Tag Archives: puppet slam

Puppet Slam!


The Lady of the House  treated me to a  Puppet Slam at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater. The Puppet Slams are for ages 18 and up. No kids! The Lady had been to four of the slams herself, and she really wanted me to see one too. She’s been talking about the slams for years, and they sounded like fun. (One of the puppet skits she told me about featured Pinocchio, but it wasn’t his nose that grew!)

Here’s what the website of The Great Arizona Puppet Theater (http://www.azpuppets.org/Adultslam.php) has to say about the Puppet Slam: “Arizona’s best, quirkiest, edgiest slammers from across the country come together for some adult fun! Independent performers do short pieces which are funny and are sometimes poignant all geared to an adult audience.” The Lady also used the word “raunchy” to describe some to the pieces she’s seen at the Puppet Slams. I was in! There’s something about puppets in adult situations that cracks me up. (Consider Wonder Showzen. Think of the sex scene in the all-puppet cast Team America.)

The building the Theater is housed in is awesome. It is the former Phoenix LDS 2nd Ward Church, built in 1929. I thought it was funny that we’d see raunchy puppet shows in a former Mormon church

In the lobby, visitors can view puppets from previous shows. In the puppet theater, the ceiling is amazing. It looked like inlaid wood, very decorative.

The theme for the Puppet Slam was Shriveled Heart (in honor of Valentine’s Day, I guess), and was hosted by Daisy the Kitten, a sweet but foul-mouthed black cat in a pink tutu. Perhaps my humor level is that of a twelve year old boy, but I thought it was pretty funny every time Daisy let loose with an F-bomb. Daisy was sometimes joined onstage by Jingles, a large wild-furred and wild-eyed disembodied cat head reported to be forced to live at the back of the theater basement. Jingles seemed to be a little perverse and a little mentally off-kilter.

The first skit of the evening, “The Super Bowl Commercials You Didn’t See” (by Stacey Gordon and Mack Duncan of Die Puppet Die) was funny and mildly risque. It consisted of ten 15 to 30 second spots that would never make it on TV during the Super Bowl. The risque bits included two beer bottles getting it on, two puppets making out while a cutout of the Michelin Man was superimposed over them (yes, I thought it was kind of a stretch too), one puppet enthusiastically eating the other’s (held at crotch level) Snickers bar, and the Snickers bar eater offering to let her friend eat her Eskimo Pie. The piece ended with a little puppet with wings telling the audience all the things s/he would never get to do because s/he died of measles because his/her parents were “too fucking stupid” to have him/her vaccinated. (If too much time has passed since the Super Bowl by the time you read this post, I’ll tell you that this skit was a joke on both the insurance ad about the kid who never grew up because he died in an accident https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKUy-tfrIHY and the outbreak of measles that was rocking Phoenix in the same time period.)

The second skit, “Love My Way” (by Dain Gore of The Catechumen) was neither funny nor risque. In this one, a Jesus puppet rambled about agápe, éros, philía, and storgē, the ancient Greek ideas about love. The whole piece needed more work.

The final act of the first half of the show, “All I Do Is Dream of You” (by Gwen Bonar of Rude Rabbit Productions), was lovely, but technically no puppets were involved. The action was a sweet sort of hand dance. The “puppeteer” acted out a love affair, using only her two hands, a scarf, and ring. Wikipedia says “a puppet is an inanimate object or representational figure animated or manipulated by a puppeteer,” so I guess if we can agree that Gwen’s hands were “representational figures” that she animated, we can make the case that this act did belong in a puppet show.

Intermission afforded me the opportunity to go outside, through a sort of courtyard, and into another part of the building to visit the cramped but clean restroom. Intermission afforded others in the crowd the opportunity to buy beer and wine, as well as water and soda, at the concession stand. (By the way, as many folks in the audience were laughing at some not very funny jokes, I think plenty of them were drunk. Or maybe my sense of humor is just different.)

The highlight of the second half of the show was Dan Dan the Puppet Man (Dan Dold). The Lady of the House was so happy when she saw his name on the program that she clapped her hands and bounced in her seat. He certainly deserved this enthusiasm. He made marionettes of Alice (of Wonderland fame) and Tina Turner (of Tina Turner fame) dance, sing, strut, and shimmy. Oh, it was fantastic! Mere words cannot adequately describe this performance. Music was playing, and Dan Dan the Puppet Man made his marionettes lip sync the lyrics. It looked like the puppets were singing! And they were certainly dancing! It was amazing! (And the funny part was that sweet little Alice was singing a dirty ditty about showing her snatch to the animals.)

