The Boston Phoenix (press)

Jackson's Private Zoo, Providence Phoenix, 2006

On August 8th, 2006, The Boston Phoenix covered the Fledgling Festival at Perishable Theatre, which screened my short puppet film, Jackson’s Private Zoo.

From The Boston Phoenix, “The Fledgling Festival Struts its stuff”, August 8, 2006 by Bill Rodriguez

Perishable Theatre has long been an incubator for writers, directors, and performers. Now it’s time to turn up the heat as more than 20 of them stage 16 different shows over the two weekends of the Fledgling Festival (through August 13). If the metaphor has temporarily changed to an oven, the challenge is to let nothing come out half-baked. The performers — from comedians to puppeteers, musicians to dancers — are putting on in-progress work, polishing up their acts before Providence audiences, presenting the same routines at each show. Opportunities for stage time have been maximized, with two performances on Friday and Sunday and three on Saturday at 3, 7:30, and 10 pm.

A performance sampled on the opening weekend was a carnival of diversity and humor. In a sketch called “The Gourmand,” co- written and co-directed by Kevin Delaney and Angela Colford, Michael Truppi plays the effete character of the title. The stuffed shirt — literally, simulating a belly that Paul Prudhomme could hide in — rhapsodizes over a plate of bacon-and-cheese pomme frites. (A gourmand’s love of food can lure him into gluttony, as distinct from a gourmet being a connoisseur.) The piece is a broad riff on gustatory excess, so we are not surprised when the diner plunks down his own jar of mayonnaise next to the French fries. In a plumy voice of pompous self-absorption, he tells of such adventures as when he was enamored with a coquettish young waffle vendor, and how “looking at her was like praying with my eyes.” His obliviousness peaks when he describes how his companion Flavinia ran away shouting “Get me away from that man” while he looked around for whom she possibly could be talking about.

The lengthiest piece of the one-hour-plus set, and the most ambitious, was Evan O’Television’s “Evan the Psychia¬trist.” Since 1995 Evan has been doing these exchanges with himself, half of whom is on a TV screen. It is virtuously post-modern of him to appropriate only from himself, in this case from his guilty second-thoughts. After starting out complaining to his shrink that he’s worried about talking to himself — in public no less — Evan-as-psychiatrist fulminates about this showing that he is a real nut case, “a schizo.” So far, so conventional. But then the conversation shifts to the on-screen Evan criticizing him(self) for careless, insensitive writing. No real psychiatrist, he points out, would ever toss around a reference to schizophrenia so thoughtlessly, not to mention inaccurately. Using self-consciousness this way is a fertile approach that we can all relate to, and Evan pulls it off entertainingly. The rest of the offerings are briefer.

Marsian DeLellis is a puppeteer who screens an animation of puppet-esque cut-outs. Titled “Jackson’s Private Zoo,” the short describes itself as based on an allegation against Michael Jackson, brought by one of his young accusers. Not having passed this by Phoenix lawyers, let me just say that the piece depicts a monkey at the zoo doing what monkeys at zoos do, inspired by Mr. Jackson doing so first. Always wondered why he wore a glove.

Two mime/movement pieces are performed by Peter Deffet. A Perishable artist in residence, Deffet “curated” the Fledgling Festival, as the credits put it. He is joined by Katie Wynne in “The White Bread Waltz,” as they conduct various mindless exercises of daily life, such as brushing teeth, watching television, and shrieking in shock at a simultaneous recollection, “Birthday party!” In “The Stooge” he sings “America the Beautiful” in an operatically trained voice, then pantomimes loose-limbed marionette-like activity, some of which is against recordings of vapid press conference responses of George W. Bush. Speaking of a lovely voice, Laura Wood provided one, accompanied by her guitar strumming, as she sang her wry songs of romantic relationships between Sunday evening performances.

Afterward, by phone, Deffet spoke about the opportunity the festival provides the participants. “In general, performing artists who are developing their own work find it very helpful to workshop in front of a live audience, and having a two-week run gives the performers an opportunity to develop the piece from performance to performance,” he observed. “Many of these pieces are in process of being developed into longer evening- length performances, so many artists find interesting what offshoots come from an individual piece through the festival.”

He would love the Fledgling Festival to become an annual event at Perishable, he added.