Paperhand Puppet Intervention will present ISLANDS UNKNOWN: TO SEE AND IMAGINE THE HIDDEN PARTS OF THE WORLD, written and directed by Donovan Zimmerman and Jan Burger, at 7 p.m. on Aug. 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, and 27-29 and at 7 p.m. on Sept. 3-6 in the Forest Theatre at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and on Sept. 10 and 11 at the N.C. Museum of Art in Raleigh. There will also be a different musical preshow each night, starting at 6:30 p.m. For details, see

“This show is just the culmination of our latest thoughts, dreams, and musings,” remarks Donovan Zimmerman. “It is inspired by the world we live in as well as the power of story in all of our lives.”

He adds, “The ‘script’ is an ever evolving, fluid thing that is created in conjunction with the masks, giant puppets, shadows, etc. We start with a theme and then outline of pieces, then, write as we go to help the story along.”

Zimmerman notes, “The show starts with a young girl wandering into a mysterious giant library. There she encounters a tall librarian who is also a goat. As she opens books, creatures, characters, and stories start to come alive. A rising sea of information is flooding the library as the goat hustles about to save the books.

“Soon,” says Zimmerman, “[the girl] finds herself afloat on a paper boat, with a goat, heading toward Islands Unknown. Their adventure takes them to strange and wonderful places full of animals and beasts, mustachioed men, and pirates, monsters, furies, and even Gods.”

“I’ll save the details for you to enjoy at the theater. The tale includes aspects of the ODYSSEY and pulls from other classic stories as well,” says Donovan Zimmerman.

“Each year, for the past 11,” says Donovan Zimmerman, “we pour our lives and stories, our sweat, tears, and passion into a giant summer production for all ages. It has become a celebrated tradition for many families in the Triangle (over 12,000 people [saw it] in 2009). We are profoundly honored and humbled by the tremendous response to the work we do.

Writers and directors Donovan Zimmerman and Jan Burger also serve as choreographers, musical directors, technical directors, and set designers for UNKNOWN ISLAND. The Paperhand Puppet Intervention creative team also includes sound designer Ed Griffin and stage manager Lawruh Lindsey; and the show features original music by The Paperhand Band: Paul FordJohnny WakenJimmy MagooAustin McCallJonathan HendersonClaudia, Lopez, and Will Ridenour.

Donovan Zimmerman says, “The opening set is a giant library that is in four pieces which move to create a sort of labyrinth. The library pieces are painted differently on both sides to create a set for later parts. The set changes throughout the piece with a giant ocean of newspaper, a huge swirling gyre, and a cityscape.”

He adds, “The costumes are diverse and hard to describe. Many times we rely on our all black puppeteer garb and the puppets speak for themselves….

“The challenges [of staging a spectacular summer puppet pageant out-of-doors, in two separate locations] can be many,” admits Donovan Zimmerman, “but all, of course, [are] worth the struggle. There are 20 puppeteers, seven band members, five interns, and a stage manager; and the show is a feature length of an hour and a half.”

Zimmerman explains, “One real challenge is to finish the giant puppets, masks, shadows, etc., while rehearsing and writing the show simultaneously.  The heat has been a considerable challenge. We have no air conditioning in our [Saxapahaw] studio (an old community center) and the bricks of the building heat up to create an oven-like situation. Again, there are many [challenges], but those are a few of the biggest.”

“It is our mission to inspire, to ignite passionate feeling and thought, and ultimately, to help heal,” claims Zimmerman. “To the best of our ability, we aim to reflect the raw beauty of the world as well as our humanity (or lack there of) back so that we may all get closer to the truth of our existence here. We do not claim to know the answers, but we do feel there are some very important questions that we can’t afford not to ask. Our show is a challenge and a call to action. Each of us must decide what that action may be.”

He adds, “This story is an adventure epic that takes to many places that are not in plain sight. The ‘Islands’ range from magical or whimsical to quite intense and full of emotion. [ISLANDS UNKNOWN] is a coming-of-age story for a young girl who is lost in the world. What will she find along the way? What seeds will she gather?

Paperhand Puppet Intervention presents ISLANDS UNKNOWN: TO SEE AND IMAGINE THE HIDDEN PARTS OF THE WORLD at 7 p.m. Aug. 6-8, 13-15, 20-22, and 27-29 and Sept. 3-6 in the Forest Theatre at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 and 11 at the N.C. Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.

TICKETS: $12 (children 3 and under FREE and $8 children 4-14).

BOX OFFICE: Forest Theatre: Tickets sold at the door. N.C. Museum of Art: 919/715-5923 or



VENUES: Forest Theatre: N.C. Museum of Art:

NOTE: There is a different musical preshow each night, starting at 6:30 p.m. For details, see

By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).