Tori Ralston was walking down the aisle of a thrift store when a couple of puppets caught her eye.
A graduate student studying sculpture at the University of Minnesota, Ralston was about to discover a new artistic love.
“I started loving the puppets so much I disassembled them and started learning how to build them,” she said. “I started to like them more than sculpture.”
Ralston — a former professor in UNC’s art department who founded Theater of Performing Objects in Carrboro — will present her play, “Harvesting Pomegranate Dreams,” this weekend as the latest installment in the Process Series.
Founded in the late 1980s, Theater of Performing Objects produces puppet and other object theater shows like marionettes and Bunraku, traditional Japanese puppet theatre.
“I love when I can get an object to move in a such a way that I hear someone in the audience go, ‘Wow!’ as though they saw something magic happen,” she said.
Ralston’s passion for Turkish poetry and Middle Eastern texts inspired her to create “Harvesting Pomegranate Dreams,” she said.
The area is known for its pomegranates, which inspired the show’s title.
“I was really drawn to the beauty of the culture in the East,” Ralston said.
Ralston said she didn’t want the show to focus on one specific country or religion. She wrote the play to encompass many different aspects of the East.
In each segment of the play, Ralston and her cast experiment with different forms of puppetry, from shadow puppetry to scrim — an art in which the puppeteer pushes masks and other objects into stretched spandex fabric that’s illuminated with creative lighting.
In keeping with the Process Series’ theme, the show doesn’t have a specific storyline or structured scenes, Ralston’s collaborator Rob Hamilton said.
After the show, audience members can give feedback to the artists.
“We’ll see if people say it’s interesting or, ‘Wow, that’s boring. Let’s watch paint dry,’” Hamilton said.
The series presents developing theatrical work and is co-sponsored by Carolina Performing Arts and the Department of Communication Studies.
Joseph Megel, director of the series, said he expects the piece to be creative and imaginative.
“I love how (puppet theater) can start as a simple thing and become totally dynamic,” Megel said. “It’s the work of really good designers like Tori that can create real magic in ways that just humans can’t.”
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