Puppets are anarchists by nature.
That's why artist Emily Laychak loves them. Laychak is a Pittsburgh native who spent many creative years in New Orleans before finding herself in the Hostess City. When she applied for Sulfur Studios' ON::VIEW Artist-in-Residency Program, she knew that puppets had to be involved.
“The cool thing about puppets is that they're so versatile,” Laychak said. “They're totally lawless as an art form. You can really do anything with them. Anything can be a puppet.”
Laychak has been spending her time in the front room of Sulfur Studios drawing and building the sets and props for her poetic interpretation of Armageddon which will be performed by “a theater of clowns.”
“Judgement Day Circus” is a puppetry production “inspired by the chaos and reigning spiritualities of our times” which Laychak hit upon when she was drawing flyers for the apocalypse to amuse herself.
“I'm an illustrator and printmaker initially,” Laychak explained. “I went to school for sculpture. But puppets can bring all that together. The key thing about puppetry is that it is an art form for the people. It is not an elitist art form... It's been used to educate the masses throughout time, speaking to the poor and illiterate in all kinds of situations. It's just a really accessible art form — literally for everyone.”
Laychak decided that she would create a sort of existential circus that was a combination of a live action picture book and a poetic account of the end times. It'll be what she calls a “spirited spectacle” filled with archetypes, myths, and symbolism.
“It's been fun and funny for me to be talking about Judgement Day for the last few months,” Laychak said. “I sound crazy, but it was definitely inspired by the climate that we're currently in.”
This Saturday, Laychak will be conducting a workshop for people of all ages where various one act performances will be created to be exhibited on April 6. On April 5, visitors can view Laychak's creations during the First Friday reception and meet the mastermind behind the madness.
“There's a lot of Savannah artists involved in my cast,” Laychak added. “And a lot of friends in general have been helping me with woodwork and space.”
Savannah musicians Lady Valore and Skippy Spiral are two of the participating locals and Laychak is planning to include all sorts of puppetry designs, from shadow puppets and marionettes to puppets based on antique toy designs.
While Laychak is thrilled to be bringing her outside-the-box production to Savannah, she hopes that what she and other artists are doing at Sulfur can spark a wider renaissance in Savannah's art community.
“I think that there's a lot of untapped potential in this city because it's so beautiful,” Laychak said. “I think there's a really talented community here that doesn't have a lot of resources and space and that's why Sulfur was like a beacon to me when I came here, because this studio collective is it. It's the whole thing. So I am so grateful and honored to have any connection to them while I work on this show."