A San Francisco Special: Larry Reed

6 Apr

If the name Larry Reed and his work with shadow puppets is not familiar with you, it’s definitely your loss. He’s been at it since the mid’70’s and has created some fascinating productions, spin offs of the training he undertook with a traditional wayang puppet master in Bali, Indonesia.

Saturday, March 28 at the Roxie Theater on 16th Street, the San Francisco Puppet Guild provided a matinee with three short films giving Reed’s appreciative fans a glimpse in the milieu where Larry learned his craft.

That it’s art, a word the Greeks used to describe skill, I have no doubt, but craft is a word I like every bit as much as the word “artist.” I believe one practices an art form; to hear someone who may be gifted it’s on the pretentious side to hear him/her talk about “his/her art.” It makes me wince. I believe if you are that good you don’t have to say “Oh, this is how I do my art.” Oh, come on! You’re pursuing it an art form; you simply don’t possess it – you may commandd a formidable technique but art possesses you and/or moves through you.

Now, off my teetering soap box and back to Larry Reed. The gathering possessed three short documentaries which Reed produced. The first concentrated on the village where Reed lived as he learned the craft of the puppet master. The second concerned the puppet master who taught Reed his craft. The third covered his living there, taking his family there, and discussing his career in talking head fashion.

All three were brief, informative and absorbing. The first centered around an annual holiday in the village where everything was going on at once, dance as well as a puppet play, food preparation and consumption, all jumbled happily together. The second identified the roles, dialogue of the characters with their lacy or bulbous profiles and the connection between the tales from the Mahabharata and/or the Ramayana and immediate village situations. In the third, Reed outlined not only his formative training, illustrated, the formation of his production company, Shadow Light Productions,but also the various fusions he has produced with Native American and Hokkaido folk legends and Yuan Dynasty history.

Reed will be performing a traditional wayang puppet show at Noe Ministry in San Francisco Saturday, April 11. I recommend it as a special treat.

Reed also does present shadow puppet introduction to schools and interested organizations. Shadow Light Productions also has individual DVDs on its Web Site; the entire production collected is for sale at $275. Institutional costs is $1,100.

He and his enterprise are a rich resource for special recreation and the human spirit.


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