Monday, June 9, 2014


Dream Tale Puppets invites you to
Whalers who met on the high seas held a gam to tell their lively tales. This summer, watch as three imaginative puppet companies tell their adventurous tales at the Cape Cod Puppet Gam, held on five Tuesday afternoons in Falmouth.

The shows will be presented at 4pm at John Wesley United Methodist Church, Gifford Street & Jones Road, from July 8 to August 5 and are best for ages 3 and up.
Tickets will be sold for $8 at the door.

The “Cape Cod Puppet Gam” series is produced by Falmouth's own “Dream Tale Puppets, " a troupe founded by Jacek Zuzanski in 2003. The ensemble relishes the chance to share the adventure of wandering through lands of enchantment, mystery, humor and joy with Cape audiences. For more information, please see

The "Cape Cod Puppet Gam" is presented with the generous support of John Wesley United Methodist Church, the Cape Cod Children's Museum, and friends of Dream Tale Puppets. Also, the series is supported in part by a grant from Falmouth Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. 

John Wesley United Methodist Church
Gifford Street & Jones Road

July 8, 4pm
“Rumpelstiltskin” by Dream Tale Puppets
Dream Tale Puppets spins a lively tale of gold and guessing games with rod puppets. Puppeteers Jacek Zuzanski and Margaret Moody perform in tabletop style, with puppeteers and puppets visible to the audience.

July 15, 4pm
“Monkey Makes Mischief in Heaven” by Margaret Moody of Galapagos Puppets
The Monkey King is thrilled to have a job in the Heavenly Peach Gardens – but can’t resist eating all the Jade Emperor’s magical peaches and bending heavenly rules. Margaret Moody presents this episode of the Chinese epic“ Journey to the West” with traditional Taiwanese puppets and choreography.

July 22, 4pm
“The Great Red Ball Rescue” by Foreign Landscapes Productions
When Jasper’s favorite Red Ball is whisked away by the tides, he sets out on an adventure across the ocean, under the waves and into the clouds. Will he ever get his Red Ball back? Find out in this stunning production featuring multiple styles of puppetry and lots of sea-faring fun!
"The Great Red Ball Rescue" was created by Faye Dupras with the generous support of the Jim Henson Foundation. 
July 29, 4 pm
"Story and Puppet Time” by Dream Tale Puppets
Enjoy two adventures – “Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood” – created with a small audience in mind. In this improvisational form of puppet theatre, Jacek Zuzanski performs with rod and hand puppets, accompanied by lively voices and narration of Norina Reif, Laura Opie and Robert Bock.


August 5, 4pm

“Jack and the Beanstalk” by Dream Tale Puppets
Jacek Zuzanski presents a joyous version of the classic tale of Jack, the cow and the beans using hand, rod and figurine puppets and masks. Margaret Moody and Robert Bock provide voice and narration.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Village Green - March 2014

Published on March 19, 2014 this episode of the Falmouth Community Television’s program -Village Green, hosted by Davidson Calfee and Kakani Young, features the Dream Tale Puppets, The Cape Cod Curling Club and coverage of the Falmouth Museums on the Green's event for the 200th Anniversary commemoration of the Nimrod's bombardment of Falmouth.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"From Poland to America: My Life in Puppetry and Theatre" - Notes on the Presentation at the Boston Area Guild of Puppetry Meeting

In May, 2013, my puppetry and work in Poland and US were the subjects of a program which I presented for members of the Boston Area Guild of Puppetry at the Puppet Showplace Theatre in Brookline, MA. The following notes on the presentation were taken by Gail Kearns, a BAGOP guild member. They appeared in the July, 2013, issue of "The Control Stick", newsletter of the Boston guild.  Thanks to Gail for the permission to use the notes here.

THE (5-17-13) PROGRAM

The May program was presented by Cape Cod’s Jacek Zuzanski of Dream Tale Puppets. It was entitled “From Poland to America: My Life in Puppetry and Theatre.” Jacek talked first about the concept of “wonderland” and of the theater as a “gateway” or means of passage into this “wonderland.” Jacek, while not religious, does believe in “wonderland.” He has recently been given space for his studio and children’s classes in the John Wesley United Methodist Church in Falmouth, where he is now teaching children and others how to create “wonderland” for themselves.

