The Journey to the Depths
Monkey’s adventures in the worlds beyond life
A sign stood on a tripod slanted a little out from the wall just inside the curtain covered doorway that led to the theater. Beyond this was a hallway that was dark except for spot lights in the glass display window cases along the walls on both sides in which a wide variety of puppets were posed. There were Indonesian shadow puppets, intricately carved and painted Bunraku heads along with many costumes and other props. In one case, Marionettes hung, some crudely carved mannequin figures and others with life like limbs and faces that had many knobs and buttons on the control wands. There were flat figures, woven in colorful radiating patterns, with hinged joints controlled by strings and rods. These were labeled Tumbellon Dreamtime Figures. There was a complete bestiary of hand and rod puppets with many human characters as well placed on wooden dowels, 10 rows of 10 dowels on steps starting with small ones at the top down to large ones that lay on the floor and looked as if they would need several puppeteers to manage them. Hanging down from the ceiling in the center of hallway were three massive puppets. One was a marionette dragon in flight 20 feet long that would need at least 5 operators. The next was a costume puppet of a cloud being that needed three operators two inside and one on the outside. The last was mechanical spider, 10 feet across, creeping around on a network of strands suspended from the ceiling and didn’t seem to need an operator. I could hear the soft clicking and whirring of flywheels and gears as it moved.
Andre and I walked silently shaking our heads at the fantastic array of artificial life displayed. In one case a mighty warrior in samurai armor stood next to a beautiful maiden dressed in a silk kimono in the middle of a solemn dance. The puppets looked as if they were uncomfortable at holding their poses for so long, and would relax into silent sigh of relief when we looked away. We stood mesmerized in front of this case for a long moment. Finally when the sound of a gong rattled down the hall. Andre pulled my sleeve and pointed to the open doorway a little way ahead.
“We better go, or we’ll miss the beginning,” Andre said trembling slightly with anticipation.
“If the show is anything like this, I don’t want to miss any of it.”
Andre was already through the door before I finished my sentence.