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Independent People Coming to Carleton

January 20, 2010 at 10:14 am
By Margaret Taylor '10

This spring, the Carleton Players are going to stage a theater adaptation of Independent People, the most famous novel to come out of Iceland.  Publisher’s Weekly has described it as “a huge, skaldic treat filled with satire, humor, pathos, cold weather and sheep.”  That is, designed to become a stageplay in Minnesota.

The making of Independent People is going to be a long-term collaborative project.  Steve Richardson, Carleton's director of the arts, helped to arrange for Eva Barr and John Musial of Looking Glass Theater Co. in Chicago to be visiting directors for the project.  They’ve received funding to work with undergraduate students to develop one of their works in progress.  Independent People, when it is complete, will be entirely student produced and performed.

The first step of the process to bring together Independent People is to make shadow puppets.  To that effect, Daniel Polnau, a puppeteer from the Twin Cities, is visiting campus for two workshop/seminar events where students will learn puppeteering by doing.  The first workshop, last Thursday, focused on puppet production, and when Polnau returns in February, he will teach students how to operate them.

“Right now we’re focusing on generating images,” Polnau says.  At the first workshop, Polnau shows students a book of clips with examples from all around the world of some of the heights to which shadow puppetry can be taken.  For example, one work in the Thai tradition is an intricate cutout made from an entire water buffalo hide.  After the introduction, the students get to work cutting shapes out of manila folder.  One of the shapes is going to be a pear, which is pivotal to the play’s plot, and other students discuss how to use tissue paper to give the shadows a hallucinatory aura.

The puppets that Carleton students are generating now will be made into a shadow puppet show, which will be recorded and then projected in the background during the play.  Independent People will be coming out in mid-May.