One of the best kept secrets of UConn is the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry (BIMP), located right in the heart of Storrs Center. This weekend, BIMP hosted the Banners and Cranks Mini Festival. The festival featured a wide array of puppet theater companies who performed their intricate and entrancing “crankies,” with a show for adult audiences on Friday, and more kid-friendly performances featured on Saturday.
The Banners and Cranks Mini Festival was complimented by BIMP’s latest exhibit, “Banners and Cranks: Paintings and Scrolls in Performance.” Before and after the show, attendees had the opportunity to enjoy the crankies on display.
The Banners and Cranks show was compromised of what the title suggests, banners and cranks. Performers designed their intricate “crankies” with hand-drawn images and photographs, and many of them were cranked in order to make the pictures move, kind of like a conveyor belt. The crankies were accompanied by some sort of narration, either performed live in the theater or prerecorded. During some of the performances, like Better Than Never Theater Company’s “Tosca” and Shane McNeal’s “Daniel’s Story,” the performers dressed up in full costumes in order to recount the stories.
Before the show had begun, attendees were greeted at the door to the Ballard Institute by the Banners and Cranks Mini Festival Orchestra. The band played infectiously fun songs complete with trumpets, trombones, clarinets and many other instruments. The band made it clear before the show had even begun that Banners and Cranks was going to be fun, enthusiastic and wonderfully eccentric.
Many of the performances were side-splittingly hilarious. Dave Buchen’s “Three Mythological Metaphors for Donald Trump” described a discussion regarding the president between Buchen’s family members. Modern Times Theater’s “Change My Password Blues” also left the audience in stitches as the theater company used music to describe how passwords change as you get older. “Real Vermonters” by Meredith Holch also used music to bring an amusing crankie to life.
Aya Saleh, who has attended several of the performances at BIMP, said “The change your password one was really great. That’s all of us, we’ve been through this all.” said Saleh.
“We love the ideas, they’re great.”
The band continued to play throughout show, often playing songs between performances. Several of the crankies also featured a musical component, where members of the band would play their instruments and sing along to the crankies.
Several of the shows relied heavily on the acting of the performers. “Pickle and Gas Pump” by Modern Times Theater and “Three Pages of Therapy for Our Current Situation” by Semi-Uptight Theater Company required the performers to describe the illustrations on the banners, providing a more theatrical performance than the traditional cranky.
Despite the many wonderfully comical crankies, the mini festival featured several equally as enjoyable serious performances. Felice Amato’s “Lattimer” told the heartbreaking tale of a family of coal miners in Pennsylvania, while Clare Dolan and Erica Heilman’s “Secret Shortcut” used illustrations to bring the stories of young children to life.
For those interested in learning more about crankies, the “Banners and Cranks: Paintings and Scrolls in Performance” will remain on display in BIMP through June 11, 2017.
Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.