The final act of the show was a very creepy (and perfectly executed) “Rumpelstiltskin Revisited” by visiting artist Drew Allison of Grey Seal Puppets. Rumpelstiltskin told his side of the story from the Maricopa County jail. It was a somber end to the night.

What came between Dan Dan the Puppet Man and Rumpelstiltskin was the lowlight of the show. Scott Gesser performed his “Songs of Wuv.” THERE WAS NO PUPPET!!!! Scott Gesser is a real live guy. He is not a puppet. He is also not a puppeteer. He’s not a ventriloquist. He didn’t even put a sock on his hand and pretend it was a puppet. I will repeat: Scott Gesser got on stage and there was no puppet present. Scott Gesser performed sans puppet. How can a performer without a puppet be allowed to perform during a puppet slam? It makes no sense!

Scott Gesser’s songs were fairly humorous. He might have been ok performing at a comedy club or even at an open mic. At a puppet slam, considering that THERE IS NO PUPPET in his act, he is a complete and dismal failure. The Lady of the House and I were both extremely disappointed by this guy and wondered who he’d had to fuck to get this gig. (The Lady has seen him perform without a puppet at the Puppet Slam twice before.) This act really tainted the whole show for me. I wish the show had been shorter and this guy left out.

Puppet Slams don’t happen on a regularly scheduled basis, so if you hope to see one someday, go to the Theater’s website to sign up for the slam mailing list. The slam I attended lasted about an hour and half–including intermission–and cost $12 at the door, $10 in advance.

And Now It’s Saturday


I didn’t go to bed until nearly 1AM. I am not typically up so late. It was after 11 when I got home, then I stayed up talking with The Lady of the House and eating peanut butter-banana-chocolate chip bread. I didn’t wake up this morning until it was full on daylight.

I don’t have big plans for the day.

#1 Pick lemons in preparation for the lemonade stand with Nolagirl and Little Phoenix. I don’t know how much I will be actually participating in said lemonade stand, but I have offered to provide the organic lemons from my host family’s abundantly fruity backyard tree.

#2 Attend puppet slam with my host family.

Of course, there are many other tasks I can work on, like laundry and tidying my room or organizing the vanhome. But I can delay everything but the big two of my list.

I made it to the First Friday vendor’s market. I got a tiny bit lost, which gave me an opportunity to pull into Taco Bell and get an order of pintos and cheese while waiting for Nolagirl to text back and tell me how to actually get where I was going.

I arrived and was unloading, when I was approached by the woman who organizes the market. This woman had not been very nice to me over the phone, acting not only as if she were in the biggest rush of her life, but as if I were an idiot. When my phone didn’t receive her text with instructions for paying her through PayPal, she got really defensive and acted as if I were maybe fibbing about not receiving it. (Her text, sent at 8:40pm, arrived at 1am. I have no idea why. Mysteries of the ether.)

So I wasn’t thinking highly of this women, but I know some people don’t do well on the phone, or maybe she had been in the biggest rush of her life when we talked. I was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt. But then she walked up and said to me, Who are you? This question was not asked playfully. This question was not asked in a friendly tone of voice. This question was asked as if she’d just awoken from a deep sleep and found me standing at the foot of her bed. So I shot back with, Who are you? The look on her face was fantastic. It was both pure shock and total bewilderment. I knew immediately that this woman is accustom to talking to people any old way she wants and never being challenged.

She identified herself by name, and I identified myself by name, and she told me where to set up.Throughout the night, she referred to me as “hemp girl” and “little hemp girl” (although she wasn’t that much bigger than I am).

The guy next to me (and maybe others) were grumbling about how close together the organizer was packing us in. (There was zero space between my display and the display to my right.) In response to the grumblings, the organizer went on a diatribe about how if any of us wanted to take over her $650 a month lot, we were welcome to. She seemed to think that because she’d perhaps made a poor real estate decision, she can be rude to the people paying her rent. Later she got a little sweeter and announced that she’d started this market so there’d be something better than the markets she’d been selling at. She seemed to want us to thank her for treating us rudely while charging $30 each to pack us in like 19th century tenement dwellers.

The vendor on my left was a women selling candles. Throughout the night, I heard several people ask her if she’d made the candles. No. Other people asked if they were soy. Also no. She was charging approximately $25 per candle. (As the night progressed, she was giving buy one/get one for 25% and later 50% off deals.) I was surprised that she was actually selling anything. I assumed that people who want factory produced, paraffin wax candles drive over to Wal-Mart or Target to buy them.

The vendor on my right was a guy selling coffee by the pound. To entice people to buy his coffee, he was handing out free samples. He was a loud, East Coast guy, and all night he bellowed, You tried the rest, now try the best! At the beginning of the night people were vocally expressing their dislike of his coffee, but it seemed to be grow in popularity as the night progressed.

