If you’re reading this outdoors, chances are you’re being observed … by pigeons. They’re on the sidewalk, in the park, flying overhead and perched on windowsills, power lines and traffic lights. And they’re watching you. What are all those pigeons up to?
This is exactly what Frank, the main character in “The Pigeoning” — a puppet play coming to Artisphere this weekend — intends to find out. And he’ll go to great lengths to uncover the secrets behind what he believes to be a conspiracy.
A bunraku-style puppet controlled by three stealth puppeteers (in black clothes with hoods over their faces), Frank is an office worker in 1980s New York. But he’s not your typical office drone — he actually enjoys his regimented and predictable job.
“He is obsessed with order and cleanliness, and showing symptoms of OCD,” says the show’s creator-director, Robin Frohardt. “The pigeons embody what’s not clean and safe, so they become his obvious enemy.”
Frank’s comic attempts at uncovering the pigeons’ motives include listening in on their “conversations” and trying to infiltrate a flock with a remote-controlled pigeon toy.
“The Pigeoning” is Frohardt’s first original, full-length puppet play. She started working on it in 2011 at St. Ann’s Warehouse Puppet Lab in New York, and continued while a resident artist at Here Arts Center, where she made all of the puppets and sets by hand.
The show premiered in 2013 in Pittsburgh and New York before touring around the globe. With music composed by Freddi Price (who will provide live accompaniment for this weekend’s shows), “The Pigeoning” has no dialogue. Its themes are universal, though, so it’s easy to understand no matter what language its audience speaks.
“It’s a commentary on our culture. Clinging to the illusion of control doesn’t make us any happier,” Frohardt says, adding that safety is an illusion and we’re all vulnerable in the end. “The apocalypse is always and never coming.”
Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; Fri. & Sat., 8 p.m., $20.
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