Crime and puppetry
A scene from “Puppet Crimes,” by Jana Zeller.

Crime and puppetry

Zeller brings raucous, adult puppet theater to Stone Church

BRATTLEBORO — Jana Zeller will present her raucous adult hand puppet show, Puppet Crimes, on Thursday, June 20, at 7:30 p.m.

With the allure of a cabaret-style performance, rude language, puppet roughhousing, and delicious food and drink in the sultry atmosphere of The Stone Church in Brattleboro, this dark comedy highlights the glory of traditional, anti-authoritarian, counter-cultural puppet theater.

As Zeller describes her show in a news release, Puppet Crimes is “hilarious satire about what it takes for a common puppet to survive in the face of tyranny, war, and economic oppression.”

Keeping up a 400-year-old tradition, German hand puppet heroes Kasper and Gretel struggle to survive in an old shack on the margins of society.

As the centuries pass through their little puppet booth, war is always raging and Kasper tries to avoid getting blamed, arrested, and drafted. Yet, at every turn, this petty puppet is made the scapegoat for larger crimes.

The third character in this spectacle is the villain Dietmar, a corrupt emissary to the king who deals in weapons and bullies Kasper. Each scene poses a grotesque circumstance with a comic twist that explores the tradition of Kasper's character and its timeless relevance to today's world.

Zeller is a second-generation puppeteer whose passion for the hand puppet drove her to research this old European tradition extensively, including conducting several interviews with Peter Schumann of Bread and Puppet, who witnessed the old fairground performances in his childhood in Germany and personally knew some of Germany's most renowned hand puppeteers.

Eric Bass of Sandglass Theater was co-writer and director of this show, and Ines Zeller Bass made all the costumes. Anna Patton wrote the music.

This hour-long show for adults, inspired by German, British, and Italian hand puppet traditions, is generously supported by a grant from the Jim Henson Foundation.

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