|Shaun Michael McNamara and a few of his friends|
photo courtesy All Puppet Players
by Julia Bashaw
Sometimes theater isn't always people reciting lines of dialogue on a stage. Rather, sometimes, it is a group of people being so creative that they have kept alive an old piece of history and made it their own. That is what All Puppet Theatre has been doing for the past nine years; puppeteering, using puppets to perform hilarious shows that spoof famous films and novels.
But, for the first time, they are doing something different. Shaun Michael McNamara, the founder of All Puppet Players, has decided to write his own original play.
Waiting for Henson
is Shaun’s first original piece that has been an idea in his head for about nine years. Shaun has been interested in puppeteering since he was in fifth grade when a teacher hosted a puppet making class after school. Down the road, Shaun started up All Puppet Players in 2010. And after all these years, Shaun still couldn’t get the idea for Waiting for Henson out of his head.
“When we first opened the company nine years ago, this should have been the third show that I was planning on doing,” explained Shaun. “It ended up never actually happening. So this has been in my brain for basically nine years and finally, it sort of pushed itself to the surface. It needed to come out of my head.”
Jim Henson, who has been crowned the ‘king’ of puppeteering is where Shaun got the name Henson for his production. The play is not about Jim Henson at all but some of his direct quotes are sprinkled in throughout the show as a tribute. But what is so clever is that Shaun got the concept for Waiting for Henson
from another famous playwright’s piece; Samuel Beckett’ Waiting for Godot
“The great magic trick that Samuel Beckett, that everyone thinks is a genius, played on these people,” explained Shaun, “is that he wrote a nonsense show. He told people, ‘you tell me what you think it means’. And then people infused all these fantastic, crazy, infused genius ideas on it. So I wrote this show with the idea that it would mean nothing and if someone could take meaning from it, then is the show still meaningless? I guess the inspiration is a big joke towards theater that I'm not a hundred percent anyone will get.”
The show is still completely original and written by Shaun, but with the concept that the show has no meaning. He wants to see if he will receive the same effect that happened to Samuel Beckett.
“I knew I had to write a show that was pure nonsense,” laughed Shaun. “Just to see if someone walks away with the key to life’s existential questions. If they do, they will applaud me as a genius. But if they’re smart, they will realize it’s just one big joke.”
Excited to try out this experiment, Shaun will be seeing what the audience thinks about his unique production.
“I am curious as to what they will take away. At the very end of the show, we’re going to put up a camera in the lobby where people can tell us what they think it meant.” He is excited to witness what everyone will say the show is really about, knowing he had no intention for their interpretation.
This play wasn't just for fun and games, however. Shaun, cast, and crew have been working very hard on this new challenge for their theatre. “I am tired,” admitted Shaun. “This is the hardest I've ever worked on a show, it is not like the other ones. I have a great cast and crew but we can't rely on the stuff we usually did; breaking character and sort of knowing what your line should be. This show is very specific and you really have to know your exact lines and cues. For the first time ever All Puppet Players is doing really theater and it is super tiring.”
But for the theatre company, the challenge is worth it and they are all excited for their audiences to see what they are capable of.
“I would say if you are a fan of All Puppet Players you will love the fact that it is so different and yet so uniquely us,” Shaun stated. “For those who have not seen a production of ours, I would say that if you had stayed away because you have heard that it’s just puppets saying the ‘f’ word, now is the time to show up and see what we are capable of, that we can also do original theater.” Shaun jokingly added, “But also know that at the very same time that we’re going to be performing this, we will be quietly flipping you off behind our backs.”
Shaun hopes All Puppet Players continues going strong season after season.
“For now the future plans are just kept doing stuff that makes us laugh,” said Shaun. “I would like to take one of these shows to New York, that is the ultimate goal, to just perform it. I don't need to be on Broadway, I just want to take my group of people who have worked as hard as they have with me for the past nine years in Arizona. And I would like to perform All Puppet Players in New York as a way to say ‘hey guys we did it, we made it’. That is a future goal, to get to New York and perform it somewhere. I feel like that’s important which I can't figure out why.”
Don't miss Shaun Michael McNamara's first original production. Just try not to take it too seriously.
CLICK HERE for more information on Waiting for Henson at the Playhouse On The Park at The Central Arts Plaza, which runs February 1st- 23rd