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Magic Fruit: Meet the Magic Makers-The Puppet Designer

Meet the “Magic Makers” behind the creation of Cornerstone’s upcoming production of “Magic Fruit”. We are thrilled to bring together this award-winning creative team to envision, design and produce the futuristic alternate reality that is “Magic Fruit”. This article is part of a series giving you a glimpse in to who these Magic Makers are. We asked each of the nine members from our Creative Team the same four questions. In the next several weeks, we will share those responses with you. 

Meet the Puppet Designer: Lynn Jeffries

What are 3 words that describe you? 

“puppeteer”

“enthusiast”

“birdwatcher”

“Courtesy of puppeteer/performance artist Paul Zaloom.”

What is your connection to Cornerstone?

“I am a founding member of Cornerstone. In June of 1986, I packed a suitcase and a couple of boxes of art supplies, put the rest of my things in storage, and got in a big blue van with a bunch of my college friends. We spent five years as nomads, moving every three months to a different town and a new play. Then we settled in Los Angeles. We’re still exploring and still doing new plays, but mercifully, there’s a lot less packing involved.”

Why Magic Fruit?

“It’s a great privilege and luxury to be able to work the way Cornerstone does, to meet and really get to know people who I might otherwise only pass by on the street, if I encountered them at all. Every community is full of kind, courageous, funny, generous people with amazing stories. And inevitably, after you’ve met and worked with a bunch of these people, you want to introduce them to each other. That’s why we started doing what we call, ‘bridge shows.’ The Magic Fruit is the bridge show for our hunger cycle, and It’s like one of those fantasy dinners where you imagine hosting Shakespeare, Frida Kahlo, Ella Fitzgerald, Gandhi and Sacagawea. It’s a crazy and improbable mix of fascinating, talented people, and you’re all doing a show together.”

What do you hope the audience takes away from their experience? 

“When I was in high school, my very creative and energetic English teacher, Ron Zuckerman, planned an elaborate field trip for our class. We were told to show up at a BART station in Berkeley at 10 am, and await further instructions. What followed was a kind of citywide scavenger hunt. Throughout the day, various people appeared to us and conveyed clues and directions. Sometimes they were characters from the book we were reading, sometimes seemingly random people. We split up, we traveled far and wide, we came back together, we had lunch, and eventually we found Ron in a deli, eating cheesecake. It was very fun. It was a little scary. But I think the most amazing thing about the experience was that hundreds of people were coming and going around us, and because any one of them, at any moment, might turn out to be part of the game, it seemed like everyone was. I became hyper aware of Berkeley and all its citizens, and I felt open to and curious about them in a whole new way.

Working on a Cornerstone show is a lot like going on that scavenger hunt. It gives me the courage to go to unfamiliar places, to introduce myself to strangers, and to ask questions. For Magic Fruit, this scavenger hunt has taken me to the world of California Indian basket weavers, practitioners of what one scholar calls, “the most diverse, complex and magnificent basketry in the world.”[1] My main design task for this show is to create the puppet birds who accompany the character Pageni, a young homeless Native American man, and I thought a beautiful way to connect the look of the birds to a Native Californian aesthetic would be to create them using basket weaving techniques. Luckily for me, the Autry museum offered a basket weaving workshop in August, taught by local Chumash weaver Timara Link. At the end of the workshop, I approached her about consulting on the puppet project, and she was delighted. In our first couple of design and building sessions, I have worked hard to keep up with all the information and materials Tima has so generously shared: willow, sumac, gourds, hemp string, abalone shells, design motifs, cutting tools, weaving techniques, wood burning equipment, pizza… it has been a real whirlwind. As with any completely new style of puppets, I’m making it up as I go along and hoping it will all work out, but this time I have an especially amazing partner in design.

My basket bird puppets are just one part of the immense scavenger hunt of this bridge show, and I hope that when all the elements are found, Cornerstone will be able to take you on an eye-opening journey of your own through the city and state you live in.”

Lynn Jeffries has been a member of Cornerstone Theater since 1986, and has designed sets, costumes or puppets for over 60 Cornerstone productions. Her regional theater work includes designs for Arena Stage, The Guthrie, Long Wharf Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, South Coast Repertory, and TheatreWorks. In an ongoing collaboration with puppeteer/performance artist Paul Zaloom, she has built puppets, dramaturged, designed, and puppeteered on numerous projects, including The Mother of All Enemies, The Abecedarium, The Adventures of White-Man, and the film Dante’s Inferno. She has also performed solo shadow puppet shows in nightclubs with the neo-vaudevillian folk/jazz band, The Ditty Bops. Other recent puppet designs include Culture Clash’s Peace at the Getty Villa, Project Wonderland and The Gogol Project at the Bootleg Theater, and To Kill a Mockingbird and Don Quixote at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Lynn has won a Theatre LA Ovation Honor and a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for puppet design; a Backstage West Garland Award and a Drama-Logue Award for scenic design; and a Backstage West Garland Award for costume design.

[1] Ralph Shanks and Lisa Woo Shanks, California Indian Baskets, San Diego to Santa Barbara and Beyond to the San Joaquin Valley, Mountains and Deserts (Costaño Books 2010)

Experience “Magic Fruit” starting November 18, purchase your tickets today!  


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