La MaMa Blogs: 6 Questions for Torry Bend of DREAMING

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

6 Questions for Torry Bend of DREAMING

Torry Bend is a set designer, puppet artist, and Associate Professor at Duke University. Dreaming, Torry Bend's most recent collaboration with playwright Howard Craft and director JaMeeka Holloway, will premiere in the Ellen Stewart Theatre on October 14 as part of La MaMa Puppet Series 2021. There are only 4 performances at La MaMa, so get your tickets now!

1. Do you have a favorite puppet in your performance?

I love JOE LEE, he is a table top puppet that has just been transformed from a 2D racist cartoon into his original body. A body that has been unseen for the many years he has been trapped as a cartoon. There is a joy in seeing a body in all of it's human-ness (a round belly, a glint in an eye, a subtle smile) arrive on stage after we have only ever seen the character as a 2D image. 

2. How did you come to collaborate with Howard Craft and JaMeeka Holloway on Dreaming?

I had wanted to do a piece on Little Nemo in Slumberland for many years. When I sat down to do it, I quickly realized that I had to make a choice—confront the racism present in McCay's drawings, or ignore it. To ignore and continue with the project felt like a perpetuation of systemic racism, to walk away from the project all together felt like a missed opportunity, so I leaned into the challenge and made sure I had a team that could tell a story that hadn't been told and was desperately needed. Howard Craft's previous collaborations with graphic novelists and his experience with superheroes made him the perfect writer. I passed the comics on to him and was thrilled with what he brought back. JaMeeka joined the team a little later, offering a directorial ear to the dialogue that could balance my visual storytelling experience. 

3. What inspired you to create a world where comic book characters live side-by-side with real people?

This is Howard's genius! The brilliance of this concept is that it allows us to illustrate the extreme stereotyping and racism that is present in comics (both historical and contemporary) while also reveling in what puppetry does best—play with form, scale, and graphic quality. This is one of my favorite parts about this show. McCay's brilliance as a comic and cartoon artist was his graphic skill and what better way to bring that to a live stage than with puppetry, toy theater and overhead specifically. They are graphic forms that allow us to both celebrate and challenge McCay's work.

4. What do you hope audiences will learn from this performance?

I'm less interested in this being a learning opportunity, and more interested in the audience reflecting on the visual world they have been consuming. Where does it come from? Who's ideas are being upheld as "visionary" and who's are being ignored?

5. What do you hope for the future of puppetry, as well as the future of comics and animation?

I want to see a broadening of "popular" American puppetry to diverse voices and perspectives. It's such a flexible form, imagine how deep the well of inspiration could be if the perspectives on puppetry were as wide as the diversity of this country. 

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?

To have my work presented in a space where I have been inspired, challenged, and influenced again and again and again is overwhelmingly humbling. 

A Black puppeteer is holding a puppet that is painting at an easel, surrounded by furniture. A set piece of brown windows is in the background.

La MaMa presents


Story by Howard Craft
Script by JaMeeka Holloway and Torry Bend
Directed and Designed by Torry Bend 
Associate Director: JaMeeka Holloway

October 14 – 17, 2021

Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10003

Oct 14, Thursday at 7pm
Oct 15, Friday at 7pm
Oct 16, Saturday at 7pm
Oct 17, Sunday at 2pm

Ticket Prices
Adults: $25
Students/Seniors: $20
Multi-Show Puppet Packages Available

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