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“The Paper Hat Game” Is Ingenious and Truly Original, a Must-See Toy-Theater Presentation

Ingenious and truly original, The Paper Hat Game is a toy-theater piece for children of all ages — and “For the Ages.” Creator and director Torry R. Bend, video designer member Raquel Salvatella de Prada, and cohorts have given a face to a faceless male subway commuter in present-day America, and transformed his story into a timeless tale. If Triangle Theater Review had a five-star system to rate the excellence of theatrical productions, The Paper Hat Game would get six!

Duke University faculty members Bend and Salvatella de Prada are at the top of their form in The Paper Hat Game. They cast their theatrical spells — and the story of their 21st century Everyman unfolds cinematically. Different sizes of puppets expertly manipulated, an awesome assortment of backdrops, and some vivid video projections smoothly shift the audience’s point of view from scene to scene and within scenes.

From a bird’s-eye view, the viewers survey an urban panorama, crisscrossed by a subway train, inching; and then they zoom in on the central character at street level. The view shifts back and forth from side shots of the man in the city to an inside-the subway-car overhead view of the passengers cocooned in that car for their daily commutes.

Instead of acquiescing to forces that want to squeeze him into smaller and smaller cubicles at work and at home, one man fights back … with humor. The inspiration for The Paper Hat Game came from a spontaneous act of whimsy — in which Torry Ben’s friend Scotty Iseri transformed a section of his daily newspaper into a paper hat, put it on his head, and offered to make identical hats for his fellow commuters. Thus, Iseri passed into Urban Legend as the inventor of “The Paper Hat Game,” a one-man crusade to turn the frowns of his fellow subway commuters upside down.

The performers in The Paper Hat GameDrina Dunlap, Jess Jones, Monet Marshall, and Evan Mitchell — and lighting designer Jeanette Yew, assistant lighting designer Rebecca S. Buck, and sound designer Colbert S. Davis for making a Scotty Iseri’s puppet alter ego a Man in Full — as novelist Tom Wolfe would say — and Torry R. Bend and Raquel Salvatella de Prada’s dramatization of Iseri’s story three dimensional. Bravo!

WARNING: Seating space is limited, so buy your tickets today!

SECOND OPINION: Oct. 24, 2012 Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who award the show 5 out of 5 stars): and Oct. 17, 2012 mini-preview by Chris Vitiello:; Oct. 21, 2012 Raleigh, NC News & Observer interview with Torry Bend, conducted by Glenn McDonald:; Oct. 20, 2012 Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Kate Dobbs Ariail:; Oct. 18, 2012 Durham, NC Duke Chronicle preview by Christina Malliris:; Oct. 16, 2012 Durham, NC Five Points Star preview by Kate Dobbs Ariail:; and Sept. 8, 2011 Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Cliff Bellamy: (Note: You must register to read this article). (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Triangle Theater Review’s Oct. 18, 2012 preview by Robert W. McDowell, click

Torry Bend presents THE PAPER HAT GAME at 8:15 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26, 3:15 and 8:15 p.m. Oct. 27, 3:15 p.m. Oct. 27, 8:15 p.m. Nov. 1 and 2, and 3:15 and 8:15 p.m. Nov. 3 at Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.

TICKETS: $12 Wednesday and Thursday and $17 Friday, except $2 Student Rush Tickets (sold one hour before show) and $2 discounts for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personnel.

BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or


VIDEO PREVIEW (by Raquel Salvatella de Prada):





The Paper Hat Game (game): (official web page).

Scotty Iseri: (official website).

The Paper Hat Game (play): (official website).

Torry R. Bend: (official website) and (Duke University faculty bio).

Raquel Salvatella de Prada: (official website) and (Duke University faculty bio).

Creative Team/Puppeteers: (official web page).


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 review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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