A tiny world for all to see

Some might think a puppet show performed in a matchbox could only be seen by insects, but one artist performs a tiny show everyone can see and enjoy.

Laura Heit, a native of Southwest who now lives on the west coast, performs puppet shows in ordinary matchboxes, and uses video projections to display the shows to audiences. She’s performing today and Saturday at Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre.

“I’m actually playing on the idea of playing, like you would with a doll or a matchbox car,” she said.   

“The Matchbox Shows” are a series of 15 different shows, where each matchbox tells a different story. A projection screen behind Heit blows up the image to the size of a movie theater screen.

“My thumb can be five feet tall, where the puppet is as big as my thumbnail,” she said.    

Heit has a long history with Heart of the Beast – she started working with puppets there while still in high school. At the Redmoon Theater in Chicago, Heit worked with large-scale puppets. But it was the art of Great Small Works, a New York performance company, which piqued her interest in Toy Theater.

“I had a desire to make something small and something that I could make really fast,” she said.

Heit’s desire to go small came from working in a big theater, where she performed for audiences of 10,000 people.

The smallness of the performance space does not confine Heit’s imagination. Attendees of the Nov. 15 show will see Heit’s puppets perform a circus inside the tiny matchboxes.

Heit will also lead a projection and puppetry workshop from 1-5 p.m. on Nov. 16, where visitors will get a chance to see how film can expand the limitations of live theater. Heit said she wants to get people thinking about ways to use video and puppets.

“It can go places an audience can’t go,” she said.

The workshop will also allow show participants how to incorporate live video, such as projection footage of real clouds, into performances. Heit said the workshop would give people an opportunity to play with things both on- and off-screen.

Her work accompanies “Handmade Puppet Dreams,” a festival of live action puppet shorts that explore how the camera affects and influences the art of puppetry.

Heather Henson’s IBEX Puppetry produced the film shorts. Puppetry is an area Henson knows well – she is the daughter of innovative puppeteer Jim Henson.

“Handmade Puppet Dreams” will premiere tonight at 8 p.m. on the theater’s main stage. All tickets are $15. The performance on Nov. 15 is at 10 a.m. It is a family-friendly show, and will show shorts designed for children by independent artists. A $1 donation is suggested for children and families who live or go to school in the Central, Corcoran, Phillips or Powderhorn neighborhoods. A $3 donation is requested for visitors who live elsewhere.

Guests to the workshop are asked to bring a puppet, a digital video or still camera and plenty of energy to experiment. Tickets for the workshop are $40, or $30 for members of the Twin Cities Puppeteers Guild.
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater is located at 1500 East Lake Street in Minneapolis. For more information call (612) 721-2535, or visit www.hobt.org.