In February of 2009 we performed our first adaptation of a piece not written by The CastIron Carousel's in house writers and what a piece to start with! We were invited to perform a short piece at the Winningstad Theater in Portland at the behest of Tears of Joy Theater. There were to be eight or nine puppetry performances billed for an evening of "Puppet Love."
The choice to do a piece as dark as Mice and Men for Valentine's Day was actually an easy one. It fit well with the aesthetic of the Carousel of doing complex, sad and beautiful stories combined with the Depression era setting. It also gave us a great opportunity to collaborate with another puppeteer, Bruce Orr of “The Mudeye Puppet Company”.
There is a puppetry axiom which goes, the best use of puppets is to tell stories in ways that can't be told with human actors; with this in mind, we set out to do something quite strikingly different with the classic story of George and Lenny. Bruce Orr and Mudeye have an style that is 180° different from that of The CastIron Carousel. Using this extreme contrast, we set out to write a play that was a Point-Of-View piece using the different views of the world held by the two characters. We made two sets of puppets and two of each backdrop in two very different styles representing two very different understandings of the world. Orr built happy colored, cartooned sets and puppets for the piece and The Carousel made darker and more photorealistic versions of the same sets and puppets. During the play, the scene would rapidly change from one world view to the other depending on the shifts in mood of the characters, giving the audience something we have never had before from Steinbeck's classic, a look through the eyes of each protagonist.
Though the Play is a short seventeen minutes of high energy multi-tasking for the four puppeteers involved, for the audience, it captures the essence and character of the play with an added surreal and beautiful insight into the most important parts of the story.