Devised show with puppets opens May 2

Audiences are invited to a twisted world of laughter as the Cornell College Department of Theatre and Dance performs “A Simple Silhouette Circus,” a devised show with puppets.

Students on stage with their puppets smiling at the camera
Cast of “A Simple Silhouette Circus”

A cast of eight student-performers will launch into vignettes of what happens at a circus when the lights go out. In these interwoven slice-of-life stories, the performers and puppets reveal the intimate world of these misfit circus people who have found a family within this tent and what they have to do to put the tent back together.

“A Simple Silhouette Circus” hits the stage on May 2, 3, and 4 at 7:30 p.m. and May 5 at 2 p.m. in the Plumb-Fleming Black Box Theatre in Armstrong Hall.

Students created this show from scratch, and every day it changes and grows. Visiting Director Ariel Lauryn specializes in devised shows using puppetry. She’s setting a timeline for the process and calls herself the editor of the story, but the ensemble is the author of the piece.

“They were all charged with creating one character or one puppet,” Lauryn said. “They came forward with proposals for potential characters, and we would see if the characters were rich enough to sustain a storyline. The ones that were interesting to us, the ones that were the most fun to play and watch, we kept. From there, we wrote a story around and about those characters.”

The cast is making it all happen with the help of five builders. They are the team of students who helped to create the puppets as the ideas started flowing for the plot.

“We have two tables set up with all these tools and materials,” Lauryn said. “While the cast is rehearsing and creating ideas, we can turn around and say, ‘Can you mock up a giant blue raccoon out of paper?’ They will mock something up and we’ll play with it and say, actually it needs to be bigger or smaller, or move in this way or not move in that way.”

The ensemble started working with vision boards and ensemble-building to start creating as a team. From there, characters were developed, puppets were built, and students wrote pieces of the show that were strung together to create the finished product.

Lauryn says she is encouraging the students to make bold choices and trust themselves.

“I’m hoping what they are learning is that they don’t need anyone to tell them what to do,” Lauryn said. “I keep saying if you come in with a sincere curiosity, a love for what you are doing, and a dedication to show up–then something amazing is going to happen.”

Tickets are free for Cornell students, faculty, and staff with ID. Adult tickets are $8 dollars and non-Cornell students $5. Tickets can be reserved by calling 319.895.4293 or e-mailing