Jacek says that there are two layers to think about when creating one’s own theatrical gateway into “wonderland.” The first layer is that of the story and which stories you choose to tell. The second consists of the tools that one uses to create the “passage” into “wonderland.” These include dance, puppets, movement, and more --- whatever helps; all are ways to reach “wonderland.”

You the artist are always going to be the “hero” in the wonderland you create. But language is also important, and Jacek talked about the significance of language. Our cultures have different languages. And the language of the puppet arts is also complex and rich in its many forms. How are we to manage using language to gain entry into our “wonderland”? Jacek says that one way to do this is by giving life to one’s puppets. Working with puppets has taught him how to pass through the theatrical gateway.

Another key word when thinking about theater is “community.” Creating community and being part of a community can be another means of discovering “wonderland.” You work with others to find a common passion. And while telling one’s story, there really is no “I” in it because in working with others, the story has become “our” story; this is the “paradox of ‘I’” in the theater.

Jacek first began learning theater while in high school in Poland in an afterschool class in pantomime theater. Pantomime is “theater of the body.” This class led to an apprenticeship for Jacek in the professional Wroclaw Mime Theatre, which is known throughout the world. Here, Jacek worked with Henryk Tomaszewski, the founder and director of the theater. Jacek also studied in a puppet theater in the south of Poland called “Jeleniogorski Teatr Animacji,” or “Animation Theatre of Jelenia Gora.” Founder and director of this theater was Andrzej Dziedziul, who had begun his career working as a solo performer with dramatic texts using objects and props to represent characters. Shakespeare’s Hamlet, e.g., was performed with bottles that represented the characters in the play.

Jacek drew a contrast between the way puppetry is taught here in the United States and how it is taught in Poland. In Poland the student starts by learning the skills and arts of acting, and then of acting with puppets. LOTS of time in Poland is spent on acting skills and on using the body in motion.

Also, most Polish puppetry projects are done as whole class or as group projects rather than as individual projects. Here in America at the University of Connecticut, Jacek said, students begin with making puppets and creating their own shows. But creating one’s own show was only one of the final projects completed while studying the arts of puppetry in Poland.

Jacek also participated in projects conducted by the actors of the Theatre Laboratory of Jerzy Grotowski in the south of Poland. In Grotowski’s Laboratory Theatre, there was not much puppetry done at all. Jacek told us of projects of the theater from the 1980’s in which groups consisting of actors and non-actors created and performed unscripted experiential activities without audiences. These projects were created to enable participants to reach the potential of their creative and physical abilities. The creators of these projects developed techniques for building intensive awareness of all who were involved in the process. Learning was about what group members were able to do together with their bodies and minds. The quality of the interactions between participants and always climbing to reach one’s potential as part of the group was always the basic goal.

Jacek  also studied with Grotowski’s actors, who were all instructors in the physical style of acting that had been developed at the Grotowski Laboratory. Jacek was reminded of how diverse his training had been when he saw one of Margaret Moody’s puppet shows. In her puppet shows, Margaret uses Chinese hand puppets with the Chinese hand puppet manipulation skills that she learned in Taiwan from Li Tien Wu. This, Jacek said, is a language of hand puppetry  that uses the puppeteer’s hands in ways that are quite different  from the language used by puppeteers from Western cultures, despite the fact that the puppeteer’s hands are used as the bodies for the characters in both cultures. In much the same way, the physical body skills that Jacek learned are used with his puppetry to create a different orientation to puppetry.

One of Jacek’s teachers was Jan Dorman, who used puppets together with the rituals and games of children’s play activities to create puppet theatre. Dorman’s highly stylized puppet shows were created like musical compositions. A variety of literary materials were used and adapted for desired theatrical effects. The acting was stylized and included the use of masks and other objects in performance as well as puppets.

Jacek also told us briefly about some of his own artistic projects. In the earlier years of his career, he produced and performed his own puppet shows in southeastern Poland. He also taught acting and puppetry in a variety of cultural centers, museums, schools, and theaters, and he designed sets and puppets and directed puppet shows for municipal puppet theaters in Wroclaw and Jeleria Gora. He founded the Group of Theatrical Actions Association and TEART. Through these groups, he worked with artists and actors to create puppet shows, parades, outdoor shows, street theater productions, and workshops for children, youth, teachers, and international groups.

