Known for his extraordinary puppets in The Lion King, Michael Curry has conceived, designed, and directed a show of his own, Michael Curry--Spirits, which will premiere June 7, 8, and 9 in Portland, OR. Inspired by Brazilian capoeria, Curry creates an imaginary spirit world combining puppetry with movement by five choreographers, and an original score for a six-piece ensemble by Alan Jones. The story is led by a shaman, who plays the berimbau, a one-stringed instrument originally from Angola. He encounters such spirits as the noble angel, who stands 7'5" tall, with realistic yet synthetic head and shoulders worn by an actor. A Sherpa guide dances a pas de deux with an apparition in the form of a 16' inflatable sculpture, or flying rig, which is controlled by the dancer; the dancer's arms become the Sherpa's.
Curry himself will operate what he calls "the best puppet," a 7'5"-tall earth angel that is a bunraku-style puppet with wings made of spring wire, carbon fiber, and blue-green gossamer fabric (sheer polyester) that changes color when seen from different angles. "Her wings beat in the air or fold behind her," says Curry, who admits he will have an understudy when the production sets out on tour. "This is the hardest thing I have ever done," he admits. "But I often wondered if I was sitting in the front row of the perfect show what it would look like. This is it."