Tears Of Joy Puppet Theater Offers An Enchanting View Of An Age Old Tale

Marlinton, WV – The Tears of Joy Puppet Theater will have several performances of the Japanese folk tale Issun Boushi (e-soon bow-she) or Little One Inch in late September and early October. It’s an enchanting tale of a very small boy and his battle against the very large monster threatening his village. Brian Keith, Technical Director for the puppet theater based in Portland, Oregon, says it’s very similar to an American folk tale.

“It’s a lot like our own story of Tom Thumb” says Keith. “It’s about a little boy who never gets bigger than one inch tall, but he wants to make a big impact in the world, so he goes off in search of adventure and fame.”

Keith and Emily Newton, former Vista volunteer with Pocahontas County Parks & Recreation will voice and portray all of the characters in the play. Newton was a member of the puppet theater for a year before coming to West Virginia. Keith says their performance is based on traditional Japanese puppetry.

“In Japanese, that style of puppetry is called bunraku; we do a modified version of bunraku” he says “and that is operating puppets that are about two feet tall on top of a table and we are directly behind the puppets, but we wear black hoods and clothing so you’ll concentrate on the colorful puppets in front of us as the story progresses; you kind of think of us as the puppets shadows.”

Newton and former Opera House Vista Jennie Terman wrote the grant that brought the theatre to West Virginia. They also receive support from the Japan Foundation for these performances. The Tears of Joy Theater started 38 years ago in Vancouver, Washington before relocating to Portland. Keith was one of the original puppeteers for this production.

“This show was originally commissioned in 2005, and I helped build and create this puppet show” says Keith. “I’ve performed with almost all the performers who have come to help us perform this since 2005. This puppet show has performed maybe 500 performances.”

Most recently, they were invited to perform in Atlanta, Georgia at the Center for Puppetry Arts, the top center for this art form in the US according to Keith, and a very high honor for the troupe.

The first performance will be Sunday September 26th at 3:30 at the Pocahontas Opera House. Adults are $7.00 and children under 12 are free. They will also perform the play on Sunday, Oct 3rd during the Moon Festival at the Pearl Buck House in Hillsboro. Newton says they also have other performances in the area.

“We have a mix of shows for this tour” says Newton. “This show will be performed at Green Bank Elementary School, Marlinton Elementary, Hillsboro Elementary, Valley Head Elementary and Richwood Middle School, and Carnegie Hall [in Lewisburg] at 2pm this Saturday. We are also traveling to Osage [Pennsylvania] where we are performing at the Shack.”
Keith says he’s constantly learning more about his craft.

“When I came to puppetry I thought oh that’s easy!” he says. “But like any job, when you get into it, you realize there’s a complexity to it that you didn’t realize when you went into it. But if you enjoy it, you really delve into it and you keep going, and that’s what keeps me going because there’s so much to learn and so many new things that I learn every day.”

The performance will be followed by workshops on origami and other Japanese arts. For more information contact the Parks & Recreation office at 304-799-7386 or visit pocahontasoperahouse.org. Tune in for noon hour on Friday to hear from some of the characters in the play.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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