Jacek gave us a brief demonstration of how he combines body acting with puppetry. In his Dream Tales Puppets version of “Rumpelstiltskin,” he uses tabletop puppets with the puppeteer fully visible for the audience. The puppeteer is both actor and puppeteer, and the bodily actions of the actor, which were quite exaggerated and dramatic, contributed much to the effect of the scene that he performed for us. In Jacek’s “Jack and the Beanstalk,” hand puppets, marionettes, inanimate figures, and masks were all used in performance with minimal costuming (such as a bonnet) to represent a character. By exchanging simple costume items, characters are able to be easily changed by a solo performer within a performance. 
Learning how puppeteers are trained and how puppetry is learned and conducted in different parts of the world contributes much to how we are able to understand our own traditions and add to our own skills. More of the work of Jacek’s Dream Tale Puppets can be found on his website at Jacek and Dream Tale Puppets will also be offering a one-week puppet camp class for children through and at the Puppet Showplace Theatre in July.



Thursday, March 13, 2014

United Personalities: Acting with Table Top Puppets at Puppet Showplace Theatre

Have you ever considered learning to act with puppets? Would you like to learn new ways to play with your kids? Or maybe you are interested in developing your expressive skills? Please consider joining and please spread the word about Acting with Table Top Puppets at Puppet Showplace Theatre

United Personalities: Acting with Table Top Puppets

Instructor: Jacek Zuzanski, Dream Tale Puppets
4 sessions, April 29 - May 20

Register by April 1: $150
After April 1: $175
Members save 10% on registration!

Table top puppetry is a unique performance style that enables a human performer to bring a puppet character to life in full view of the audience. This powerful art form requires both physical precision and an extensive vocabulary of expressive movements that trigger the imagination.

In this hands-on, exploratory workshop, participants will build their awareness of the actor/puppet relationship through a series of fun and challenging exercises with professional table top puppets. The class will explore the paradox of mutual control, whereby the puppet controls the puppeteer as much as the reverse. The class will practice core manipulation skills and explore performance techniques that unify actor and puppet, including breath, focus, footsteps, balance, and posture. The class will then apply these learned skills to devise their own unique solo and multi-character scenes.

This is an intermediate level workshop: some familiarity with puppetry, acting, or dance/movement is recommended. Although the class focuses on a very specific performance situation, the workshop is for anyone interested in broadening their puppetry performance skills in a supportive and detail-oriented environment.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Masterful Jack and the Beanstalk

Puppeteer and vocal artist Suzanne Pemsler reviewed Dream Tale Puppet's "Jack and the Beanstalk" performance at the Arlington Center for the Arts in the January 2014 issue of The Control Stick - Newsletter of the Boston Area Guild of Puppetry.  Let me make this text available here.

A Masterful Jack and the Beanstalk
Performed by Dream Tale Puppets, featuring Jacek Zuzanski and Margaret Moody
Review by Suzanne Pemsler

Though I put on the mantle of childhood as I entered the Arlington Center for the Arts, I did not succumb to the inviting cushions set out on the floor in front of the stage. The young children in the audience tested them out, avidly hopping from one floor-pillow to another to get closer — and closer still — to the fascinating set before them. “Is it a beanstalk?” “Is it a boat with sails?” The stage setting was non-representational and held fascination for the audience. What was to happen within it?

At first, the story unfolded with Margaret as Storyteller and Jacek manipulating charming small puppets, including all the characters necessary to outline the opening plot — Jack, Jack’s Mother, a Cow named “Milky White," the Bean seller and the many assorted characters attendant to the exciting, fast moving opener when young Jack goes on a grown-up mission to sell his beloved cow and returns with the beans to an outraged mother.

Having deftly hung a cloth behind the stage, Jacek had defined the area, yet was able to use the stage, not only in  manipulating his well- crafted and intriguing puppets but also, later, when he appeared before the stage at his full height miming the nasty, irreverent, scary Giant.

It was at that moment, when Jacek "became" the Giant, that a few children leapt into their parent’s laps — though not for a second did they look away from Jacek. The little ones were riveted to the action but simply couldn’t handle it outside of their parents’ arms. The children remained fascinated participants and wanted more and more of the melodrama once they felt secure. Later, a few made their way back to the pillows and stayed through to the finale, when the beanstalk was chopped down and all was well with Jack and his mother.

The small puppets were created by Jacek – the cow, the boy, the mother, the “bean man,” as well as the vital characters from the Giant’s lair later on in the play. They read well and pushed the intricate story forward.

