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Arts & Culture

Creepy puppets are everywhere in October, from giant scary skeletons to raunchy reality-TV chickens

Live Active Cultures

Photo: Photo by Seth Kubersky, License: N/A

Photo by Seth Kubersky

We are already officially deep in National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, LGBT History Month, National Pizza Month and Dwarfism Awareness Month. But I’m adding another October appellation: I’m unilaterally anointing this “Creepy Puppet Month.”

It seems like wherever I turn this month, I’ve been confronted by menacing muppets. I’m no stranger to the puppet world, having stage-managed my share of parading manatees and musical aliens, but even I’ve been overwhelmed by the volume of scary dummies I’ve encountered this season. It started in September, with the werewolf puppets that are the stars of American Werewolf in London, the top maze at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights XXIII, and continued with some stunning synthetic frighteners at Shallow Grave and the other independent haunts I reported on in last week’s Live Active Cultures column.

The puppet-stalking continued last Thursday on Pine Street, as I arrived for CityArts Factory’s Monster Factory exhibit and Dia de los Muertos street party just in time to face a phalanx of towering skeletons parading down the street, followed closely by an undead accordionist and members of the fire-breathing Phantasmagoria storytelling troupe, who have been known to play with a puppet or two. (Disclosure: I’m a co-producer/director of that show.) This annual Halloween event, which was organized by Denna Beena’s Pink Hair Productions, has become my favorite Third Thursday art event of the year, because the food-and-facepaint festivities impart a unique energy and demographic to downtown’s monthly gallery hop, and a unifying (and edgier-than-usual) theme to CityArts’ numerous display areas.

Those aforementioned enormous skeletal mojiganga puppets, as well as the lively Latin ensemble that accompanied their appearance, are the handiwork of musician-artist Katya Graham of local independent label Tacatantán Records. When not appearing on Pine or the temporary outdoor stage that closed the street to traffic, Graham’s puppets made appropriate guardians to Carolina “the Doodler” Suarez-Garcia’s elaborate Day of the Dead shrine, which filled CityArts’ farthest corner gallery with a fascinating gathering of sweets, snapshots, sugar skulls (sculpted by participants in a recent workshop) and Sutter Home wine, displayed in a neotraditional offering to ancestors.

Finally, I finished off my weekend at the 2013 Orlando Film Festival, which was also invaded by – you guessed it – freaky puppets. Bad Chicken, the first independent feature film from writer-director Carter Mays, may just be the most messed-up puppet spectacle I’ve seen this month, and that’s really saying something. Before I go any further, go to YouTube and search for “bad chicken trailer.” (I’ll wait while you watch it. And now I’ll wait a little longer while you recover.)

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