Puppet-theater opus revived on Signal Mountain

Puppet-theater opus revived on Signal Mountain

November 15th, 2012 by Casey Phillips in Life Entertainment

Garrison Clower, 12, poses with a puppet from "The Blue Bird."

Photo by Alyson Wright/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

• What: "The Blue Bird."

• When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17; 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18.

• Where: Mountain Arts Community Center, 809 Kentucky Ave., Signal Mountain.

• Admission: $8.

• Phone: 886-1959.

• Website: www.signalmountainmacc.org.

This weekend, "The Blue Bird," the masterwork of a local puppet-theater impresario, will take flight once more at the Mountain Arts Community Center on Signal Mountain.

With a cast of more than 50 puppets controlled by a dozen puppeteers, "The Blue Bird" is the most elaborate production of longtime theater veteran Fred Arnold, who adapted the work from a play by Nobel Prize-winning Belgian author Maurice Maeterlinck. It is about two children searching for happiness on Christmas Eve.

"The Blue Bird" was last performed at the Oak Street Playhouse several years ago. Following Arnold's retirement from theater in 2010, he sold off the materials used in his seven plays. Of these, only "The Blue Bird" was kept intact. It was purchased in whole by veteran puppeteer Colleen Laliberte, who worked with Arnold for many years and who is directing the play's reprisal.

When she joined Arnold's troupe in the '80s, the play was Laliberte's first experience with puppeteering, and she said taking over stewardship of the work has been a dream come true.

"I'm ecstatic," Laliberte said in an interview last October. "I feel like I have this treasure."

In a 2010 interview, Arnold described "The Blue Bird" as his deepest, most elaborate show. Arnold said he considered the final performance of the play to be a fitting capstone of his 50-year career.

"After that, I was ready to say, 'We've reached a peak ... and [I] would like to retire then when it's at the peak," he said.

The play opens Friday, Nov. 16, with subsequent performances Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 17-18.

Bringing the play back from the brink has been rewarding, Laliberte said, not because of the quality of the work but also for the legacy it represents.

"My goal is not just to bring 'The Blue Bird' back but to preserve it as a part of the history of Chattanooga and the history of art in Chattanooga," she said.