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‘Stuffed and Unstrung’ features Henson puppets

'Stuffed Unstrung' will be RialSquare Theatre April 14.  |  File photo

"Stuffed and Unstrung" will be at the Rialto Square Theatre on April 14. | File photo

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‘Stuffed and Unstrung’

♦ 7 p.m. April 14

♦ Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet

♦ Tickets, $42-$49

♦ (815) 726-6600;
rialtosquare.com

Updated: April 10, 2013 5:40PM



When audience members purchase tickets to see “Stuffed and Unstrung” — a live, uncensored show that combines comedic improvisation and puppetry — they get two shows for the price of one.

The audience can see the puppeteers manipulate the puppets over their heads and move around each other, or the audience can be looking at large projection monitors where they just see the puppets on screens that flank the stage.

“People come in thinking they’ll watch one over the other, but they end up going back and forth effortlessly,” said Patrick Bristow, the show’s host and who — along with Brian Henson, the son of the late Jim Henson — is the show’s co-creator. “It becomes natural, like watching subtitles in a foreign movie.”

“Stuffed and Unstrung” will be presented April 14 at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet.

The improvisational and interactive show is produced by Henson Alternative, which is the Jim Henson Co.’s label for content created exclusively for adult audiences. Bristow notes that the puppets in “Stuffed and Unstrung” are all Jim Henson creations, but since the Muppets franchise is owned by Disney, there is no Kermit or Miss Piggy in the show.

With live musical accompaniment and Bristow as host, “Stuffed and Unstrung” features a cast of five puppeteers in an adults-only, improvisational puppet performance of song and sketch comedy based on audience suggestions.

“If the audience wants it naughtier, that usually comes out as time goes on,” said Bristow referring to the show being rated R because it often contains language and themes not intended for unaccompanied children younger than age 17. “Our guiding principles are to do a funny show that honors the audience suggestions and if the audience wants adult situations, we will oblige. We don’t initiate that. We respond to the audience.”

Bristow indicates that some classic improvisation is presented, like the scene called “Hot Dog TV.”

“This scene features going back and forth with different types of TV shows, like you are channel surfing,” he said, “and the puppets must pick up where the prior show left off.”

And although the puppeteers may have heard the same suggestions from audience members before, they do not respond in a predetermined manner.

“There is not a canned reaction,” Bristow said.

“The puppeteers do not want to do that. However, they may use the same character. Like in the James Bond title sequence, the choreography is improvised, but a chase scene and a girl will be involved, and those are elements of James Bond movies that will always be in the scene.”

But Bristow emphasizes that part of the enjoyment for the puppeteers, as well as the audience, is the creative improvisation.

“Nothing in the show is so prescribed that it is scripted,” he said “We all like being up on a high wire without the net.”



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