"I hear about places like Afghanistan in the news, and I feel I'm getting such an incomplete portrayal. We only see it as a place that's very negative and full of conflict," puppet maker Tori Ralston observes. "That makes me wonder about the people there—about the women, the children and its history."
She's describing the inspiration for Harvesting Pomegranate Dreams, a "puppet dream play" she is developing this week in a workshop for UNC's Process Series. The work will incorporate the poetry of Rumi and Rabindranath Tagore, as well as the tales of Nasrudin, an ancient, comic figure of wisdom from the Middle East.
"I think there's just an ancient heart to the culture that I want to tap into," Ralston says. "Afghanistan is just one part of it—the lands of pomegranates and their people. I felt the sense of wanting to understand what's positive and rich and beautiful about the culture, in their music and stories and literature."
Ralston's Theater of Performing Objects will collaborate with local videomakers and filmmakers Jim Haverkamp and Alex Maness over the week at UNC, exploring how various projection techniques using differing types of surfaces can interact with her marionettes, found materials, Bunraku and shadow puppetry.
"I'm strongly curious about the beautiful veils these women wear," Ralston says. "One of the characters I'm trying to create and understand is a woman who makes shadow puppets of all the things she's seeing—war, daily life, family, everything in her consciousness—inside her burqa, inside a bigger veil."
The workshop's public showings are Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. As always, admission for the Process Series is free. —Byron Woods