Reprinted from The Independent Weekly


Photo courtesy of Paperhand Puppet Intervention

I Am an Insect
Paperhand Puppet Intervention
Through Sept. 7 at UNC’s Forest Theater; Sept. 12-13 at N.C. Museum of Art

Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s I Am an Insect: A Fluttering Processionary of Infinitesimal Ideas, despite its tongue-twisting title, is a guaranteed way to get kids interested in insects. The outdoor production at UNC’s Forest Theater is a marvelous display of imagination, using puppets, props and costumes to remind the audience of the marvels beneath their feet.

There is no real plot, save for several sequences depicting the noted scientist Jean Henri Fabre. The puppet-headed Fabre is one of dozens of characters introduced over the course of the evening, represented by a cast of 16 performing various roles with the help of costumes and props.

The effect is often startling: A grasshopper emerges from nowhere; beetles battle to the death; dung beetles tumble over a large globe—sort of like a Cirque du So-bug. In the climactic numbers, a spider towers over the performers for a creation myth, butterflies “soar” into the audience and a silhouetted allegory about the relationship between man and nature unfolds before our eyes in a series of paper-cut animations.

Some of the later sequences go on a bit long, and it’s doubtful that kids will get the idea behind such sketches as Fabre’s analysis of ants as a socialist society. But the puppeteers are able to achieve wondrous things with simple color cutouts and a little imagination, and the house band creates a sense of wonder that hangs over the whole production. It’s a great evening of family entertainment, though be sure to bring some bug spray; otherwise, you might get personally acquainted with one insect not in the show—the mosquito. —Zack Smith