International Breakdown 

International breakdown Orlando International Puppet Festival
July 21, 25 and 26
Orlando Repertory Theatre and
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre
$6-$12; 407-896-7365, ext. 1

Puppets are crafted from equal parts cloth and chaos; wherever they go, you can expect the unexpected. So it isn't entirely surprising that the Orlando Puppet Festival — founded in 2005 by Heather Henson's Ibex Puppetry -— ran into some snafus in its evolution into the Orlando International Puppet Festival. Stumbling block No. 1 was the Department of Homeland Security, which saw fit to deny Los Titiriteros de Binéfar — a family of Spanish street puppet artists- — passage into these United States, apparently for fear that they and their rod-propelled performers were planning to defect. (Someone should inform the State Department that Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.)

I was disappointed when the cancellation of the Spanish troupe's show last Friday, El Hombre Cigüeña (The Stork Man), intended as the inaugural event of the festival, was announced a day before its debut. Thankfully, the substitute show was, as Ibex's Jamie Donmoyer exclaimed in her introduction, "even more exciting." Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, who headlined last fall's OPF ("The new puppetry," Nov. 6, 2008), returned to town on the red-eye to save the day.

Billed as a "performance workshop," the charmingly casual creation was 60 percent cabaret, 40 percent confessional Q&A and 100 percent kooky. Leslie inhabited characters from her previous shows and the new one she's presenting at next week's prestigious National Puppetry Festival in Atlanta, including her sugar-addicted 5-year-old Lolly (still bitterly jealous of her "sister," Sesame Street's Abby Cadabby) and Grandma Dot, who was inspired by an audience question to display her nonagenarian knockers, in one of the afternoon's brilliantly blue moments. Carrara-Rudolph's educational and artistic mission (and the name of her show) is to "Wake Up Your Weird," and with the semi-improvised assistance of local pianist John deHaas, she succeeded in keeping my eyes (and occasionally my mouth) wide open.

The OIPF takes a break until Tuesday, July 21, when France's Compagnie La Pendue performs at the Orlando Rep. That's so it can synch up with the Target Family Theatre Festival, which has "partnered" with the OIPF and will provide their box office. And sadly, Nosferatu by Bob Théâtre of France has also been canceled for "unforeseen circumstances," and a replacement for the July 25 show is TBD. Hopefully we won't declare war on Canada or Mexico before next weekend, and the Coad Canada Puppets and Marionetas de la Esquina will make it across the border unmolested.

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