With a name like “Planet Egg,” it has got to be wacky and wonderful. The outlandish, other-worldly production from PuppetCinema, a company founded by Israeli puppeteer, actor and filmmaker Zvi Sahar, is headed for Baltimore’s Theatre Project from July 25 to 28.
“I like to say that ‘Planet Egg’ is an amalgam of live puppetry, theater, video and live sound. Many of the puppets are made from found and mechanical objects and organic vegetables,” said Theatre Project Producing Director, Chris Pfingsten, with a laugh. “The audience can watch the puppets and puppeteers but also watch a film of the puppet show projected on a screen across the top of the stage.”
Pfingsten said he had hoped to bring “Planet Egg” to Theatre Project last year, but was unable to schedule it. He is extremely pleased to be presenting the production this year, as it fits in well with the 43-year-old organization’s mission.
“We are in business to support artists creating new, original work. We want to bring local artists and artists from around the world,” said Pfingsten.
He explained that while Theatre Project occasionally produces its own shows, the organization mainly showcases the work of other companies. Theatre Project provides companies with performance space, box office services and technical and marketing assistance.
Sahar, PuppetCinema’s founder, and the creator and director of “Planet Egg,” said the idea for the show was inspired by a family dinner.
“My dad was fixing a phone while we were eating sunny-side-up eggs. The eggs looked like the surface of a planet or a moon. The electronic parts my dad was playing with looked like creatures to me at that moment,” recalled Sahar, 35. “The story is also partially inspired by contemporary politics, colonialism and a specific flock of tropical parrots that escaped from the Tel Aviv Zoo and found a new home by the Yarkon River in the wild. These newcomers thrived, but in doing so, damaged the Israeli ecosystem. Of course they did it without malice — just hunger.”
Sahar, who studied acting at SELA, a performing arts studio in Tel Aviv, and theater at Haifa University, said he became an actor in order to tell stories.
“I realized the more mediums I worked with, the better storyteller I could become,” he said. “My interests in puppetry, theater, cinema and live music merged together along with a search for new forms of performance and storytelling to create Puppet-Cinema.”
Although “Planet Egg” isn’t specifically about his Israeli roots, Sahar expects that those viewing the show through that lens will see allusions to his Israeli heritage.
“Looking back, all of my shows have involved at some point war, politics and survival. Certainly my new show, ‘Salt of the Earth’ (based on Amos Kenan’s political thriller ‘The Road to Ein Harod’), is more blatantly about those heated topics, but not with a hammer by any means. I guess it’s in my nature to connect to these kinds of stories,” he said.
Audiences for “Planet Egg” can expect to see … “everything,” said Sahar. “No fooling! There is no ‘backstage’ in our shows. All ‘behind-the-scenes’ activities are exposed — the puppeteers, video cameras, wires, the sound designer scoring the movie live with old ‘timey’ radio sound effects. They will see it all. Hopefully, they will see things they haven’t seen before.”
While in Baltimore, Sahar and cast members of PuppetCinema will present a workshop for aspiring multimedia artists, too.
“We will be teaching Puppet-Cinema’s signature techniques, such as how to build puppets out of ordinary vegetables (even the yucky ones) and how to use film to create and capture an original story. I’m really looking forward to the workshop since every time we lead one, we go back home full of inspiration and with at least one new vegetable-based puppet we’d never thought of!”
Productions of “Planet Egg” will take place on July 25, 26 and 27 at 8 p.m., on July 27 at 2 p.m., and on July 28 at 5 p.m.
PuppetCinema will present a workshop on July 28 at 11 a.m.
For more information, to purchase tickets or register for the workshop, visit theatreproject.org or call 410-752-8558.
Theatre Project is located at 45 W. Preston St., Baltimore.
Simone Ellin is JT senior features reporter firstname.lastname@example.org