You might not know it, but I’m pretty picky when it comes to deciding what I’ll post a press release about. Credit to press agent Nicole Krueger, then. She wrote me the following sentence: "It’s a puppet show. Hamburger puppets, to be precise." Well, shoot. I’m only human. Here it is, folks.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nicole Krueger
City of Hamburgers Springs to Life on Puppet Stage
August 31, 2009 — Imagine a plateful of hamburgers and hot dogs springing to life, dancing and cavorting to the tunes of a live “oom-pa-pa” band.
The creators of a new Brooklyn arts organization did.
Using rod puppets of hamburgers and hot dogs, the nonprofit poetry and theater group Alphabet Arts has adapted the children’s book City of Hamburgers into a puppet show, which will debut Sept. 12 and 13 in two Brooklyn neighborhoods.
City of Hamburgers, written by Simpsons writer Mike Reiss and illustrated by Xeth Feinberg, tells the story of an imaginative boy named Jeffrey, who asks his German grandmother to describe what it was like growing up in the city of Hamburg. She recalls her youth as a Hamburger and her eventual marriage to a Frankfurter. The book, with its laugh-out-loud illustrations and clever wordplay, recently won ForeWord magazine’s bronze “Book of the Year” award.
“The characters in City of Hamburgers are begging to be puppets,” said Kirsten Kammermeyer, a puppeteer, arts educator and co-founder of Alphabet Arts. “You want to see that little girl burger jump up and down and see her insides separate into the different burger toppings. You want to see the burger lady on the beach take her ‘top’ off.”
The show came about after a chance conversation with Rutgers professor Pheroze Wadia, who suggested Kammermeyer and her friends create a puppet show based on a book his grandkids loved. With a generous donation from Wadia, they formed Alphabet Arts and delved into the book with relish.
“A story as good as City of Hamburgers deserves to be brought to life through an art form as rich as puppetry,” said Amber West, a playwright, teaching artist and co-founder of Alphabet Arts. “We’ve adapted the story into a script but have left some room for improvisation and experimentation during the rehearsal process to develop the characters and bring out some of the important themes of the story, such as acceptance of differences, ‘interracial’ relationships, and what it means to become an American.”
To inquire about booking a performance of City of Hamburgers, or to make a donation to Alphabet Arts, visit www.alphabetarts.org.
“Probably 90 percent of everything for this show is made from scratch, including our ten-foot, two-panel wooden puppet stage,” West said. “We’re hoping to tour City of Hamburgers to other kid-friendly venues in and beyond New York in the future and to develop a post-show hands-on workshop in which our young audience members will create ‘puppet poems’ connecting their own stories, words and designs to themes in the play.”
- The show debuts with free performances Sept. 12 at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Hawthorne St. Block Party, 99 Hawthorne St. in Brooklyn.
- Additional shows take place Sept. 13 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Creative Arts Studio, 310 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn, with $5 tickets sold at the door. Mike Reiss and illustrator Xeth Feinberg will attend the Sept. 13 showings to sign copies of their book.
About Alphabet Arts
Alphabet Arts is a new nonprofit organization based in Brooklyn. It blends a variety of art forms, including poetry, puppetry, theater and music, to create innovative, quality live performances for both youth and adult audiences. Through multi-genre performances, educational programs and curriculum, Alphabet Arts educates, challenges and inspires individuals to become engaged thinkers and agents of change in their communities.
About the author
Mike Reiss has won four Emmys and a Peabody Award during his nineteen years writing for The Simpsons. In 2006, Reiss received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Animation Writers Caucus. He was also a contributing writer for the films Ice Age, Ice Age 2, Horton Hears a Who and 2007’s The Simpsons Movie. He has also written nine best-selling children’s books, including How Murray Saved Christmas, The Boy Who Looked Like Lincoln, Santa Claustrophobia and the award-winning Late for School.
About the illustrator
Xeth Feinberg is an independent animator, cartoonist and founder of New York City-based micro-animation studio Mishmash Media, Inc. He is the creator and director of some of the first online cartoons anybody ever seemed to like. Since the turn of the century, Xeth has worked with Mike Reiss on a number of projects.
About the publisher
Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, Inkwater Press has published more than 500 titles, including fiction and nonfiction, poetry and children’s books. Inkwater Press is a division of First Books, which was founded in 1988. The company is committed to a sustainable future, printing on recycled paper and using no animal-based products.
Title: City of Hamburgers
Author: Mike Reiss
Illustrator: Xeth Feinberg
Publisher: Inkwater Press
Publication Date: Sept. 23, 2008
Binding: Full Color Hardcover
Availability: Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, InkwaterBooks.com