Goat on a Boat Grows Up, for a Night

Puppetry for Adults
Yael Rasooly enacts the fantasy life of a lonely secretary with a cast of paper cutouts.

The Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre is busy this month with five programs for children and their families scheduled for Saturday mornings at Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor. A sixth performance, however, will break the mold. Those who think adult puppetry is an incongruity (or something X-rated), will be surprised by Yael Rasooly’s “Paper Cut,” which will be performed at Bay Street tomorrow evening at 8.

“I have wanted to bring adult performances to Goat, but they are expensive, and you really have to groom an audience,” said Liz Joyce, who founded the nonprofit company in 2001. Ms. Joyce is not only a performer, she is also a presenter, and in that capacity she attended last year’s Puppeteers of America National Festival, where she saw “Paper Cut.” 

“I loved it, and we were fortunate that Yael is doing a residency at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. Her agent sent out feelers to venues that might present the piece, and I was really excited to book it.”

Ms. Joyce explained puppets to an inquisitor who thought the art form was limited to marionettes and sock-like hand puppets deployed on miniature stages. “A puppet is an animated object, so anything you’re moving around and anthropomorphizing and turning into a character can be a puppet. Yael is a solo performer, so she uses object theater and paper cutouts to build her cast around her.”

“I love solo performances because I’m always watching how they get us through their story without our really being aware that it’s just one person onstage. I think Yael does a great job. It’s a really funny piece.”

In “Paper Cut,” which runs for one hour, a lonely secretary remains in the office after everyone else has left for the day. From her little corner, using photos from old film magazines, she escapes into a world of daydreams. There she is a glamorous movie star from the 1940s and finds her ideal love at last. But as the story unravels, as imagination and reality collide, her romantic tale becomes a Hitchcock nightmare.

When it was performed at the New York Fringe Festival in 2011, Anita Gates of The New York Times wrote, “Ms. Rasooly deftly combines premise and execution, basically by playing with paper dolls” and went on to praise the work’s “sweetly zany script” and “inspired wackiness.”

Born in 1983 in Israel, Ms. Rasooly studied theater design in London and specialized in directing, puppetry, and design at the School of Visual Theatre in Jerusalem. Her work combines theater, puppetry, and visual art, and she also maintains an international singing career that draws from medieval and classical music to jazz.

 Ms. Joyce noted that while Americans see a lot of theater, they are not exposed to as much international performance as Europeans. “The fact that we have this talented performer accessible to us is a real treat. International performers bring a twist to the stage, and it’s always refreshing.”

Now that Ms. Joyce has opened the door to adult puppetry at Goat on a Boat, she is planning a puppet slam for the fall. “It’s a short-form night of 7 to 10 adult puppetry acts, each under five minutes. They’re poignant, funny, and often very naughty.”

“Paper Cut,” which Bay Street Theater is co-presenting with Goat on a Boat, will be followed by a wine and cheese reception. The event is also supported by the Shed, a women’s community workspace in Sag Harbor, and is being held in honor of International Women’s Day. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at goatonaboat.org. They are not for sale at the Bay Street box office.