By Andrew Ross
The puppet formerly known as Shark E. Shark went on assignment for the Gauntlet recently, interviewing This, star of the Old Trout Puppet Theatre Company’s debut play, The Unlikely Birth of Istvan. The play, an adult-rated puppet show, runs Nov. 7-25 at the Secret Theatre.
Sharky: I was hoping to get one of the naked female puppets, but obviously that’s not gonna happen.
S: Yeah. In the bill, it says that there’s nudity in the play, but are we talkin’ like Playboy nudity, or more like Penthouse nudity?
This: That’s a fair question, Shark E. Shark…
S: Please, just call me Sharky.
T: Mmm. I would say, no; it’s more like anatomy textbook nudity. There’s nothing degrading, and in fact, uh, no shaved schnitzkies. No, in fact it’s educational nudity.
S: That’s unfortunate, isn’t it?
S: Well, I say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, eh? You’ll never catch me wearin’ clothes.
T: True enough.
S: So, what kind of a play would you say this is anyway?
T: Many plays are about certain things; this one is about everything. In fact, everything you could conceivably want to know about the universe, you can learn through this show.
T: Everything, yes.
S: That’s a lot.
T: It is, but if you have any difficulties in your life, any decisions you need to make, you can watch the show, and it will explain them.
S: I see. And how long is the show?
T: It’s a little less than an hour.
S: That’s quite a feat.
T: Yes., but we’ve condensed it.
S: I see. I understand that you’re from the country, somewhere out the backwoods of Southern Alberta. What’s it been like for you, coming to the big city and all?
T: Frankly, terrifying. To be honest, it’s been a grand culture shock, because we lived in abject isolation. I, myself, was made out of old railroad ties found on the ranch that we lived on. We all gathered together, puppets, humans, animals, in a one-room shack in the screaming waste, and it was an oddly idyllic environment to live and work in, if not for the cowboys and the Hutterites who didn’t understand what it was we were doing.
S: I see.
T: But having come to the city now, there are telephone calls, publicists, interviewers, sharks, here at all times harassing us, never giving us peace.
S: I know you’re probably sick of politics by now, but I’m a big Natural Law supporter myself, and I’ve gotta know: do you think they have much of a chance in this election?
T: I sincerely hope so. This show might be good for a Natural Law convention, in reality, because it shares the same cosmic focus. I’ve always appreciated the willingness of the Natural Law Party to take on issues far larger than simple Canadian politics. For instance, cosmic harmony…
S: And of course the legalization of marijuana, but that’s just a side issue I suppose.
T: Is that true? Really?
S: Oh, hell yeah.
T: Is that one of their big platforms?
S: Well, think about it, man.
T: Heh heh, how else do you believe in yogic flying? Fair enough.
S: Right. So, on a related tangent, do you have any plans for Halloween?
T: The reality is that the freakiest costume that I can do is actually take myself off and walk around as a simple naked human being. That’s what puppets do.
S: In recent years, society’s view of puppetry has been changed, particularily by MuchMusic star Ed the Sock and the influential film Being John Malkovich. What’s your take on this change, and where do you see puppetry going in the future?
T: At this point the main thrust has been to re-establish it as an adult medium, which means setting up a bastion against the impression that puppetry might be a children’s medium at all; that is to be crude, lewd, violent, disgusting, and in all ways inappropriate for children. But we are the next generation; we are able to erase that distinction entirely because in the true theatrical experience, the perfect theatrical experience, the adult comes out feeling like a child again, and the child comes out feeling like an adult for the first time.
S: Yeah., you know what, you kinda lost me after the sex and violence part.
T: Did I? Fair enough. Did I go off on a complete rant? Because I didn’t mention John Malkovich at all. Nope. Sex and violence.
S: That’s good, that’s what our readers like anyway.
T: Fair enough. However, what can I say about Being John Malkovich… oh, and Ed the Sock. Ed the Sock is a hack. That’s all I have to say about him.
S: Yeah., but he’s my kinda hack.
T: I bet you’re wondering what I’m wearing under this shirt, aren’t you, Sharky?
S: Not really, actually.
S: I mean, nothing personal, but you’re just not my type. I go more for the aquatic sorts of puppets, if you know what I mean.
T: Fair enough.
S: I hate to get off on a tangent here, but I saw a puppet production of The Little Mermaid, and oh my God!
T: Oh, Jesus yes. Flouncing around with those shells for a bikini…
S: I was talking about the fish.
T: Oh, ten-four, sorry, got it.
S: You’re just lucky my stogie ain’t lit.