JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
GENNA DAVIDSON: I’ve always loved the way in which the elements of the theater come together to create magical experiences for performers and audiences alike. In theater, you can combine all the other art forms—poetry, music, dance, sculpture, visual arts, puppetry, etc.
JL: Wit’s End Puppets was established in 2011. What inspired you to form this company? What contribution do you hope to make to the D.C. Theatre community?
GD: At first I was inspired to help Cecilia form this company because we worked so well together and balanced each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We had just created The Malachite Palace for the Fringe Festival that summer, and we felt like we had talents and energies that complemented one another. We didn’t want our work to end with that show, so we thought up another one. I see potential, and I think Cecilia shares this idea with me, for a stronger, more lively and richer puppetry community in DC. There are too many people out there who think puppetry is just for kids. We want to open eyes to the possibilities of puppetry.
JL: In addition to performances, Wit’s End Puppets has conducted workshops at elementary schools in D.C, Maryland and Virginia. Can you speak a bit about this work and the importance of arts in the schools?
GD: This is Cecilia’s territory. I haven’t been able to get involved in that yet.
JL: What excited you about taking part in the Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint? What have you learned from this experience?
GD: I was excited to get the support of CulturalDC and take advantage of the resources available through the Mead Theatre Lab Program, mainly reaching their audience, being surrounded and allied with other artists, and getting to use some great spaces for free. I felt like Wit’s End Puppets needed to embark on creating a longer, more adult targeted work of puppetry, and by adult I do not mean adult-themed. We wouldn’t have been able to get there in a year without participation in the program. I have learned that I don’t like producing. I need to remain the artist and find collaborations in which someone else manages the production.
JL: What compelled you to create THE AMAZING AND MARVELOUS CABINETS OF KISMET?
GD: I wanted to tell a story about how loss and fear of destruction often create panic, but ultimately it is adaptation that allows us to accept and regain peace in our lives. I wanted to let people experience along with our protagonist, Kismet, a change in perspective concerning destructive forces. I think we face a lot of destructive forces in life and it’s up to us individually to choose how to deal with those emotionally. Can we face destruction without pessimism and great feelings of loss? Can we adapt and change in the face of devastation? Is it okay to do that? These are questions I’m asking through this work.
JL: THE AMAZING AND MARVELOUS CABINETS OF KISMET is a collaborative endeavor. Can you speak about this process? What are some of the major challenges? What do you love about collaboration?
GD: In my opinion, our biggest artistic challenge has been narrowing our vision. When you create a show from scratch, and in a medium that can seem limitless, it’s really easy to setup guiding principles, an outline, a vision or rules to play by so to speak, and then let yourself be led astray by a whim of the day. I think it’s so important to have strong guiding images and materials that keep you on the path. For us this time, it was the work of Shaun Tan. I think I can always do a better job though articulating my artistic vision to my collaborators. I find it the most challenging aspect of the work actually, but when you get everyone on board and you start to realize the vision, individual or shared, it’s joyous. This I love: seeing what’s in my mind’s eye take shape in ways I hardly believed possible.
JL: Banished? Production’s brilliant, imaginative and talented Carmen C. Wong is serving as director on THE AMAZING AND MARVELOUS CABINETS OF KISMET. What has it been like working with her?
GD: Carmen has been a mentor for us as well as the director of the show. She’s helped us figure out how to focus and address many issues from how to run rehearsals most effectively to how to better communicate our vision to her. We can’t thank her enough for taking us under her wing. As a director, she’s all about making decisions. We create the material with our company of puppeteers and she helps to shape and to mold that into the nuanced story that we want. It’s been wonderful working with her.
JL: You’re billing THE AMAZING AND MARVELOUS CABINETS OF KISMET as “the story of one puppet’s journey through fear and the unknown.” What can audiences learn from Kismet’s adventure?
GD: I think that the work will have to answer that one.
JL: If there is one thing you want audiences to walk away knowing or thinking about after experiencing THE AMAZING AND MARVELOUS CABINETS OF KISMET, what would that be?
GD: I want people to go “Wow, I had no idea puppetry could be like that.” I want the ideas of loss and adaptation to resonate too. I hope people leave the theater and know that happiness is self-made.
Wit’s End Puppets presents
The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet
Created by Genna Davidson & Cecilia Cackley
Directed by Carmen C. Wong, banished? production
April 24 to May 19, 2013
Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW
$15, Students and Seniors $10
Call 202.315.1310 or visit www.witsendpuppets.com.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!