Know Your Neighbor: Carmichael puppet-maker brings shows to Swanston Park Community Center
Words by Monica Stark/photos by Stephen Crowley
Get ready for a roller coaster ride through the galaxy as the courageous Captain leads his misfit crew of aliens on a hilarious delivery mission gone wrong. Featuring movie quality animatronic creature puppets and animated-projection backdrops, this short-run performance premiers Jan. 28 and 29 at Swanston Park Community Center at noon and 2 p.m., running about 60 minutes including intermission. Following the scripted first act, the audience is invited to join the crew of the Starship Pegasus on stage for an improvised interactive storyline and fly through the stars, hiding from giant creatures, helping the Captain rescue alien scientist Dr. Scarpsy from space pirates within dark caves of the intergalactic set.
Written and directed by Carmichael resident Peter Bond and starring Jesse Jones and Evan Widjaja, local improv stars from the Sacramento Comedy Spot, the production is the second episode of the “Galaxy Express” live series, which Bond hopes will continue to grow with more episodes and bigger audiences.
About a bored delivery ship captain who travels from point A to point B on various missions looking for adventure along the way, the plot centers on him falling prey to space leeches and leviathans, and a bunch of “space things”, in this second episode, the delivery is missing; so they’re going on a rescue mission on planets.
Set on a space ship, the scenery will move around with projection imagery, allowing Bond to amp up the effects without having a high production of lights and fog. And, all the while, the puppets interact with the screen and a monster will chase them.
With an exciting plotline, the story is ideal for ages 6 to 12 and was born out of Bond’s dissatisfaction with local productions of Disney classics. “The whole reason I did this is because I was bored going to see The Lion King and I wanted to create something the whole family would enjoy.”
Jokes may be appreciated by parents and slapstick stuff for the kids… and the young at heart, as Bond admits: “I like that stuff too.”
Included in the puppet cast are the Captain, a navigator named “Frog Guy” (for pronunciation purposes, think Russian accent); the ship’s engineer Boomer, a tiny half-man, half-caterpillar aka “manipillar”, a crotchety sour-face commander, and Dr. Scarpsy, the alien scientist.
Bringing the behind the scenes to the forefront, the puppeteers presence on stage in full view allows for more movement and helps sway the little ones’ fears of the scary looking monsters.
What began as a lofty goal of producing one episode a month, Bond scaled down his ambitions to “maybe four” episodes a year. “I’m going to keep making episodes as long as have people act for me.”
A self-proclaimed “unknown”, Bond’s self-made productions of “Galaxy Express” came after years of learning about the art form via books and the internet. Starting with sock puppets, Bond’s mastery of puppet creation quickly progressed to foam latex creatures.
After “wandering aimlessly” after high school, Bond made “good money” doing real estate. “But it was not fun. I got through the short sales. With real estate you have to reinvent yourself every two years and I didn’t want to do it again,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bond hit the books and now the roles have been reversed. He’s the part-time puppet maker, stay-at-home dad to children Gabriel and Charlotte and husband to wife, Christina, who he met during his teen years and is now supporting the family as a nurse.
Hooked up through the Swanston Park Community Center from offering puppet building classes there, Bond’s transition to using the facility for the performance took a natural course. Not a theater, “just a community center,” Bond brings in the lights, speakers and a screen visually transforming the multipurpose room into a theater. “It works out pretty good and we can split the floor in half for backstage and the audience room.”
In the future, Bond hopes to expand the production into possibly a bigger venue with a bigger audience, so now’s your opportunity to experience the magic in an intimate setting. Tickets are $8 and available at http://www.madcreaturelab.com.