Magic of Christmas: A collaboration with Portland Symphony Orchestra
The giant puppets of Christmas Past, Present and Future were so successful last year, the Symphony has asked FST to create more figures, to add to this year's Magic of Christmas performances. We challenged ourselves to see how much we could make them look like the famous John Leech illustration for A Christmas Carol.
John Farrell was honored to be asked to direct this year's Christmas Carol portion of the show. "Working at the intersection of the theater world and the music world was a fascinating new challenge for me. Joe Cassidy is such a world-class actor, it was a joy to work with him. And Robert Moody is very open and appreciative of the input of other artists, so the process was always positive, always inclusive."
In case you missed the fun last year, the figure of Christmas Past is an 11' tall "child" wearing a wreath of bright candles on her head, perched above a 9' tall sparkling skirt, inside of which the puppeteer/dancer invisibly manipulates her head and hand movements and floats her across the floor. Christmas Present is a barrel-chested Father Christmas-type clad in green silk velvet and fur, while Christmas Yet-to-Come is a spectral Dementor-esque vision that requires two puppeteers to make it's ominous passage upon and above the stage.
The puppets of the Fezziwigs were a new challenge for us, as they had to be larger than life while being worn by dancers and included in the festivities. The puppets' heads are mounted on helmets, so the dancers peek out from under their chins, hidden by big collars. "Creating patterns for the bodies was like 3-D Tic Tack Toe," says Carol Farrell, "incorporating the dancers' measurements, then engineering the inner and outer measurements of the foam bodies, and eventually the costumes. I was pushed well out of my comfort zone!"
PSO and FST plan to expand this collaboration in the years to come, taking on the creation of several new puppets each year to add to the "cast" of the condensed Christmas Carol. We have also begun discussing a possible collaboration between PSO and FST on other symphonic material. If you have ideas you think we should explore, by all means let us know!