paperhand puppet intervention

Every year the Paperhand Puppet Intervention does a huge show at a nearby outdoor theater. This year was “The Living Sea of Memory.” Live music, fun stories, and huge, gorgeous, amazing puppets.

Look. See what I mean?


This is Tiama and Apsu at the dawn of the world, breathtaking, because the Mother and Father of All Things should be breathtaking.

To give you a sense o the scale, look at this:

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This show was one of their best, if you ask me. We were all totally engaged from the second the giant stone heads rolled, literally rolled, out to tell the tale.

Here the gods and goddesses, Tiamat’s children, are born:

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Unfortunately, the gods are so raucous, their father gets pissed that his peace has been disturbed, and he tells Tiamat to kill them.

A bit extreme, if you ask me.

She says no, but their response to their father’s rage is extreme, too. They kill him.

Why are these old stories so gut wrenching?

Well, the loss of her lover turns the once beautiful Tiamat into a raging monster.

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Which had Luc riveted:


Tiamat gives birth to more children, monsters like her transformed self, ready to fight the other gods in her rage.

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Meanwhile, they call Marduk, the biggest and baddest of them all…

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only for him to trick them out of all their powers…

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and so the battle between child and mother erupts. It ends when he fires an enchanted arrow into her mouth, piercing her heart.

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It always feels like that, when I fight with my kids, too.

Luc was really, really worried about her. He wanted to know if they could repair the puppet, if she would be all right, and who was going to stop Marduk from doing any other mean things. The fact that we were looking at colorful paper, held up by clearly visible sticks of wood really didn’t diminish at all the impact of the story on any of us.

But she doesn’t die. Her body becomes the ground and the sky. And the puppet lives on to do another show tomorrow.

But the story moved on, acted out now on the green hills of Tiamat’s body. The story of a prince, ready to conquer the world, who becomes a Greenman, instead.

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Some of the most delightful puppeteering happened in this section, with huge dancing tree puppets…

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…and the three super-tall wise women doing a wild woman dance—on stilts!

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When the lion pulls off the last of the prince’s armor, and identity, only to die of the prince’s own arrow, we were all crying.

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Luc, tears rolling down his sweet face said, “I think that prince must be very, very sad.” And so he was, which made his transformation into the Greenman, his drum made of the lion’s skin, all the more powerful and uplifting. Wild dancing from everyone as he beat his drum, and a palpable sense of the value of joy and celebration! The music here was great.

But the story moved on again, now to memories, and to our grandparents. Lovely short vignettes, some sweet, some piercing in their poignancy.

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I am always amazed when a piece of writing or theater can take me from laughing to true tears in a minute, and a couple of these pieces did. The writer part of my brain scrambles to work out how it was done, even as the spectator part of me revels in the ride.

Few pictures remain as it got too dark. Last was a shadow puppet sequence based on stories from the Mayan Popol Vuh.

But you can’t believe the thrill when the lion returned to walk up the long, long aisle in the near dark!

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Here with a flash:

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See the little girl in the maroon dress? Sophie, of course, FEARLESS, as always, going up to touch the lion’s face. In the car on the way home, Luc asked her, “What did the lion’s fur feel like?” Her answer: “Cloth, and paper mache, and sort of like it had magic inside it.”


I have never failed to be inspired by these paper-puppet-folk who devote so much of their time to such beautiful art.

Thank you again, Paperhand Puppets!

5 thoughts on “paperhand puppet intervention

  1. Barb Ford

    Hi there!

    I have a Google Alert set up to catch Paperhand stuff (I did the press releases!) and so your blog showed up. I also worked at the box office thru the show’s run and my husband Paul is the cello/bass player in the band. Needless to say, I was at the top of the theatre every night and every night I found myself laughing and crying in quick succession, too. Your wonderful recap above had the same affect once again. Thanks! P.S. your kids sound like beautiful beings!

    1. maya Post author

      Hello Barb, Nice to meet you! Thanks so much for stopping by. Tell your Paul the cello/bass player that he rocks some serious awesomeness with his music. Very beautiful!

  2. Leslie Stern

    Hey Maya,
    thank you so much for the beautiful recap. Olivia and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We saw the matinee, so I hadn’t even thought about what that lion would be like walking up the aisle in the dark. How awesome! BTW, I miss you girl! Hope you’re doing great.


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