The vendor next to the coffee guy was a friend of his selling cheesecakes. The cheesecake guy was from Chicago. He had big posters of cheesecakes (not his cheesecakes, professionally made cheesecakes) mounted on stiff paper so they would stay upright when propped in a sign stand. However, it looked as if he’d been storing his signs in a damp basement because they had a prominent curve to them and on one of them, the corners were curled and paper layers separating. It looked awful, really trashy. His cheesecakes looked sloppy too; they definitely did not look professionally made, but people bought them.

I had my table all set up by about 5:30. Because I was only working with 6 feet of table space (instead of my usual 10 feet), I was able to set up pretty quickly. However, I didn’t have room to put on most of my rocks. I had all of my hemp jewelry on display, but only kyanite, ammonites, septarian concretions, rose quartz, and amethyst     .

The highlight of my night was when Nolagirl and Little Phoenix visited me. Little Phoenix read every tag with a description of a rock on it. Her interest was sweet. Nolagirl brought me a much needed bottle of water and two bottles of hand sanitizer so I could kill off germs after blowing my nose and otherwise sopping up snot. I figured no one would want to buy hemp jewelry that was possibly harboring my cooties.

More people started showing up around seven o’clock. It was a huge crowd. I sold a couple of necklaces, which is always a thrill. I also sold several bracelets. Bracelets tend to be a big seller. At $6 each or two for $10, they are something most people can afford.The big sellers of the night were ammonites. I sold an ammonite pendant and three ammonites that had not been made into jewelry. Near the end of the event, a group of women stopped at my table and bought a small amethyst cluster and the second septarian concretion of the night.

The worst part of my evening was trying to get my displays and tables and merchandise back in the van. I’d had to park the van about two and half blocks away, and it must have been around ten thirty when I walked over to get it. When I got back to the area of the market, there was no space for me to pull in. I ended up driving around for at least 15 minutes, dealing with closed streets and temporary no-turn signs, while looking for a closer place to park. There was nothing. Finally, a cab pulled out about half a block from where all of my stuff was, and I pulled in haphazardly between a car and a barricade.

I had just picked up my big box of shiny rocks, when the organizer of the market walked up and started being fairly nice to me! She started off with Hey, hemp girl! How did you do tonight? I said ok, and when I indicated the heavy box of rocks I was holding, she said I should set it down and talk to her for a while. Just about the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the night while my van was weirdly parked out of my sight was to stand around and chat with this woman who had previously been rude to me. But I set the box down, and she asked me again how I had done. I told her fine or ok (my standard noncommittal answer when anyone is trying to learn  about my financial situation). She asked me if I had made at least $100 and I told her probably, although once I sat down later and did the math, I found I had not made quite that much money.

Then she asked me if I thought I’d come back. I was stunned. I wanted to say, Are you kidding me! After the way you’ve been acting, why would I want to come back here? However, I am much too Southern for anything like that. Besides, why burn bridges? And as The Lady of the House pointed out, a response like that would not likely have changed her attitude. So I just reminded her that I was only in town for a visit and probably wouldn’t even be around next month.

Last night I was adamant that I would NOT go back there. However, in the light of day, I think I might return if I am still here early next month. At least this time I’d know what I was getting into, and I could arrive early enough to get a closer parking spot.

Financially, I did ok at the market. The reality is that I am not getting rich selling at these kinds of events. If I were paying for rent on a place to live, renter’s insurance, health insurance (which I currently don’t have), as well as car insurance, gas, food, toiletries, phone bill, laundry, entertainment, and whatever else I buy in a month, I don’t think I could make it selling jewelry and shiny rocks. I would have to sell at least five days a week (and do fairly well on each of those days), and  I’m not sure if even a big city has that many markets.

The Lady of the House and I had a long talk last night about selling jewelry and rocks and why I do it. I don’t sell just to make money. I enjoy making jewelry. If I didn’t sell the jewelry I make, I’d eventually have big piles of it and no money to buy more supplies. Selling the jewelry lets me meet people who appreciate my creative expression. As I mentioned before, it’s a big boost to my self-esteem to have someone not only like what I create, but like it enough to shell out dollars for it. So intangible aspects of selling jewelry is as important as the money I make from it.

In the end, the jewelry I make is unnecessary. (Some folks might be able to make a case that the shiny rocks are necessary. I am not going to try to make that case.) Yes, the jewelry looks lovely and it makes people happy, but in the end, every bracelet, every necklace is simply another nonessential good consumer good. No one needs what I’m selling, so how can I ever blame anyone for not buying it?