Untold Stories From The War With The Newts is a serious, farcical allegory about self-interest.
Inspired by a classic Czech novel, the show wryly recounts an alternate history of the 1930s, in which the western world discovers, exploits, educates, arms, and is ultimately overthrown by a species of highly intelligent newt. Set after humanity’s downfall, the show features a human survivor - alone on an island that used to be a mountaintop - recounting, reliving, and sometimes simply imagining stories from before the war.
The newts, we discover, rose to power by learning from their human counterparts - simple things at first, like how to use tools, then more consequential, like how to profit off of war. While their human teachers are varied - a salty sea captain, a utopian businessman, a vapid film starlet (to name a few) - each is guilty of transforming the newts into a reflection of whatever they most value in the world.
To bring these stories and characters to life, Untold Stories From The War With The Newts draws from the puppet traditions and cultures featured in the narrative, using human actors, Czech marionettes and other wood-carved puppets, Balinese-inspired wayang kulit, and “junk” found in the wake of human destruction. The show features an ensemble of five actor/puppeteers and two live musicians - a rag-tag theater group born from our narrator’s imagination. As the stories accelerate, the ensemble launch themselves from character to puppet to back-up vocalist - accompanied in every scene by original music inspired by the Beach Boys and Japanese surf rock, as well as live foley played on more junk.
Untold Stories From The War With The Newts is a comedy, but never one that winks at itself. Its design, narrative, and music aim to entertain and surprise the audience, while always grounding them within a familiar and tangible world - one barely removed from our own. The show is science fiction of the everyday: a story from a disastrous future-past, but one that crept up on us precisely because of its everyday feel. Parallels to our current geo-political and environmental crises abound, but the show does not strive for didacticism. Instead, the urgency of its message ultimately rests in the faith it places in its audience, leaving it up to them to decide if the real-world resonances are timely warnings - or already too late.
Untold Stories From The War With The Newts began its development in residency at The Center at West Park. It received additional support from the Theater@37. Following its premiere at the Object Movement Festival in 2018, the show was featured at the inaugural New York State Puppet Festival.