“It’s not boring!”
Michael Lamason, founder and current director of Black Cherry Puppet Theater should know. “You have to do so many different things … we’re building the actors, we’re writing the scripts, making sets … it’s so multifacted!”
Black Cherry started out 37 years ago as many urban DIY artists do: building shows in living rooms and performing in any space that would accommodate their work and an audience. A permanent home in Baltimore’s Hollins Market neighborhood came in the year 2000, and since then, the group, addition to creating their own puppetry for family as well as adult audiences, has established a history of yeoman’s work in the city’s schools. ““Enrapturing an audience, having a class of 30 kids doing cool puppets … [and] having fun while they’re learning” are rewards for Lamason and his team.
Black Cherry’s own work for all-ages audiences is based on their concept of “puppets for grownups,” which evolved in a cabaret-style environment and explored the “uncanny” nature of puppets and the sometimes bizarre events of city life and the creative brain, featured in works like Bill Haas’ “Waiting For The Bus” or “Writer’s Block.” Lamason’s “adult” productions frequently evolve into more elaborate, family-friendly shows; as he says, “Performing for families and children has its own rewards.”
The company is also a long-time incubator of the talent that characterizes Baltimore’s puppetry scene. BCPT students and collaborators have gone on to work with Tryfuss Puppet Collective, Submersive Productions and others. In recent years, the group has become a vibrant presenter of work by these and other cutting-edge groups with a series of “Puppet Slamwiches” curated by Anna Fitzgerald. MICA professor Valeska Populoh, who has worked with and first curated the Slamwiches, notes that “having a home base has made it possible for us to grow and develop our community of puppeteers and audience members in Baltimore. Michael has made Black Cherry available to other touring puppeteers, which has been critical for these artists to make their tours financially feasible.”