Zach Dorn’s latest spectacle, An Excruciatingly Ordinary Toy Theater Show, opens in San Antonio on Friday, March 20. The show, created in collaboration with playwright Murphi Cook, features a series of vignettes in which ordinary events – drawn from lost diary entries –are performed with paper puppets on a remarkably intricate miniature stage. Seen up close, through the lens of a carefully guided camera, these mundane happenings become deeply thought provoking in their nuances and unique details.
“Perhaps the ordinary is not quite as ordinary as we think it is,” Dorn said.
The performances will be held every Friday and Saturday evening at 8:30 p.m. from March 20 through April 18. Miniature Curiosa’s Toy Theater Parlor is located at the 1906 Gallery, 1906 S. Flores St. Tickets are $15 at the door or online. For Dorn, the intimate venue evokes the history of Toy Theater, which began in the Victorian era as a way to entertain family, friends and neighbors before or after dinner. Such productions would be held in family parlors, performed for an audience of less than a dozen people.
Dorn and Cook have created an experience that harkens back to this tradition, in both the intimacy of the setting, and the provision of snacks and libations before the show. Cook has designed the parlor so that visitors become immersed in the performance from the time they step through the door.
Dorn became interested in shadow and puppet theater during a stint in theater school in his native Florida. When he found out about the University of Connecticut’s Puppet Arts degree, he switched schools and earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Puppet Arts.
Without others to help him stage and perform his productions after graduation, he began to create puppets and paper theaters to bring his ideas to life.
His performances began as live streaming shows, exhibited over the Internet, or projected as live acts during art festivals. However, this medium left him naturally disconnected from the audience, and he looks forward to a more engaging experience in his parlor production.
An Excruciatingly Ordinary Toy Theater, which runs for about an hour, is comprised of ten vignettes. Stories include a lonely puppeteer stalking the child of two celebrities, a three-foot ghost plaguing an eight-year-old’s fragile psyche, and an opera-singing landlord who refuses to return a security deposit.
The performance was made possible by a Seed Grant from the Jim Henson Foundation. Dorn also recently received the Alan Beckstead Award for Original Production and the Tobin Grand Prize in Artistic Achievement from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio.
The spectacle promises to be anything but ordinary.
*Featured.top image: Zach Dorn and his “Excruciatingly Ordinary Toy Theater Show.” Courtesy photo.