Artist Ed Atkeson launched his love affair with puppets in 2004 with the premiere of “Right in the Oval Office,” a one-act political satire by Gene Mirabelli that was staged at Firlefanz Gallery, the now sadly defunct art gallery that Atkeson operated with his wife, Cathy Frank on Lark Street in Albany.
He designed and built the puppets and gathered a collective of artists, poets, dancers, musicians and other like-minded folks to act as the voices and puppeteers. Thus was born Firlefanz Puppets with a mission of proving that puppets aren’t just for kids.
In the years since then, Atkeson and his puppets have mounted an impressive array of performances, including ambitious, full-length productions of Eugene Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” in 2006 and “Oakley Hall III’s Ubu Rex” by Alfred Jarry in 2010, both of which were performed at the Steamer No. 10 Theater.
Atkeson’s marvelous puppets are works of art in their own right, and they’re currently on display at Albany Center Gallery in the exhibition “Ed Atkeson’s Firlefanz Puppets: An Art Show About Puppets.” In addition to the puppets, the exhibition includes some of the puppet theaters that Atkeson has designed and an assortment of photographs by Timothy Cahill that document the creation of the puppets and their performances.
Last month at the opening reception for the exhibition, puppet master Atkeson presented two short but thoroughly entrancing performances – the sly and ribald “The Frog Prince”, as well as the dark, harrowing “Man at the Controls”.
In conjunction with the monthly First Friday arts walk, there will be another reception with the artist from 5-9pm on Friday (December 2). And once again, the puppets will come off the wall and into the spotlight, as Atkeson and a small group of his company members – including Larry Stallman, Meave Tooher, G.G. Roberts, G.C. Haymes, Laura Glazer and Paul Steinkamp – offer a performance of the final act of the absurdist classic, “Rhinoceros.” Admission is free.
The exhibition will continue at Albany Center Gallery through Saturday, December 17.
Exhibtion photographs by Ed Atkeson
Performance photographs by Timothy Cahill