Margaret’s role was far greater than that of an amiable storyteller sitting on a stool at far stage right. She created the perfect atmosphere replete with the repetition of “Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead. I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.” The children joined in loudly each time and with verve, even the ones clinging to their parents. Margaret offered intriguing, fun vocal sound effects – including some magnificent burps when the Giant ate too much, too fast! Some of the children giggled through their fear. So many effective interjections brought the story alive. With careful vocal modulation, she prepared the children for each of the many segments of the story. She infused the story with her voice portraying both joy and terror. Even I became nervous that Jack wouldn’t make it down after his final theft. But, without a lap to leap to, I shuddered by myself until I could release my terror.

I loved the details such as the wind beginning to howl and the drapes and flags moving. My heart beat faster at that moment. In contrast, joyful lines for the puppets like ”It’s not everyday you have a chance to see a small boy pulling a cow named 'Milky White,'" brought delight.

When the play ended, the afternoon did not. Most of the children, having been enthralled by the small puppets, came up to study them in some detail and afterwards some stayed to play with other puppets in a capacious puppet corner prepared for them.

This was an entire afternoon of puppetry and mime and story scariness and smiles and the children felt enveloped in it all and gave back to the performers after the show with their interest and their own imagination. The atmosphere remained magical throughout.

The children and their parents experienced a total immersion into the magic of puppetry and theater. I felt privileged to be in the audience.

Jacek Zuzanski is the director, designer and lead performer of Dream Tale Puppets, founded in 2003. Margaret Moody performs with Dream Tale Puppets and with Galapagos Puppets.
"Jack and the Beanstalk" was performed on December 7 as part of "Puppets at Arlington Center for the Arts," now in its "fth season. For information on upcoming shows, please see


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Interview after the performance at Falmouth Community Television

On January 23, I had the pleasure to perform “Rumpelstilskin” with Norina Reif at Falmouth Community Television. We were hosted by Basia Goszczynska and Keith Hopkins. Following the performance, Basia interviewed us for the Village Green TV program. I was happy about this opportunity to reach out to the Falmouth community and those that may like to join us in future project or support our work.

However, after the interview, I found that there was still more I would have liked to say.

I invite you to read the following questions I received from Basia before our interview and my more in-depth answers about my work with Dream Tale Puppets, how I got started and the way in which our creations come to life.

Thank you to Melinda Lancaster for help in finding right words.

Basia Goszczynska: What first sparked your interest in puppets and theatre?
Jacek Zuzanski: Briefly, I was always into drawing and painting. Doodling with colored pencils, sketching race cars or maps of places I visited was part of my childhood. In high school, it took shape in the form of a more conscious study of art, drawing and painting. When people started buying my pictures, it become clear that art should have something to do with what I chose to do in life. I discovered theatre as a high school student when I joined an afterschool program of pantomime theatre. This was fascinating. I found that I could use my body, my entire self, to create three dimensional living pictures and do it together with others. Shortly after, I discovered that in visual theater, puppet theatre, I could explore both these artistic universes- one of the seen world and one of the world of action. Inspiration came from my friend who used to participate in workshops guided in Europe by Bread and Puppet Theater. He advised me on joining Jelenia Gora Animation Theatre, founded by Andrzej Dziedziul, which was an experimental puppet theatre in a little town in Southwest Poland –  I did and that’s how this all started.

How do you decide on which stories to develop into theater productions?
Each project has its own origins and is preceded by specific sets of circumstances. Sometimes the story is the first thing decided upon before production starts, sometimes other elements or ideas are primary. In some of my productions in Poland visual elements were the bases for developing the show. First we created puppets, masks and other performing objects, then we asked ourselves, “How can we use these elements to create the show, what kind of story or stories are concealed or potentially exist in these objects or characters and how do we discover and reveal these stories? How do we give them life?” Asking questions was an important part of the creative process.
In many productions we did not use words; scenes were comprised of actions performed by actors, dancers, mimes and puppets, by using masks and other visual elements.  Sometimes the story may have been discovered during rehearsals, but in many projects we invited the audience to make their own interpretations and to discover their own story in the performance.

In my recent work with children at the Falmouth Academy, some of the summer workshops and productions started with a strong visual idea. We didn’t have a story to start with. We, my friend Laura Opie and I, invented the story and the play, keeping in mind the length of the program (2 weeks), the age and number of participants (approximately 10-12, 7-12 year olds) and the number of hours per day (2 ½) we had to work on the production.

