Rogue Artists Ensemble Presents '...Mr. Punch'

By: Jun. 24, 2008

Revamped to include a reworked script, additional scenes and new effects, Rogue Artists Ensemble remounts its world premiere production of "The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch", adapted for the stage by Sean T. Cawelti from the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman (Stardust) and Dave McKean.  The newly revised version of the Rogues' critically acclaimed Mr. Punch ("a feast for the senses" - Daily Variety) opens at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles on July 18 where performances continue through August 31.  Low-priced previews begin July 11.

Mr. Punch is a dark fable in which the innocence of childhood and the pain of adulthood collide in the oft-fragmented recesses of memory.  A man's memories of his boyhood at his grandfather's failing seaside arcade are full of talking badgers, crocodiles, car accidents, mermaids and murder - or could that just have been the Punch and Judy show?  Told through the eyes of the man's younger self, Mr. Punch explores the twisted nature of memory, the cruelty of adults and the beauty of simple kindness.

"I read a book of reminiscences from the 1920s written by a Punch and Judy man," explained Gaiman from his home in Minneapolis.  "Punch was a little like a serial killer who left a legacy of violence behind him.  Then, I discovered some strong and bizarre connections to the story in my own history - a hunchbacked uncle who was a twin and a baby who may or may not have been killed in that generation.  It was like a huge game of 'Chinese Whispers', or what Americans call 'Telephone', in which messages get changed and no one can remember the exact details - all you get are fragments.  So the novel is a very personal piece for me."

The Rogues bring Gaiman's semi-autobiographical story and its illustrations by celebrated artist Dave McKean to vivid life through an innovative hybrid of theater traditions, puppetry and digital media. The 2007 production at Theater/Theatre was the recipient of five Honorable Mentions at the 2007 Back Stage West Garland Awards.   Daily Variety called it an "otherworldly phantasmagoria... succeeds brilliantly as an attempt to recreate the style of the original graphic novel," and the LA Weekly called it "a visual feast."  For a taste of the graphic novel and the Rogue's stage production, go to .

At the Bootleg, the lobby walls will be filled with art from local artists inspired by the project's carnival setting, and there will be an exhibit from the International Puppetry Museum (IPM) displaying the rich 200-year history of Punch and Judy.  In addition, every Friday at 7 pm the Bootleg will feature live music from bands including Two Sheds, Jonah Matranga, FigureOne, Jesca Hoop and Marcela Carmona (check website for complete listing).

Rogue Artists Ensemble differs from other theater companies in that it is run by a collective of artists and designers rather than by actors, writers or directors.  Adapting Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's graphic novel has been a labor of love, and the performances conclude over three years of work by nearly forty artists.

Mr. Punch was adapted for the stage by Rogue Artists Ensemble artistic director Sean T. Cawelti who also directs. Original Music is by Ben Phelps; Puppet Design is by Joyce Hutter; Mask Design is by Pat Rubio; Set Design is by Joel Daavid; Costume Design is by Kerry Hennessy; Lighting Design is by Melissa Joy Domingo; Illustration and Video Design are by BrIan White.  The cast features Don Allen, Tom Ashworth, Sean Eaton, Dana Kelly, Kerr Seth Lordygan, Connor Merkovitch, Matt Ritchey, Nina Silver, Miles Taber and Cari Turley.

Neil Gaiman is a best selling novelist and screenwriter with works including "American Gods," "Anansi Boys," "Coraline" and "Wolves in the Walls," and he is one of the top writers in modern comics. The 2007 adaptation of his novel "Stardust" starred Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Claire Danes, and he wrote the screenplay for Robert Zameckis' Beowolf starring Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie. Gaiman's work has appeared in translation in dozens of countries, and he is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top ten living post-modern writers.

Dave McKean is a British illustrator, photographer, comic book artist, filmmaker and musician whose work incorporates drawing, painting, photography, collage, found objects, digital art and sculpture.

Gaiman and McKean first met in 1986, collaborating on a short graphic novel of disturbing childhood memories, "Violent Cases," which garnered instant critical acclaim.  Since then, the pair has worked together on numerous award-winning comic books, graphic novels and children's books including Henson Pictures' serial fantasy film MIRRORMASK.

The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch runs Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 pm & 8 pm; and Sundays at 4 pm, July 18 through August 31.  There will be four preview performances on Friday, April 11 at 8pm; Saturday, April 12 at 4 pm & 8 pm; and Sunday, April 13 at 4 pm. There are no performances August 8, 9 or 10.   Tickets to the Opening Night Gala on Friday, July 18 are $50.00 and include a pre-show reception at 6:30 pm with live music from indie rock band FigureOne, gallery, food, drinks and more. Tickets to all other performances are $25.00 general admission and $18.00 for students and seniors with valid ID.  There will be two Pay-What-You-Can matinees at 4 pm on Saturday, July 26 and Sunday, July 27.  The Bootleg Theater is located at 2220 Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles.  For reservations and information, call (800) 838-3006 or visit


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