Kresge Auditorium, Stanford University
Monday, October 29, 2007, 7:00 pm
Edited by Peter Y. Chou
Preface: While passing the fountain near the Stanford Bookstore on Sunday, there were dozens of flyer posted announcing "Phillip Huber's Suspended Animation Monday, October 29th, 7 pm, Kresge Auditorium". A photo showed Huber holding a stringed robotic figure on his hand. What got my attention is the quote on the bottom of the flyer from Heinrich von Kleist's The Puppet Theater: "...when consciousness has, as we might say, passed through an infinity, grace will return; so that grace will be most purely present in the human from that has either no consciousness or an infinite amount of it, which is to say either in a marionette or in a god."
I recall reading this inspiring passage in von Kleist's On the Marionette Theatre (1810) in Prof. Butkatman's "Cinema-Machine" class last spring. Afterwards I wrote this haiku on May 23, 2007: "Puppets not weighed down / by gravity. Like God, they're / in a state of grace." Now, I'm excited on going to this performance.
When I got to Kresge at 6:45 pm Monday, there was around 20 some students. I asked one student what this show was about. He said it's part of the IHUM (Introduction to Humanities) class required for all undergrads. This semester the course is on "Humans and Machines". I asked "Are they going to show a film of Philip Huber and his marionettes? The student said that his instructor told the class that Philip Huber will appear personally to give a talk & demo. There was some stage set-ups for a puppet show. As 7 pm approached, more students showed up, and by 7:05 pm, the whole center aisle of Kresge was full. Prof. Scott Bukatman came as they reserved a seat for him in the second row. He saw me sitting in the sixth row on the aisle and waved "Hi Peter!" I waved back.
Then Philip Huber appears on stage and tells us: "I'm going to create an hour of illusion with cloth and wood. I'm going to treat you with my marionettes in cabaret style action. You'll be seeing vignettes. There are no secrets and I'll explain how it works afterwards. You'll see a simple unabashed performance." It was simply brilliant! I was overwhelmed by Salzburg Marionette Theater performance of Magic Flute while visiting Mozart's Geburtshaus in Salzburg (August 1972). One of my favorite spiritual stories is Anatole France's Our Lady's Juggler (1892) which I saw a puppet performance at Cornell. The mime performances of Marcel Marceau have inspired my work in biochemistry and poetry. Now I'll include Phillip Huber's Suspended Animation with these inspiring moments. He is that good!
I took 11 pages of notes, five in the dark during the performance and six pages of Q&A in the light. Below are the marionettes in the order of the performance at Stanford. I've used the images from Huber's web site and his description at left with my haiku notes at right.
Huber's Puppets & Introductions
Images of Huber's Puppets
Time & Peter's Haiku Notes
(1) Louisa (Trapeze Artist)
High above the center ring,
A graceful bird in flight.
Acrobatic skills that give you chills.
She'll dazzle and delight.
My heart is flying with her
soaring to the skies!
(2) George M. Cohan (American)
Mom's apple pie and the Fourth of July
are symbols of American pride,
But a song and dance man
like George M. Cohan
brings flag waving to a new high.
Flashes of Cagney
dancing Yankee Doodle Dandy
on the Fourth of July.
(3) Otto Halfminder (Instrumental)
In the Bavarian peaks an instrument squeaks
with sounds like ten tightly squeezed birds,
and a voice that is strange
in it's style and it's range
sings lyrics without any words.
Love his yodeling
with his accordian high
on the Bavarian peaks.
(4) DeDe Kupp (Singer)
A star of brightest magnitude
Who's quite beyond compare.
A lady who spells attitude
With A's & T's to spare.
Showing off her legs
and shoes, singing & dancing
under the starlights.
(5) Pierrot (Tightrope Walker)
To the circus we go to visit Pierrot
who has a new act you'll admire.
His tricks are a bore if performed on the floor
but outstanding when on the high wire.
Looks like Marceau's Bip
but more like Blondin crossing
the high wire over Niagara!
(6) Mary Annette (aka The Brat, singer)
Our little girl is cute and sweet
except when she pouts and stamps her feet.
She cries and sighs and sticks out her tongue
until we give her some bubble gum.
Sugar and spice and
everything nice she's always
blowing bubble gum.
(7) Sir Cedric (Pianist)
From the Eighteenth Century with a name absurd,
comes a "Liberace" of renown, or so we've heard.
Sir Cederic Raymond Wensley Ian Oliver Nigel
Pithy Kingsly Hardwick... the Third.
Music sheet moves to
the right with his fingers and
tings like a typewriter.
(8) Ray C Panda (Skater)
Shy in nature is his way,
But loves to skate in grand display.
Twirls and leaps in a careless pass
soon land this panda on his...derriere.
He's extremely shy
but once he's skating
watch out for his
twirls and whirls!
