In Helen Davies’ Gender and Ventriloquism in Victorian and Neo-Victorian Fiction: Passionate Puppets, she investigates the voiced and varied ethos of the puppet, exploring (among others) Dorian Grey, Trilby, Sarah Waters, and Under the Poppy‘s Pan Loudermilk via the novel’s opening scene – all of nine paragraphs, but it’s fairly indelible, particularly if you’re Pearl.
Though a ventriloquist’s dummy is not a puppet, the voice he, she, or it acquires comes most times from a human throat, and so may be presumed to speak if not for, then in tandem with, that human. As does, one supposes, the rest of the rig, arms legs genitalia and all. So this writer must respectfully and firmly disagree that “[Istvan] appears to lack awareness of how ventriloquism becomes synonymous with masculine penetrative power[.]” He knows. It’s what makes that scene so indelible.
Somewhat bemused after reading this about “Felt,” a Logo series about sex therapy that uses puppets in place of people:
“How, then, could they create a show about sex therapy that people would actually watch? Their answer was to tackle sex without any actual sex — or even the necessary parts to engage in it.”
There’s more than one manner of puppet, of course . . . Perhaps the Chevalier should hang out his couples’ therapy shingle? Ride on!
[Photo courtesy Marvin Shaouni and Model D.]
To give pleasure takes work – the beautiful, hard work of shared creation. Here, the choreography of an erotic human/puppet encounter is determined at rehearsal, by Vanessa Ellen Hentschel, Joe Dimuzio, Steve Xander Carson, and Laura Heikkinen . . . and of course the Chevalier.
The creativity extended to every aspect of the production, including the masks offered to the patrons: wear one, and become visible to the players, to be acknowledged, to join in flirtation, or something darker …. Kat Thacker‘s artistry turned mulberry paper, linen, and silk ribbon into mystery.
[Photos: Poppy cast courtesy Rick Lieder, Chevalier and KK courtesy Diane Cheklich, masks courtesy Kat Thacker.]
Because the brothel never closes, we are ruminating over the Victorian Values Tour: where to reopen the Poppy? Austin, TX (home of our formidably entertaining Maestro, Joe Stacey)? Brooklyn NY? Seattle/San Francisco?
We need only a suitable venue (a Victorian-era hotel would be perfect) and room to move the puppets. All the rest is glitter, grit, and heartstrings … Suggestions are welcome as we plan our itinerary. Bring the whorehouse to your house, dear patrons!
There’s nothing like the road. With the right comrades, it’s heaven on earth. – ISTVAN, from UNDER THE POPPY
Off to roost onstage, darling, wherever the stage may be – or to make one, wherever one may find himself. For what’s a theatre, really? Just a homey little labyrinth of mirrors –
And puppet strings.
The brothel closes. The brothel never closes. Exeunt!
[Photos courtesy Joe Stacey.]
Poppy patron Daniel Fabiani made the trek from NYC – his first visit to Detroit! We are proud to have lured him into the brothel where all manner of fun was had. Not to mention the afterparty at Centaur (how apropos) . . . [Photos courtesy Daniel Fabiani.]
We would love to invite all of you to do likewise and visit us at the brothel, but we are on the utter verge of selling out. Perhaps we’ll have to bring the brothel to you, via the Victorian Values tour . . .
On the stairways, beneath the glitter of the lights, gazing through glass (while glowered at by Omar) . . . Our family and friends performance opened the brothel doors.
Tonight, patrons arrive.
Some have been to the Poppy before, in one or more of its incarnations leading up to this night. Others have come to the story through the novel. Others are (how better to say it?) virgins . . . Well, what better place to lose one’s inhibitions, get puppet-curious, and immerse yourself in play?
Will you wear the mask? Will you brush close enough to a floozy to inhale his scent, feel her breath as she laughs softly to herself? How far will you go?
“The Mayor felicitates you on your shows, he enjoys your shows very very much. But the Mayor is not happy with the – horse.” Mr. Franz’s lips twitch; it seems he is suppressing some emotion. “I need not speak of it more fully before Miss Decca, need I, need I explain what the horse is doing to that girl up there on that stage? . . . He doesn’t care for it, not at all. Not at all.” Mr. Franz seems to be struggling internally. “It is not – Christian.”
“It is not a real horse,” says Decca dryly.
[Vanessa Ellen Hentschel, Joseph Dimuzio, Steve Xander Carson, Laura Heikkinen, and the Chevalier at rehearsal. Photo courtesy Rick Lieder.]