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Jo Tomalin

Ronnie Burkett’s Wonderful Joe at Stanford Live!

By May 5, 2024May 24th, 2024No Comments

Renowned award-winning puppeteer Ronnie Burkett presents his Theatre of Marionettes from Canada to perform his latest show, Wonderful Joe, commissioned and produced by Stanford Live, May 1-4 2024 in the Bing Studio.

Created and performed by Burkett who is also credited for marionette and costume design, this show is one of many original tour de force productions that Burkett tours internationally – with several productions presented at Stanford Live in recent years.

Burkett is an extraordinary artist, writer, performer and storyteller who elevates this art form to exquisitely moving heights that are memorable visually and emotionally.

Joe Pickle lives on Eileen Avenue and used to run the local barber shop, therefore he knows everyone. However, Joe has just received ominous news that will affect the lives of the residents of Eileen Avenue.

In Wonderful Joe, the story is prescient and relatable – Eileen Avenue is to be torn down and replaced with condos. This area has seen better days but is home to the poor and marginalized who have all been given notice to move on – and out of their friendly and supportive community. We meet about twenty colorful characters, the residents of Eileen Avenue, played mainly by marionettes, puppets with strings, and several hand/glove puppets.

Joe and his dog, Mister, buzz around the neighborhood talking to everyone about the news. While he is resolute to moving he sees this as a bit of an adventure.

Linnda in a pink tracksuit (who jaunts not jogs) speaks her mind about the eviction notices with Joe until his dear friend, the butcher talks to Joe in a poignant scene.

Then there is Terry, who speaks very quickly and curtly – and Minnie! Minnie is larger than life, she wears a yellow flower hat, lavender jacket and a green and brown skirt with fuchsia sandals. Minnie’s voice is loud, and no wonder, because she runs the Trash Alley Players variety show on Eileen Avenue.

Burkett performs all the characters, switching voices and puppets with phenominal speed and finesse.

In a very moving scene with Sketch (an original Punk, he says), Hershey and Baby, each tell personal narrative stories in their beautifully written monologs.

Hershey slinks across the stage in pink platform shoes and pink glasses, performing a poignant and edgy number with brilliant writing.

Baby, who wears a beautiful dress of an upcycled dry cleaning bag is part of the fringes of society, but when she needs help, the residents are there for her.

Everyone is making plans and we even meet JC and a vibrant tooth fairy. Fascinating conversations among two, three and sometimes four characters are deftly brought to life by Burkett with subtle movements of each marionette and changes in voice dynamics.

Disenfranchised Mother Nature sings wearing a long feather boa, she has a well worn body, that is precious and finely sculpted. She has wisdom, a moody physicality and attitude in her beautiful movement as she sings her song – one of the highlights of this show! Music composition and lyrics by John Alcorn.

A child sits on a bench in school uniform who also feels disenfranchised, but not for the same reasons as others. Sgetti has a home and comfortable life. Joe talks to Sgetti in one of the most moving theatrical scenes in this story, when he gives advice and recounts challenges he had growing up. This scene is stunning in its message, emotional depth and razor sharp writing. Burkett has created a beautiful story with outstanding craft and astute observations of humanity. Don’t miss it – it’s outstanding theatre!

More Information:

Stanford Live