This puppet troupe worked with Norah Jones — now it needs your help

Columbia Street’s Clockworks Puppet Theatre on last legs

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Who’s cutting the strings on this puppet theater?

An experimental performance house on Columbia Street near the Cobble Hill waterfront and its company, which has performed puppet theater for adults and kids alike — most recently collaborating with Brooklynite Norah Jones — will stage what could be its last charade as the theatre must raise $10,000 to catch up on back rent, avoid eviction, and stay afloat through fall.

Despite the feeling of impending doom at the ailing Clockworks Puppet Theatre, the “Save the Clockworks” edition of the Weimar-inspired “Das WunderKammer Puppet Kabarett” is a celebration of the Clockworks Puppet Theatre’s creative successes.

“If this show’s our last, we’re going to go down singing,” said director Jonathan “Jonny Clockworks” Cross, who will put on the fund-raising spectacle with his Cosmic Bicycle Theatre Company.

The scrappy Clockworks Puppet Theatre opened in May 2011 and has since featured a unique approach to puppets, making them from recycled trash, turning an upside-down veggie steamer into a skirt, and an egg-beater into legs, among other ground-breaking contributions to the art form.

“By recycling society’s trash into art,” Cross said. “We make living beauty out of decaying debris.”

And while “experimental theatre” often excludes family-friendliness, the Clockworks regularly holds a Sunday kids’ matinee featuring vintage theatrics and puppet theater workshops.

“I loved the idea of a local puppet theatre and reaching out to the kids and families in [Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill],” Cross said.

But lackluster ticket sales could not make up for rising rent costs.

Parent Lisa Dove and her husband Greg Paul frequented Clockworks in ’90s when it was located in the East Village. Now they live in Windsor Terrace and bring their children.

“It feels special, that’s what I remember feeling back in the East Village,” said Dove, as her son Finn worked on a paper-bag puppet during the post-performance workshop.

“I love the atmosphere, and [Jonny’s] vision of turning everyday objects into puppets, they seem to have more soul, they have this past life,” said Dove.

The upcoming cabaret show will have the support of other experimental costume-and-puppet theater groups, featuring new acts from the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade’s Ralph Lee and his Mettawee River Company; Zazoo & Satori, Poison Eve, and Great Small Works, of the International Toy Theater Festival at St. Ann’s Warehouse; and several musical guests.

“Das WunderKammer Puppet Kabarett: Save the Clockworks edition” at the Clockworks Puppet Theatre [196 Columbia St. between Sackett and Degraw streets,, (212) 614–0001] Sept. 28, 29, 8 pm. $20 suggested, $10 minimum.

Updated 9:53 am, September 27, 2012
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