When writing for these workshops, we seek to create, challenging scenes for the actors as well as varied narrative techniques and theatrical languages. We try to figure out how interesting, yet fun, acting exercises and games can lead us to creating formally distinctive, structurally strong and emotionally loaded scenes.  We seek to incorporate visual elements of strong poetic potential that are easy to design and build with children in short amount of time and with no budget. Then, in meetings, writings and discussions the story and play emerge.

In Dream Tale Puppets, I try to balance my own interest and curiosity with what may be attractive to our audience. Our current shows are addressed toward children and family audiences. Traditional, well known fairy tales are the natural choice. In addition, I have  always been fascinated by fairy tales, their psychological deepness and wisdom. In “Rumpelstilskin, I found that the main character’s search for the name of the magical character meets  my interest in the power of words. I learned English as a second language and I feel a strong empathy for a character who searches for the right word that will make a dramatic change in her life, in this case, saving her child from the impious gnome, Rumpelstilskin.

Dream Tale Puppets’ next project will be using a well-known story as a departure point for devising the performance and developing a play. We will be making new puppets and visual elements, we will explore possible relationships between storytellers/puppeteers and puppets and manipulating techniques and the play will emerge in a creative process where writer, designer, director and actors are all involved. We used elements of this approach in the last Dream Tale Puppets’ production of “Jack and the Beanstalk”.

How do you create your puppets? Can you talk about the techniques involved?
Each project calls for its own visual style and puppets. But, in general, I prefer to work with simple materials and techniques. Most often we use rod puppets where the heads and hands are carved from styrofoam and covered by a few layers of papier-mâché. When working with children and creating puppets for a single show use, we use the blue marine foam used for floats. It is a little heavier than white styrofoam, but very easy to carve and easily painted over two or three times to harden it. Most often, the bodies of puppets are simply formed by draping fabric over the rods or from fabric attached to a piece of wood, which forms the shoulders. Sometimes I make clay models before carving in styrofoam and sometimes the head is made out of papier-mâché alone, over a model made out of clay. This technique requires seven or more layers of papier-mâché and is very convenient for mask making. We also often use cardboard as construction material. In the upcoming Dream Tale Puppets’ production we plan on using “found objects". You may say that we plan to recycle “stuff” or “found treasures” to give it a second life as elements to build puppets.

Who is your target audience?
The audience for Dream Tale Puppets’ performances is children three years old and older and their families. As a teacher, my workshops and their performances are most often for children seven-twelve years old and their families and friends.

Why are you passionate about live theater?
The first and commonly acknowledged source of the passion for live theater is its immediacy of being live itself. By producing the show you are bringing characters to life. The actualization of life of someone other than you, by you, whether you are an actor using only his own body, a puppet or number of puppets, is fascinating in itself. It allows one to study and to experience creative processes of life in all its complexities and simplicities, seriousness and humorousness. The deepness or shallowness of this study only partly depends upon the character the actor plays; in puppet performance an actor may need to create a number of characters, use a variety of voices and performing techniques. Each technique of giving life to a puppet requires mastery. Sharing this act of creating life with the audience adds an additional dimension to this life and provides a chance for everyone present to realize a new living reality through their senses, minds and hearts.

Another reason to be passionate about live theatre has to do with its communal nature. The community of artists that passion for theatre brings together creates a culture of its own. Every new project provides the opportunity for new artistic and social explorations and allows us to ask new questions about the nature of community, its values and ways to actualize its vitality. We learn from researching material for the production, examining languages of expression and means of being alive, while immersing ourselves in the synergistic nature of the creative process. During rehearsals and in dialog about the material we explore, we create each other and the theatrical organism which supports our development. In this process, what is individual merges with what is communal.
Meeting with the audience allows this theatrical community and life to find its broader environment, justification, a mutual relationship and meaning.

What are the benefits of attending one of your performances?
We offer a high quality, enjoyable and illuminating theatrical experience. While we use a variety of puppetry styles, usually our performers are as visible as the characters they operate or portray and the audience experiences not only the story, but how it is created. This performing style has many analogies to the ways children play and reinforces the creative thinking and imaginative playfulness. We are extremely serious about having fun! Dream Tale Puppets benefits as well. Through the support of the local community- by attending our performances, inviting us to schools, pre-schools or party, and by signing children up for our workshops- we are able to continue to develop our art, bring more performances to the community, and enhance the audience’s experience.