An Introduction

If you will be an actor in such a day as this, and if you are an English man, take but one model, …the masked marionette.

— Edward Gordon Craig

Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Sam Gold. Trained as an actor, Corporeal Mime, and (sometimes) dancer, I aspire to become a Theatre Practitioner, pushing the boundaries of live performance through new work and research. Recently, I had the honor of being named a 2011/2012 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, receiving a one-year stipend for independent study and travel outside the United States. My project, titled: “Performing ‘Model’ Humans - What Puppets Can Teach Us About Empathy," will use the inanimate performer brought to life onstage as a vehicle for exploring contrasting concepts of the actor/audience relationship, divergent experiences of the body, and differing cultural relationships to the animate/inanimate divide.

Phew! That is a lot to say in a short a paragraph. As you might expect, I will be going into much (much) more detail about all this and more in the coming months. For the time being, I would just like to say this project is as much about humans as it is about puppets. I consider theatre, at its bare essence, to be rooted in the relationship between two people, performer and spectator, as they come together to realize something far greater than either individual alone— an imaginative yet palpably real world shared between them. Although this world tangibly exists for only a few hours a night, it owes its origins to developments from years before the first curtain rises and it can continue to find a life in the minds of all who held a stake in its creation far after the last curtain falls. This ability to both reflect and shape culture in real time is special to the theatre. It is the reason why, regardless what a piece of theatre is “about", it is also about people— at least this is what I believe, and I’m going to get to put this belief to the test in the coming year.

As for the puppet, the marionette, the mannequin, the mask, the robot, the automaton— these figures have sprinkled their influence throughout time periods and cultures both on and off the stage. They have served as problematically concrete manifestations for the abstract ideals of various thinkers and their visions of grace and the grotesque. They have served as mouthpieces for radical politics during times of censorship and oppression. They have served as metaphors both troubling and beautiful for their detachment from consciousness, elevated like Gods and decried like zombies. And, amidst all this seriousness, they have managed to always entertain, captivating the imaginations of children and adults alike.

This blog will ham-fistedly attempt to chronicle my evolving take on all this stuff, as well as the experiences that shape it. Although an actor for far longer, I first became interested in these specific aspects of performance during my freshman year of college when I first discovered Corporeal Mime. Corporeal Mime has since propelled me to a whole slew of experiences such as work with Anne Bogart and the SITI Company, the Martha Graham Dance Company, and experimenting in human statue posing. I have yet to receive any practical training in manipulating and performing with puppets, however, so my first stop is Prague for a crash-course immersion in marionette theatre. After that, all bets are off, as I continue around Eastern Europe before heading to various parts of Asia. My official itinerary includes the Czech Republic, Poland, Bali, Japan, and Singapore— but we’ll see what comes as the year develops.

If you’re at all intrigued by this, I encourage you to reach out in whatever way you like, be it reading and commenting, writing me with questions, thoughts, and suggestions, or even— dare I say— putting me in contact with friends or friends of friends who I might run into along the way. Like the theatre that inspires me, I hope for this to be as collaborative an experience as possible. You can reach me at automatravel {at} gmail {dot} com or by heading to the Contact Me page of this website.

Until next time, cheers!

— Sam

(A special shout out to Prof. Juliet Koss at Scripps College for suggesting the name Automa.Travel. If any of what I’ve written sounds interesting to you, you’ll probably love her book, Modernism After Wagner, far better-written than anything you’ll find here on this blog. Also, if you’re still in college and think that a year of world-travel and adventures sounds too good to be true, check out The Watson Fellowship Website for proof that it really exists, to learn all about how to apply, and to check out current and former Watson Fellows’ projects.)