Blood From a Turnip - a super brief history
Back in the 1990's, very few cities had a late night puppet scene. Providence was not among those very few cities until Vanessa Gilbert and eremy Woodward, who lived in Providence, thought it should become one of those very few cities. Vanessa was a theater director. Jeremy was theater artist also, mostly on the design side of things. They called this venture Blood From a Turnip. It would be the late night puppet salon for Providence (and the rest of RI and SE Mass). The salon was (and still is for the most part) organized as an evening with 3 or 4 or 5 short puppet shows interspersed with charming and personable musical interludes. The other impulse present at the start and still a driving force for curating Blood From a Turnip is the diversity of programming. Diversity is so integral to Blood From a Turnip that there a even a variety of diversities.
First, Blood From a Turnip has always presented a blend of those things recognizable as puppets as well as shows that explore what puppetry is. Also, Blood From a Turnip has always presented a range of artists on a single evening. Young and Old. Professional and Amateur. Local and Distant. This model was so strong that it survived the parting of Jeremy from the team. But, Vanessa, who was also doing a mess of other artistic stuff, was faced with a crucial choice: let the turnip rest or find some help.
Right about this time, two other people were about to get caught in the gravity of the Turnip. These two people met each other one fine afternoon on the deck of a local coffee shop. The older fellow told the younger fellow about Blood From a Turnip, which he may or may not have already heard about. The older fellow thought the younger fellow might like Blood From a Turnip based on his attire, which included moon boots and a plushy knapsack. They then went on their own separate ways, not knowing that all paths away from that deck led to the Turnip. Marsian, the younger fellow met Vanessa and got on swimmingly. He began to co-host and brought a new and different energy to the evenings. The older fellow also got on swimmingly with Vanessa and began to give a hand with shows by working the door, doing techie stuff and cleaning the apartment that he shared with Vanessa and which they used to house artists from out of town.
One of those artists from out of town came from the not too-far away town of Boston. He performed at the very first Blood From a Turnip salon in Providence as well as the puppet slam at the Puppet Showplace in Braintree, which had recently been started by Kristen McLean. Evan was not a marionette kinda guy. He had nothing made of foam, wood, sticks, strings, masking tape or the other things that are often used in a puppet show. He had a television. Evan O'Television had made several appearances at BFaT over the years and was generally a swell guy that got along with Vanessa, so when Marsian moved out west, Evan started hosting as well. He also helped curate the shows,acting as a magnetic bond between Boston and Providence.
Blood From a Turnip has always promoted a fluid interpretation of its own existence and one's relationship to Blood From a Turnip. Over the years, audience members have become performers. Musicians have become puppeteers. Puppeteers have become puppets. And a helpful door and tech guy became first a performer, then eventually a host and curator.
So, sometimes all together, sometimes with one or the other, and sometimes with the help of Nikki Heart and/or Amanda Weir, David Higgins and Vanessa Gilbert and Evan O'Television continued to squeeze that turnip. And eventually Marsian came back to help also. Well, he didn't really come back to help, but he helped from afar by organizing and running the Puppet Slam Network with Heather Henson, an organization that distributes information about and money to folks that are presenting short form puppetry for adults.
Over the years, Blood From a Turnip has provided a space for professionals and novices to present short puppet performances to a supportive adult audience. It has encouraged participation from any and all. It has been a laboratory. It has survived the splitting of its founders, the departure of its hosts and the closing of its theater space. The turnip is tired. It is currently resting quietly under the earth. Where it rises is not certain. Who will be there to squeeze blood from it is unknown.
SOME POSTERS OF SHOWS PAST.
Many local artists have made awesome posters for Blood From a Turnip. Until those are found and photographed, please enjoy these.
And some pics of performances