Paperhand Puppet Intervention is best known for making big ideas even bigger, from towering puppet trees to a 20-foot-tall Buddha.
This year, the group applied its growth formula to creatures among the tiniest: insects.
"I Am an Insect: A Fluttering Processionary of Infinitesimal Ideas" is set in the yard of 19th century entomologist Jean Henri Fabre and features fanciful puppet versions of beloved and reviled insects including ladybugs, dung beetles and ants.
Fabre taught himself about entomology, taking extensive notes about the creatures in his garden and theorizing in books about their behavior. Not everything he theorized panned out, but Paperhand founder Donovan Zimmerman says he likes Fabre's approach.
"Some of his philosophy of 'My laboratory is the open field' is very much in tune with Jan and I -- our philosophy of just observing the world around us and getting enchanted by the natural world," Zimmerman says of "Insect," which he created with co-founder Jan Burger.
Among the "Insect" performers are a butterfly with a wingspan of at least 15 feet, which takes three people to operate, and a 10-person "grandmother spider" inspired by mythical creation stories.
In keeping with Paperhand's family-friendly blend of activism and enchantment, the play features an ant insurrection against a queen ant, a stag beetle battle and grasshoppers on bicycles. It also features a live band playing original music.
In addition to the customary dowels, fabric and papier mâche, many of the puppets incorporate trash, Zimmerman says.
"It says something about life forms rising up out of whatever we may leave behind," he says of the recycled trash. "In the long run, creation will continue to manifest itself. That's generally where we find a little bit of hope."
"I Am an Insect" runs from Friday through Sept. 7 at UNC-Chapel Hill's outdoor Forest Theatre, with shows on Fridays through Sundays at 7 p.m., and preshow entertainment at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $10; $7 for children ages 3 to 12; free for children 2 and younger. Details: 923-1857 or www.paperhand.org.
The show moves to Raleigh's N.C. Museum of Art at 7 p.m. Sept. 12 and 13. Tickets are $15; $12 for members; $7.50 for children ages 7 to 12; free for children 6 and younger. Details: 715-5923 or www.ncartmuseum.org.
Performers in 2nd Avenue South's "Awake and Sing!" had a bout of double vision last weekend when director Al Singer's twin brother, Stephen Singer, visited from New York to coach the cast.
Theater fans know Al Singer from productions at Raleigh Ensemble Players, Burning Coal Theatre and elsewhere, as well as his creation of 2nd Avenue South, a Jewish community theater company now run by the Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center.
But his main calling is as a lawyer, and he is a latecomer to theater compared to his brother.
Stephen Singer has made a living as an actor, appearing on "The Sopranos," "Law & Order" and "Third Watch," among other TV shows and movies. He also performed in "The Iceman Cometh" on Broadway and in many off-Broadway shows.
Al Singer had hoped his brother might perform in "Awake and Sing!" -- Clifford Odets' Depression-era drama about a Jewish family in the Bronx. But his schedule precluded it.
Instead, theatergoers can see the fruits of the twins' directorial teamwork when the play opens Aug. 15 at the Meymandi Theater in Burning Coal's Murphey School auditorium in downtown Raleigh. The show runs through Aug. 31. Tickets are $18; $15 for seniors and students. Details: 676-6170 or www.rcjcc.org.
Taste N.C. Salsa
If TV's "Dancing with the Stars" has given you salsa fever, you can catch some hot non-ballroom-style salsa performances at this weekend's N.C. Salsa Festival.
Head to George's Garage in Durham Friday or Saturday to see a mix of local and international salseros. Dancing starts at 11 p.m. Friday with guest performances at midnight. On Saturday, the action is split between George's and the neighboring G-Loft.
Performances are at 8:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., with dancing in the ballroom at 10 p.m. and Orquesta GarDel playing live at 11 p.m.
Sunday's closing party is at Carmen's Cuban Café and Lounge in Morrisville. The festival also features dance workshops. Details: 521-5426, www.ncsalsafestival.com.