Tanglewood Marionettes’ upcoming performance of “The Dragon King” at Flushing Town Hall is the perfect escape from reality, with beautifully hand-crafted marionette puppets, a colorful set and calming music.
Peter and Anne Schaefer, the husband and wife duo behind Tanglewood Marionettes, are experienced and passionate puppeteers who are excited to share this tale with Queens once again.
“‘The Dragon King’ is an original story based on elements from Chinese folklore. It’s a hero quest style story,” said Anne. “Basically, there’s a drought and the people of the land are suffering. And in Chinese mythology, the Dragon King is the deity that controls everything to do with water.”
Without spoiling the ending, she added that the grandmother in the story is the heroine, and guests will be able to see her journey to the depths of the sea, and all the beauty and complexity that comes along the way.
Peter Schaefer comes from a family of puppeteers, so the art form was always something that he wanted to dedicate himself to. For Anne, she never expected to become a puppeteer.
“I studied art in college, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do once I graduated,” she said.
“So I took a job at a marionette company that we both worked for, and it turned out to be the rest of my life.”
The Schaefers formed Tanglewood Marionettes in 1993 and have toured around the United States ever since.
Anne said being a puppeteer is incredibly rewarding because the art form combines so many elements: sculpting, painting, playwriting, costume designing and set design.
“You also get to travel and be a roadie,” Peter said.
“Our touring schedule got totally knocked out when the pandemic first started,” he added. “We spent the first couple of months figuring out how we were going to continue to perform, because marionettes don’t really translate to video very well.”
In response, the company developed a program during the pandemic, specifically intended to work with schools to bring joy into the classroom and keep their love of puppetry alive.
One thing that makes Tanglewood Marionettes so unique is that they provide audience members with an “unmasked” experience, allowing them to watch them work their magic from above the puppets.
“One of my favorite things is to look at the faces during the performance, because they’re so absorbed in that moment,” said Peter.
“A lot of live theater is about the interaction between the audience and the performer, and every crowd is unique, different and fun. I have fond memories of doing shows in the middle of nowhere in a one-room school room with only 10 kids watching.”
“The Dragon King” will only be in the neighborhood for one day, December 11 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Be sure to snag your tickets before they sell out, and of course to find out how the grandmother becomes a hero.