Thursday, October 19, 2000

'Paradise Lost' inspires Saw Theater's 'Puppet'

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Sound, light, film and puppets star in Saw Theater's multimedia performance Account Me Puppet, a play on Paradise Lost. We caught up with Saw artistic director Mark Fox in his Camp Washington studio to ask him about life, theater and his new work.

        Question: How did you come to use Milton's Paradise Lost as inspiration for a new performance work?

    What: Account Me Puppet.
Where: Saw Theater, 2823 Massachusetts Ave., Camp Washington.
   When: 9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through Nov. 11.
   Tickets: $15. 541-0872 or
        Answer: It's a classic, but so contemporary in so many ways. We (Saw partner is Anthony Luensman) have done a lot of work in the past about controlling forces and religious overtones, the puppeteers taking on the role of God.

        Q: How much control does a puppeteer have?

A: Not much.

        Q: What's the most difficult thing about your performances?

A: We don't treat the work as theater, we don't think of it as theater but as elaborate three-dimensional painting. There's no script, no blocked-out directions. It takes several months to a year to work it out visually with light and sound.

        Q: Saw Theater is better known outside Cincinnati than it is at home. You've had success in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Detroit. How do you plan on raising Saw's profile where you're based?

        A: There are a couple of factors that feed our out-of-town popularity. We play in bigger cities, which therefore have bigger audiences and bigger interest in an alternative performance scene.

        When we perform outside Cincinnati, we're invited by institutions like P.S. 122 (in New York), the Threadwaxing Museum, Detroit's Institute of Art, the Center for Puppetry Arts (Atlanta). Those are major centers with their own following and big marketing budgets. They can get the word out.

        When we play here, it's usually in our space. We don't have a marketing budget. We rely on word-of-mouth and fliers, which only goes so far. We have had difficulty in finding financial support here.

        That's the major reason for the extended run of Account Me Puppet and for our fund-raiser, coming up next week (Oct. 25).

        Our goal is to be able to produce a new piece every year and have one or two in the repertory to perform every year in Cincinnati and beyond.

        Q: Why do you want to do this for a living?

A: Don't ask that one. It doesn't apply. We're not making a living, we're trying to find a way to make a living.

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