Category: Research

NFSW, unless you happen to work in a brothel already

Lest you think – as we busy moderns often do – that sexy talk was invented somewhere around the time we learned to speak it, here’s some irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

To wit: New York City, 1896. A man walks into a bar. He sits down, orders a beer, and laughs long and hard at the bartender’s newest story. It’s a good tale, though a bit too bawdy to repeat at home. The next day he goes into the same bar, gets his beer, and drops his change into a phonograph. He’s listening through rubber tubes to a man telling a story similar to the bartender’s. Without warning Anthony Comstock’s defenders of decency charge into the bar, push him aside, destroy the record, and escort the bar’s proprietor to jail for promoting indecency.

Danger, the decency police! The only decent thing to do is buy this recording, really.

Glimpsed through the window . . .

Quite apropos, as it was through their storefront window that I first saw the amazing, amazingly detailed Pan Loudermilk-sized Victorian chair and settee: see, window dressing works!


Many thanks to It’s Your Window for their generous donation of the use of the aforementioned furniture at our upcoming  event “The Alchemy of Desire”. No puppet ever had finer seating, unless it was the well-upholstered lap of a floozy.

The corset as character

With thanks to Melissa Joy Crawford, a glorious look at costume designer Anaïs Romand’s work for “House of Tolerance,” wherein we learn that

Virtually all costumes in the film were made from scratch, “Only two dresses bought in a flea market in Paris were reworked and cut to fit”. The beautifully intricate corsets were also new. “I designed the corsets and they were made by Danièle Boutard, a well known ‘maître d’art’ in corsets and period costumes in general”. Romand agrees that despite the constriction of a corset, the girls were comparatively relaxed as she tended to avoid the more unforgiving ‘S bend’ fit, “I’m glad the girls seem ‘liberated’; I wanted them to seem very at ease and used to wearing corsets, which was not so obvious when the actresses discovered what a corset is at the first fitting! It took many fittings to get them used to the corset, to learn how to breathe and move in it”.

Trust your corsetière (or corsetier), always, ladies. And gents. (PS, the Calvin Klein underwear ad is a hilarious little bit of synchronicity. You decide which undies are hotter!)

Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana . . .

Turning the pages of a fall 2012 men’s fashion magazine, one notices the pleasing proliferation of classically-inspired menswear: check the spread especially of Dafoe, Oldman, Hedlund and Bell, all of whom might immediately be cast in the series version of the Poppy.

Which could share the airwaves with this.

Site = specific, and say hello to Benjamin

Seven days away, now: This fifth and last of the Poppy events, this final bend in the road before the full, immersive show, takes place  in, and takes advantage of, that amazing Victorian house: with her age showing beautifully, her bricks and cracks and elegant pillars, her air of having seen so much life . . . With each space the Poppy tale has inhabited, this piece of growing and changing fiction, we’ve offered different facets, chapters, moments of that tale: and now we have arrived, as Julanne Jacobs observed at our last rehearsal, at “Page Zero” of the book itself.

The site helps shape and form the play within it, the play animates the space. We inhabit both, and we invite the energy of those present: so much more than a passive audience, our patrons wearing masks, breathing incense, sipping punch and eyeing the floozies, as they peruse the trinkets and find, suddenly, that the story has come to life right where they stand . . .

Meanwhile, we keep considering that miniseries casting.  Thank you, Autumn, for suggesting the totally Benjamin Fu’ad Aït Aattou!!


“Maverick heroes, high stakes and hot sex”

Those are the three things a book must have, according to James W. Hill’s Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers. No mention of puppets, but with those three elements firmly – elementally! – in place at the Poppy, we’re good to go!
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To arouse

The focus of our Under the Poppy performances – including this latest, “Love Conquers All,” to be offered in a scant three weeks! – is and has been pleasure: including the pains, yes, of love, but their eventual fulfillments and satisfactions; and the whorehouse joys that, while ephemeral, certainly reach a defined, and definite, conclusion.

But there are other ways a puppet may arouse, and other passions: and some of those are political.

As Judith Wielander puts it, writing about Wael Shawky’s “Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File”:

“The strings that are used to move people in history have always been a visible form of manipulation. In this context, the string puppets proved to be the ideal means for the Egyptian artist to narrate the story of some of the most terrible years in human history. Calm and collected reflections on these matters might help us meditate on past errors, which crop up again and again in a never-ending cycle.”

In 200-plus years, how many repetitions have these particular puppets seen? We can hope that the wood and wool and wire performers may continue to instruct the flesh-and-blood folk, or at least inspire them to think.


Whose face do you see?

“I would love to see someone make a three to six part miniseries of UtP so I could watch it again and again and again.They could cast Álex González as Rupert and Simon Woods as Istvan and I”d be happy,” says Another New World, and it’s a worldview with which I totally concur. One of the Poppy’s natural habitats is absolutely film.

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