‘Star Wars’ puppet spoof is at Playhouse on the Park
One thing is for sure, they’re all gonna be a lot furrier.
OK, not all of your favorite “Star Wars” characters will be growing body hair in “Puppet Wars: Episode IV: A Few Hope,” the latest stage spoof from All Puppet Players. But none will escape unmocked, because Shaun Michael McNamara, the Valley company’s founding puppeteer and resident playwright, isn’t on a mercy mission.
“Luke is a dog and Leia is a cat,” McNamara says. “There’s lots of hacking up fur balls and smelling butts and ridiculousness having to do with the fact that they’re animals.”
Olfactory greeting rituals notwithstanding, “Puppet Wars” is the first family-friendly production from All Puppet Players, which specializes in R-rated movie spoofs such as “The Exorcist Has No Legs,” “50 Shades of Felt” and “Top Gun: Live, Abridged and Completely Underfunded.”
McNamara’s latest descent into Muppet-style madness opens Friday, May 15, at the Playhouse on the Park in central Phoenix.
With so many human, alien and android characters to lampoon, it would have been too expensive to create new puppets for all of them, so most will be repurposed from the company’s stockpile of about 50.
Chewbacca the Wookiee, for example, will be portrayed by a furry blue fellow originally used as Shakespeare’s Hamlet When: Various times, Friday, May 15, through Saturday, May 30. Where: Playhouse on the Park, Viad Tower, 1850 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. Admission: $21-$75. Details: 602-254-2151, allpuppetplayers.com. (really), but the addition of a bandolier over the shoulder makes him instantly recognizable as Han Solo’s brawny sidekick.
“We have a pig puppet,” McNamara says, “so there’s Porkins. Done.”
Luke and Leia are new, however, as is the villainous Grand Moff Tarkin, a caricature version of the English actor Peter Cushing. They have been sculpted using foam rubber by Jay Tyson, a puppet and mascot maker in North Carolina who goes by the handle Dr. Puppet.
“Tarkin is a challenge because Shaun has a very specific version of him in mind,” Tyson says, “and if you know the actor — he famously played Van Helsing in the old Hammer Film movies — he has a very chiseled, angular face.”
Appropriately enough, Tyson’s résumé includes working as a Muppeter on Jim Henson Pictures’ “Muppets in Space” (1999). He has been McNamara’s go-to puppet builder for years, so he’s used to curious commissions.
“I think my absolutely favorite just for the simplicity and bizarreness of it was Iceman from ‘Top Gun,’ because he was just a snow cone,” he says. “You just don’t get a lot of orders for snow cone puppets.”
If you’re thinking it would be hard to repurpose an old puppet to play Darth Vader or C-3PO, well, McNamara finds your lack of faith disturbing. In another first for All Puppet Players, those iconic characters will be played by actors in fullsize costumes — but expect some twists.
“C-3PO will be carrying R2-D2, which is just a bathroom garbage can with a flip-top lid,” McNamara says.
X-wing pilot Porkins gets ready to make a run at the Death Star in All Puppet Players’ “Puppet Wars: Episode IV: A Few Hope.”