an interactive playground for children of all ages

UpStage exhibition

From 28 June to 15 July 2007, the UpStage exhibition Puppets to Pixels – an interactive playground for children of all ages ran at the New Zealand Film Archive, Wellington.

BabayagaVicki Smith designed the Puppets to Pixels exhibition to give gallery visitors the sense of entering the UpStage world of Baba Yaga through the beautiful work of Rebekah Wild.

Visitor’s of all ages cast their shadow in the gallery space as they entered past a light box, into a darkened room that echoed with the crunch of footsteps in leaves and the cackles of the infamous wild woman of the woods. They could read about UpStage, physically see the puppets and view a projected image of their hands-on experience of UpStage through the Baba Yaga stage. Four computers were available, along with instructions and helpers, inviting people to create their own Baba Yaga narrative with the avatars, backdrops and props Rebekah and Vicki created.

Baba Yaga objectsArtist Rebekah Wild took as her starting point the traditional stories and images of Baba Yaga, and experimented with the convergence of traditional shadow puppet forms and the online environment of UpStage. Her process combined the disciplines of object theatre and shadow theatre within the format of the 2D online environment, which shares many similarities with the shadow screen.

“I was curious to discover how theatre could work in this format, and how “real world” puppetry techniques could be a doorway for designing shows,” said Rebekah. “There are many parallels with a traditional shadow screen in terms of staging and the two dimensional nature of the images. Possibilites for using photographs to create backdrops and avatars are similar to using slides or projections and add an illusion of three dimensions.”

Hut of Bones“I have often worked with several types of puppets in one show, and in Baba Yaga I wanted to include objects collected in flea markets in Vienna which resonate with the domestic world of old folk tales from Europe. I have photographed the objects themselves and in combinations which create characters and sets much as I would in a live show, and with Vicki have created animated avatars and backgrounds for some of the story.”

Rebekah and UpStage team member Vicki Smith spent a lot of time exploring the similarities and differences between Upstage and the way Rebekah usually works. For example, she had to adjust to moving puppets by clicking and sliding a mouse instead of physically jumping around a stage!

Rebekah works in theatre in Aotearoa and internationally as a puppeteer, puppetmaker, deviser and stilt performer. In Europe, Rebekah has worked with such companies as The Little Angel Theatre, Movingstage Marionette Theatre, Walt Disney Theatrical and the BBC. Most recently she was part of the creative team and a puppeteer in Silent Tide in Berlin. Her New Zealand experience includes work with the New Zealand Puppet Theatre, Out of Hand Productions, Capital E, Ake Ake Theatre Company and The Conch. In 2004, Rebekah held a Wild Creations residency, an intiative of Creative New Zealand and the Department of Conservation.

Fishing for Shadows, Wild TheatreWith Gerhard Pichler, Rebekah has established the theatre company Wild Theatre. Together they have created Fishing for Shadows, an interactive theatre garden, which premiered at the Driftwood and Sand festival in Hokitika in 2006.