The Secret Death of Puppets (or) How Do Puppets Die? (or) Puppets Die in Secret

A collection of three playlets about forbidden knowledge and our uncanny relationship to the inanimate. Together they are an homage to the work of Victoria Nelson.

Photo by Cathryn Lynne. Pictured: Amanda Villalobos
Photo by Cathryn Lynne. Pictured: Matt Leabo.
Photo by Cathryn Lynne. Pictured: Laurena Allan
Photo by Cathryn Lynne. Pictured: Matt Leabo and Suzanne Davies
Photo by Cathryn Lynne. Pictured: Alessandro Magania and Suzanne Davies

Read Sample

[2.] The attic of the Inn.

Oh, it’s cold up here.

You can see that the windows are closed.

I dreamed there would be a party here. Not this. It’s so painful, such a disappointment. Such an inconvenience. It’s hard to be a traveler.
You have no right to make demands,
and yet you have every right. You have no rights to make demands.
And yet, it is your duty to make demands. No rights, but duty. Travelling is slavery.

Hm? Hmm? Hmph. Where did he go? Where did he go. Where have I gone. Where did I go. What language am I speaking? Am I good at speaking to the natives? Do I know enough of the customs? Do I wonder what has happened to my daughter. What is that scratching?

Hulloh! Innkeep! Cut the scratching!
Discomfort enough without mental torture on top! Cut it! Oh. Hoh! A . . . it’s a . . . damned bird. Well. Hello, bright black. Crazy. And bad luck on top, is a bird in the house.
Still. A bat is worse. Worse luck? Just worse. Yet if the bird shits on you, it’s good luck. Enough good luck to annul the bad from its being in the house? They cancel one another out, a positive and a negative number? I never believed in the existence of negative numbers, yet . . . Well, it’s worth a try. Bird! Come here and shit on me please. Bird? Over here, just right here, on my arm. Nothing on my face or anything untidy. What say you, friend. Very easy. I know you’ve got some at the ready. You birds can shit instantaneously, without thinking about it. It’s so natural for you. Without even pushing. Friend. I’ve no other friends in this land, and so I call you so. What say you? Hm?

Hvor er min fra? Et fugleliv, fuglivet er full, fullte, fulle likeså en fosse, fossen, funnes ei furu, furua, og en følelse, følelsen. Når ble du født? Kan jeg få førerkortet, førerkortene? Neig? Følsom, følsomt, følsomme. Fugleliv, følelsesliv. Førtiende fødselsdag.


I know of this.
I know of this.
I cannot understand what you are saying, yet I know that I could, WERE I TO WISH IT SO, hm? So you are that kind of bird! Yes, clearly; there are no windows open, so. Well. What should I do. It would be better for me if I could just speak to you in your language, just for a minute, enough to tell you please to shit on my arm. I don’t want to get involved with you or those that sent you really.
Yet wait.
Whose luck is it? If it’s mine, my luck, it’s worth it. If it’s his, the Innkeep, it’s not worth it to me. Look at how he treats his guests! Whose luck to you represent, anyway, Bird? And who sent you? And why to me? Perhaps it’s better for me just to shoo you away. Hm?

Å ønske, ønsker, ønsket, har ønsket, ønske seg. Ønske (noen) velkommen.
Ørret. Øsa. Ølbolle, ølbollen.
Øverst, øverst øyeblikk.
Øyeblikkelig, øyeblikkelige øyeblikk.
Vidunderlig, videnderlig vinke.
Vikeplikt. Vennskap. Vinter seilbåt.
Seter, sankthans. Sannhet. Tillit. Belg, skolm. Griskhet? Forgift? Buktaler? Bøddel.

To wish to understand. To wish to understand. To wish to understand.
To wish to understand.

Where am I from? The bird life. Bird life is full, full, full likewise a waterfall, waterfalls, existed the pine, pines, and feeling, emotion. When were you born? May I get a driver’s license? No? Sensitive, sensitive, sensitive. Bird life, emotional life. Fortieth birthday.

I understand this bird now. I understand the words he is saying. But can I comprehend what he means? Now that I can understand, is it worth it to have wished? If the words are senseless? What will it mean? And I know that I have turned to acknowledge something that there is now no turning away from. This bird is a messenger. I didn’t ask for this, but yet then I did ask for it. Oh -

To wish, wish, wish, have a wish, wish for oneself. Wish (someone) welcome.
Trout. Ladle. Wooden ale bowl, wooden ale bowls.
Uppermost, highest moment.
Instantaneous, immediate moment.
Marvelous, miraculous signal.
Obligation to yield to other traffic. Friendship. Winter sailboat.
Summer grazing farm, midsummer’s day. Truth. Trust. Pod, pod. Greediness? Poison? Ventriloquist? Executioner.

The Bird prepares to take flight. It flies against one of the windows and struggles there for a few seconds. It sinks to the floor. It tries again, struggling like a person drowning. It flies around the room, frantic, and smashes itself against the window. It falls to the floor, its little bird neck broken, dead.

The Innkeeper enters.

What is happening?

It’s not what it looks like.

The End
of the Second Playlet

Cast Requirements

2 W
1 M
3 Puppeteers


53rd State Press
Ich, KürbisGeist and The Secret Death of Puppets
by Sibyl Kempson
illustrated by Amanda Villalobos

In a special volume illustrated and designed by Amanda Villalobos come two of Sibyl Kempson's forays into the damp, weird soil of ghosts, curses, and the roots and cousins of American language. ICH, KÜRBISGEIST, an agricultural vengeance play for Hallowe'en, is written in a variant of Amer-English so oolde and wheeurd that you need to train your tongue and ear to read it. The three paranormal playlets of THE SECRET DEATH OF PUPPETS are composed in "Fraunch", English, and some kind of Nordic-Latin homonculus language of the undead. You'll want to read this to your children.


" ... an exploration of the grotesque and the uncanny that defies logic yet stirs a primitive impulse in us ... a pleasingly spine-tingling experience: half "Rosemary's Baby" and half theater of the absurd ... Attempts to explain it are futile ... It seems inexplicable, but somehow the combination produces an otherness that is just right ... It's an experience that forces us to stop thinking and start feeling. And that is the really scary part."
- Nicole Villeneuve for Backstage


Production and Development History

Full production November 2011, Dixon Place, NYC
Developed at Little Theater, CATCH! Performance Series and Puppet Blok.
Puppets by Amanda Villalobos. Direction by Leslie Strongwater. Set design by Eric Berninghausen. Sound by Karinne Keithley Syers and Ben Williams. Video by Suzanne Davies.