These aren’t the Muppets.
“Woyzeck on the Highveld,” which will be performed at Memorial Hall tonight and Saturday, tells the story of class distinction, insanity and murder — all through the use of puppets.
Time: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Location: Memorial Hall
Tickets: $10 students, $20-$30 public
The production, put on by Handspring Puppet Company and directed by renowned artist William Kentridge, is based on the play “Woyzeck” by Georg Büchner.
Although the original play was set in Germany, Handspring changed the location to its home country of South Africa.
The title character is a soldier who is harassed by his superiors, cheated on by his wife and experimented on by a doctor who forces him to eat nothing but peas.
“It’s a play about a person who’s looked upon always as someone who is not really worthy of anyone’s attention,” said Tin Wegel, assistant department chair of the Germanic languages department.
“Ultimately, he slips into insanity and brutally murders his wife.”
The original play was based on an article Büchner read about a man who was tortured mentally and killed his wife.
It is also unfinished — the script was found as fragments and then was arranged and completed after Büchner’s death.
Wegel, who has performed in and directed productions of “Woyzeck,” said she was surprised to hear the play was being performed with puppets, but was intrigued by the idea.
“We should always push the boundaries,” Wegel said. “We should always push in theater as much as we can.
“So if it’s puppets, then why not?”
Donovan Zimmerman, artistic director and co-founder of North Carolina-based Paperhand Puppet Intervention, said that puppetry is not just for kids.
“It’s just interesting to watch the illusion be completed where something comes to life that you know is not alive,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman’s company regularly performs on UNC’s campus at the beginning of the school year.
“That suspension of disbelief really helps make it appeal to our hearts a little more closely, in my mind, than traditional theater,” he said.
Handspring performed their show “Tall Horse” at Memorial Hall in 2005.
“War Horse,” their most recent show, “set West End London theatre on fire,” said Sean McKeithan, marketing and communications coordinator for Carolina Performing Arts.
“It takes audiences who might not be that familiar with puppetry by surprise as to how captivating and engaging and challenging work with puppets can be,” McKeithan said.
While a common misconception is that puppets are only for American children, puppetry is a sophisticated, cross-cultural art form, Zimmerman said.
“Puppetry is one of the connecting threads pretty much between every culture in the world,” Zimmerman said.
“It has so many levels to it, and you’re interacting, engaging with so many different creative fields that it is just an exciting and worthwhile experience.”
Contact the Arts Editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.