Almost a full century after its creation, the Italian Futurist Fortunato Depero’s suite of four puppet plays Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed (1917) receives its world premiere as part of Bard’s SummerScape festival. Translated, designed and directed by Obie and Bessie Award-winning artist Dan Hurlin, the production combines traditional Bunraku puppetry techniques with state-of-the-art technology – from 3-D printing to sound sampling and a live score from Tony Award-nominated composer/sound designer Dan Moses Schreier.
Depero (1892-1960) is known, among other distinctions, as the author of the manifesto Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe, and for his collaboration with Swiss writer Gilbert Clavel, I Balli Plastici, a ballet for machinelike wooden puppets, simulating the Futurist ideal of technology’s breaking free of human influence. That one was written in 1918, anticipating a perennially popular theme in science fiction from the 1930s right on up to the present: artificial intelligence that outsmarts and rebels against its creators.
Hurlin unearthed the four Depero puppet plays while doing research under a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. These short, wordless dramas are precursors to I Balli Plastici and mark the beginning of Depero’s long involvement with performance, as well as his desire to combine all media and disciplines into one comprehensive gesamtwerk. Gathered together as Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed, the four plays are titled Acrobatic Suicides and Homicides, Automatic Thief, Electric Adventure and Safe. Dialogue-free and packed with surreal imagery, they represent a masterful marriage of playful whimsy with violence and menace.
Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed will be performed in the LUMA Theater of the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center on Bard’s Hudson Valley campus. Suitable for ages 12 and up, this “puppet noir” production will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, July 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays, July 10 and 17, Wednesday, July 13 and Saturday, July 16. Ticket prices range from $25 to $60.
An Opening Night Reception for members (July 9), pre-performance talk (July 10) and post-performance conversation (July 13) will accompany ten performances of Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed between July 7 and 17.
Ticket prices range from $25 to $60. For tickets and more information, visit https://fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape. Bard College is located in Annandale-on-Hudson.