person who's behind the puppet; you don't exist. It's just so funny.”;