The Poacher

Puppet Show

The Poacher was adapted from the short story by Ursula K. Le Guin, with additional text from Roger Callois's essay on insect mimicry.

The Poacher is a visually evocative puppet show for discerning adult audiences. A young puppet seeks refuge from a difficult home-life by poaching mushrooms in a dark, but spirited forest. This impenetrable fortress hides a bright secret which our protagonist dares to disturb. Adapted from Ursula K LeGuin’s short story of the same name, The Poacher walks a sharp edge betwixt reality and fantasy, sleeping and waking, and the distinction between animate and inanimate. Featuring bunraku-style, shadow, tabletop, full body, and scenic puppetry.

I still cannot pretend to entirely comprehend our protagonist’s choices. They trouble me.

Kate Brehm, Director's Note

In insect mimicry, insects blend in with trees, pebbles, or leaves via body shape, color, or pattern. This relates well to the Poacher protagonist’s desire to escape, disappear, or appear somehow less animate. The concept also fit neatly with the practice of puppeteering, where performers often attempt to merge with their environment in order to become unseen.

Our protagonist is neither good nor bad, but harbors both moral and immoral thoughts and desires, sometimes acting on them. This thwarts our expectations of simplicity and our desire for resolution. Our protagonist is in this fairy tale world, but not of it. This is perhaps where I align with Le Guin’s protagonist, who laments “I was never happy going into the tower room, where the fairy tales were.”

Performed at Farkas Hall 2022. Process film by Jessi Stegal.
director Kate Brehm
Puppeteers Tess Carney, Yuan Ting Chen, Avery Hansberger, Katie McClanan, Madison Pankey, Yolanda Peng, Tatara Tang, Ari Troper.
Actors Ursula K Le Guin - Karina Cowperthwaite, Roger Callois - Nia Weeks
bunraku-style puppet design Tom Lee
hedge puppet and costume design Sarah Lafferty
shadow and tabletop puppet design Linda Wingerter
composition and sound design Sxip Shirey
set design Andreea Mincic
lighting design Caitlin Smith Rapoport
stage management Sam Tirrell
production and teaching assistant Rachel Share-Sapolsky
dramaturgy James Stanley
  • Research and Development August 2022: Theater, Dance, and Media Harvard
  • December 2022, Farkas Hall Harvard University
  • TBA

Produced by Theater Dance and Media Harvard.

Gallery of Development