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|National Puppet Slam hits Atlanta with gay-themed fair|
|by Jim Farmer|
|August 03, 2012 10:54|
This weekend’s National Puppet Slam brings together a slate of puppeteers from around the country for two days of adult-themed shows Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts, including one gay-themed show.
Atlantan Gregg Van Laningham’s piece, “Jeremy’s Big Heart,” is the only gay-themed puppet show in the program for the Slam, set for Aug.3-4. In it, the titular Jeremy is a kid, circa nine years old or so, who is hard at work making a Valentine’s Day card for another student in his class — who happens to be a boy.
When Jeremy’s mother finds out, she has mixed emotions.
“She wants him to be able to finish it but she fears what will happen if he does give it,” says Van Laningham, who is gay.
Ultimately, Jeremy’s mother must devise a way for him to still give his card and not hurt his feelings but make it palatable within the confines of his classroom.
“Jeremy’s Big Heart” is the only show by an Atlantan in the project.
According to Van Laningham, Jeremy is a character he has used previously in a few other shows. The character isn’t necessarily autobiographical, although there are some parallels and Van Laningham envies some of his characteristics.
“I wish I had the character’s self-awareness at that early of an age,” Van Laningham says.
Relationships tend to play a central theme in his work. The puppeteer also uses gay themes, although not in every piece. Next month, for instance, he will debut a piece at Dragon*con about a woman who is in a relationship with a robot.
His first participation in a slam came unexpectedly. He got his start when a friend asked him to fill in for someone else on a project. He agreed, worked at breakneck pace to get ready, won an award, and was hooked. He has been in theater most all his life and says that the puppet world is very accepting of gay-themed artists.
Beau Brown, the curator for the Slam and the Center’s community coordinator, feels “Jeremy’s Big Heart” fits in well with the other nine pieces.
“It’s sweet, it’s innocent and very powerful,” he says. “We showed it as part of a Valentine’s Day event and there was a very emotional response from the audience.”
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