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“The Serpent’s Egg” Retells the Story of Eve and the Snake, Paperhand Puppet Intervention Style

"The Serpent’s Egg" opens Aug. 5th

"The Serpent’s Egg" opens Aug. 5th

Paperhand Puppet Intervention will present The Serpent’s Egg at 7 p.m. on Aug. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, and 26-28 and Sept. 2-5 in the Forest Theatre at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and on Sept. 9-11 at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh. The Saxapahaw, NC-based puppet-provocateurs‘ 12th annual summer spectacle will celebrate the feminine divine and the cycles of life. Preshow entertainment, featuring different local musicians each night, will start at 6:20 p.m.

“Every year, Paperhand Puppet Intervention creates a giant puppet show/pageant in the summer using masks, stilts, giant puppets, painted flats, and shadows to tell stories, make spectacles, and illuminate myths,” explains Paperhand co-founder and The Serpent’s Egg director Donovan Zimmerman. “We are inspired by just about everything — the world around us, current events, our friends and community — to name a few.”

He adds, “This year’s show The Serpent’s Egg is about the cycles of life, from birth to life to death and rebirth. We explore this theme by creating a Garden where many things are coming into form.

“Leaves and protozoa move and stir into new creatures, trees and ferns emerge, animals, and finally Eve. We retell, wordlessly, the story of Eve and the Serpent, though the outcome is quite different,” claims Zimmerman.

He reports, “After an encounter with a massive Dragon (11 puppeteers), we continue on to ‘Birth,’ represented by 11 new big baby masks. Then, the ‘Hymn of the Harvest’ represents the life portion, with its flowers, birds, butterflies, and huge Goddess figures.

“The show proceeds on to ‘The Dance of Death,’ where costumed skulls swing in an ecstatic dance that celebrates this integral part of the cycle,” explains Zimmerman. He adds, “The shadow piece at the end is a narrated group of stories and reflection on the whole show and, of course, rebirth.”

In addition to director and set designer Donovan Zimmerman, the Paperhand Puppet Intervention creative team for The Serpent’s Egg includes assistant director Jan Burger, musical director Johnny “Showtime” Waken, lighting designer and stage manager Lawruh Lindsey, and sound designer Ed Griffin. The show also features original music by: Johnny Waken, Paul Ford, Jonathan Henderson, Will Ridenour, Austin McAll, and Claudia Lopez.

Zimmerman notes that the show’s set is “a spare moving collection of bone piles that double as hillsides, as well as huge trees made of cardboard”; its lighting will be worked out when rehearsals of The Serpent’s Egg move to the Forest Theatre; and its costumes are “a collection of varied items that are worn for the ‘Baby’ and also for the ‘Death’ part [The Serpent’s Egg], respectively.” He adds, “Mostly, our puppeteers wear blacks.”

Donovan Zimmerman says, “The challenges in creating a show like this one are many. One of the biggest challenges is having 25 to 30 people need you to tell them exactly what to do moment to moment in a rehearsal.

“We have to work a different way,” says Zimmerman. “I tell the puppeteers and band the basic flow and concepts behind the vision, and they all need to try things until I say ‘Yes, that’s it.'”

He adds, “The heat is a real challenge, as our studio has no AC [air conditioning], and we inevitably sweat a lot. The physical [and] mental challenges of building all the puppets to meet the deadline of opening night are many.

“We start in mid-May, with our five interns, to be ready by Aug. 5th,” Zimmerman explains. “The scale alone is a real challenge, as we cannot fully rehearse in our studio because of size and clutter limitations.”

He adds, “The Serpent’s Egg is a story of the cycles of life told predominately without words. Over the years, we have done many different kids of storytelling, [e.g.], last year’s show Islands Unknown was told with many words and a protagonist, etc.

“This year,” says Zimmerman, “the ‘story’ is expressed in the language of dreams, symbols, and archetypes. It is a pageant where a central theme is explored with image, movement, and spectacle.”

Donovan Zimmerman says, “We are in our 12th year of productions, with over 14,000 people attending in 2010 alone. Our shows, remarkably, have become a tradition for many in the Triangle and beyond….”

Zimmerman says an often overlooked challenge in staging a colossal puppet pageant, such as The Serpent’s Egg, is the fact that the participants are volunteers who are also “working other jobs and [have] full-time careers. We have a wide range of folks who are in very diverse fields,” he adds. “It can [also] be a challenge to shift gears into dancing with cardboard, or becoming a baby crawling around. We ask a lot of the folks who work with us; but, for the most part, they would all say it was worth it and very rewarding.”

NOTE: The preshow entertainment starts at 6:20 p.m., and features the following local musicians: Aug. 5th: AYR Mountaineers; Aug. 6th: Justin Johnson; Aug. 7th: Crystal Bright & The Silver Hands; Aug. 12th: Sheila Fleming; Aug. 13th: The Hushpuppies; Aug. 14th: Onyx Club Boys; Aug. 19th: Birds & Arrows; Aug. 20th: Wigg Report; Aug. 21st: Cackalack Thunder; Aug. 26th: Mary Johnson Rockers; Aug. 27th: Jeff the Mime; Aug. 28th: Down River; Sept. 2nd: Diali Cissokho Kairaba; Sept. 3rd: Jimmy Magoo & The Good Life; Sept. 4th and 5th: John Dyer; Sept. 9th: Doug & Telisha Williams; Sept. 10th: Jimmy Magoo & The Good Life; and Sept. 11th: Jonathan Byrd.

SECOND OPINION: Aug. 3rd Durham, NC Independent Weekly preview by Byron Woods:

Paperhand Puppet Intervention presents THE SERPENT’S EGG at 6:20 p.m. preshow and 7 p.m. show Aug. 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28 and Sept. 2-5 in the Forest Theatre at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9-11 at the N.C. Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.


Forest Theatre: $12, except $8 for children 4-14 and free for children 3 and under.

N.C. Museum of Art: $15, except $10 for children 3-12 and NCMA Members and free for children 2 and under.


Forest Theatre: Tickets will be sold at the door.

N.C. Museum of Art: 919/715-5923 or




Forest Theatre:

N.C. Museum of Art:


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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