(9) Nicole (Singer)
A lady of glamour,
A lady of soul,
the elegant, classy, and sassy Nicole.
In glittering yellow
dress adorned with diamonds
she sings "it's a paper moon".
7:40-7:50 pm 10 minutes intermission for stage scenic change.
(10) Priscilla Pipes (Diva)
Our Diva's fame is Opera's shame
with every breath she takes.
To hit a high note that no one wrote
is a stretch she has to make.
Her neck stretches high
when she hits the high notes
with her chest heaving!
(11) Manuel D'Exterity (Violinist)
Through a meandering maze of explosive sighs,
This gypsy voice, stratoshphere thin,
Skips from valley lows to Everest highs
In Eloquent voice of the violin.
His dextrous fingers
plays the Carmen Fantasy
8:00 pm Phillip Huber gave a 5-minute talk-demo on the number of strings used on his marionettes.
Most puppets had 16 strings to manipulate their movements. The opera singer (Priscilla Pipes) has the most
23 strings for her actions. The trapeze artist (Louisa) has 8 strings. The strings on her trapeze are 45-pounds
nylon fish lines, the strongest strings in the show. During her swings, she can flip on to the bar with her hands
or feet. She has magnets on her feet so when they're hooked on the bar, she's more stablized. She can also
swing with her chin on the bar a feat that no human can do. Huber says he's the only puppeteer that lets go
of the control bars in his act. Puppeteers fear to do it because they'll lose control of the strings to manipulate
the puppets. Huber does it during Louisa's trapeze swings. He demonstrates by dropping his controls and
just let Louisa swing freely on the trapeze. Huber says the only caution is that he must keep his motion
even-keeled. A tiny jerk and Louisa will not keep her balance on the trapeze and tumble off the bar.
(12) Arianna Blade (Figure Skater)
With gliding circles & blurring twirls
This lady's path is deftly made.
She carves a line of frozen swirls
In sprite-like lightness, Arianna Blade.
Figure skating at
its finest Arianna
wins Olympian Gold!
(13) Shirley U'Jest (Singer)
From jive and swing
to Harlem jazz.
Here's a red hot mama
She's belting out the blues
"First you say you do
and then you don't.
I'm sitting on the fence,
you keep me in suspense."
(14) OsKar (Contortionist)
A solo form in silhouette atop a crystal stand,
A body sleek in shiny gilt conducts a careful plan.
How strange this creature, oddly shaped,
In golden aura glows,
While twisted limbs in angled drape
Concoct each pretzel pose.
body of gold can twist and
turn like a pretzel of old.
(15) Taffy (Dog)
A special gift from us to you,
described in a riddle, now here's the clue.
It's not a new car, jewels or clothes,
but it has a fur coat and a cold wet nose.
He has a cute bark,
chews on a bone, sharing it
with his furry friend.
(16) Charley Crowstomper (Dancer)
It's hoe-down time,
and this scarecrow's primed
to dance the night away.
He has the art to break apart,
because he's made of hay.
His body parts can
fly apart as he dances
to hillbilly tunes.
(17) Liza (Singer)
The spotlight shines, and there she pines,
An old woman with a dream.
Her country way is too blasé,
She needs a change of scene.
She strips away her masquerade
to reveal the star within.
The city lights are in her sights.
Now Liza can begin!
No more hens and eggs
Gone from farm to city lights
where she sings and shine!
|Q & A Session: (8:30 pm)
Q: How much does the average puppet weigh?
Q: Do you develop relationships with your puppets?
Q: Do you dream up your acts?
Q: Can you tell us about the hand movements of the instrumentalists?
Q: Do you have a favorite puppet in your act?
Q: Why did you choose your acrobat to look like a robot?
Q: (Prof. Scott Buktaman) Where did you find the quote of Heinrich von Kleist's
Q: What are you thinking about when performing with the puppets?
After the show, Huber invited the students to look at his marionettes on stage and even take photos of their favorites. I wished I'd brought my camera here to take pictures of him and his amazing marionettes. My favorite was his little dog Taffy and patted him on the head. During Huber's performance, he was so cute and even let out a little bark. Prof. Bukatman got on stage and requested a photo with the marionette Liza Minelli which his students took. Because of the Heinrich von Kleist quotes on his flyer, I thought Phillip Huber was from Germany. I had communicated with Robert Huber of the Max Planck Institute who sent me crystallographic data on bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor while I was predicting protein structures (1973-1980). Robert Huber won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1988. One of the students asked if Phillip Huber is from Europe, and Huber said he's from Nashville, Tennessee, but is often on tour. I asked Philip Huber to autograph his flyer and exchanged business cards. I thanked him for an amazing performance of dextrity and musical entertainment that transported us to fantasy land.
Web Links to Philip Huber
Huber's Web Site
| © Peter Y. Chou, WisdomPortal.com
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039