Entertainment Highlights: Puppeteers Go Beyond the Disney Version in Presenting Fairy Tales

Many fairy tales have complicated histories. Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, for instance, most definitely does not end with the title character marrying a prince. Instead, the prince marries someone else, and the little mermaid commits suicide (though there is some positivity just after that moment).

The disparity between the Disney-fied versions of these tales and their messier originals can leave a storyteller a surprisingly large middle ground. The stories, as well-known as they are, have a certain malleability to them.

No Strings Marionette Company, a pair of puppeteers based in Randolph that has been performing in New England and beyond since 1996, try to mine that gray area in its shows, even as they keep the performances tailored to children. On Tuesday, they’ll perform their version of Jack and the Beanstalk, one of nine shows they have at the ready, on the South Royalton Green.

One half of the duo, Dan Baginski, said in an interview that No Strings’ Jack samples some of the moral ambiguity of older versions of the tale, without necessarily delving into it headfirst.

“We try to do that for a lot of our shows, but we don’t want to go too fluffy,” Baginski said.

So the Jack of No Strings’ version isn’t quite the straightforward protagonist we’re used to seeing. Earlier versions of the story didn’t give Jack the motivation of retribution, so he could be seen as a thief when he takes the goose and harp from the giant.

The show, Baginski said, is not meant to be frightening, but rather to introduce a bit of conflict into the proceedings.

Those proceedings will include a realistic group of marionettes, all made by Baginski and Barbara Paulson, and their own set design. It’ll also include several journeys into the audience: One play offers a pterodactyl flying through the crowd; Jack and the Beanstalk will have the titular character chased by the giant.

No Strings’ ethos is to tell much of each story visually, so that even young kids without a firm grasp of the nuances of language can easily understand what’s going on.

“We want you to really buy into it,” Baginski said. “We want you to almost forget they’re puppets, on one level.”

Until afterward. The show begins with a short sing-along, leading into the show itself, which lasts about a half-hour, and then a question-and-answer session following that, during which kids can see how the marionettes move; in a way, how the actors act.

“It’s like mini-theater,” Baginski said. “We do all aspects of theater, but our actors are little tiny guys.”

The No Strings Marionette Company will perform “Jack and the Beanstalk” on Tuesday at noon for free on the South Royalton Green. It will also perform at the New World Festival in Randolph on Sept. 1.

Best Bets

∎ Two accomplished classical musicians will play Brahms in New London at the First Baptist Church on Friday night. Lura Johnson, the principal pianist of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, and Jonathan Carney, a violinist and concertmaster for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, will perform Brahms’ Three Violin Sonatas and his Intermezzo for Piano Solo, Op. 118 No. 2. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $5 for students, and can be purchased at SummerMusicAssociates.com, at the door or at several locations in New London. Call 603-526-8234 for more information.

∎ Jazz vocalist and trombonist Elizabeth Frascoia (nee Dotson-Westphalen), who goes by the stage name elizabeth!, will perform on the lawn of Windsor’s Snapdragon Inn on Saturday. The Woodstock Union High School graduate, who now is based in New York and Los Angeles, will play alongside Upper Valley jazz stalwarts including Fred Haas and David Westphalen. Tickets are $12, and can be purchased from the inn, by sending an email to innkeeper@snapdragoninn.com or by calling 802-227-0008. In case of rain, the show will be moved indoors.


∎ Folk quartet Sattuma is not your average folk group — unlike the image of folk we’ve come to expect, Sattuma brings a heavy Finnish, Karelian and Russian tradition to its music. The four members also combine to play a total of 20 instruments, from violins to bagpipe to a bowed lyre called a jouhikko. The group will perform at 7 p.m. tonight at the Norwich Congregational Church. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for those younger than 18 years old, and will be sold at the door.

∎ Singer-songwriters Patrick Fitzsimmons and Aaron Flinn, who often write and perform separately but are also given to collaboration, will play individual sets and then as a duo at Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction on Friday night. The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.tupelohallvermont.com, and cost $15.

∎ The rock group The RoadTrash Band will perform as part of Windsor’s Concerts on the Common Series on Wednesday, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

∎ The North Country Chamber Players will present Bach in Bloom , a performance of classical music from composers including Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky and Schumann, at Haverhill’s Alumni Hall on Sunday. The show begins at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20, and those under 18 get in free. To purchase tickets, go to www.alumnihall.org.

∎ Tom Groleau, the former drummer for Boston band The Mudhens, will bring a solo acoustic performance to the Quechee Green tonight at 6:30 p.m.

∎ The Yankee Brass Band, which uses antique instruments, will perform in Windsor’s Old South Church on Main Street on Friday at 7 p.m. At 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, the band plays at the Union Church in Claremont.


∎ The Meetinghouse Readings in Canaan will hold its penultimate event tonight, starting at 7:30 p.m. Pulitzer Prize finalist Megan Marshall will read from her new biography of Margaret Fuller, released in March of this year, and bestselling author Chris Bohjalian will read from his novel, The Light in the Ruins.


∎ The New London Barn Playhouse will premiere a new, original play on Wednesday that was written by a Dartmouth College senior lecturer. A Legendary Romance, authored by Timothy Prager and Geoff Morrow, and directed by Dartmouth College senior lecturer Carol Dunne, follows a retired Hollywood film producer who is dismayed when a movie is made about his life. In response, he tries to rewrite his life with a happier ending. The show runs through Aug. 4. There are two shows on Wednesday, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $18.50 to $33 and can be purchased from www.nlbarn.org.

∎ A series of staged readings and performances of three plays, all written by Dartmouth students, will be put on by the school’s Theater Department at the Hopkins Center through the weekend. The plays were all contest winners as part of the Eleanor Frost & Ruth and Loring Dodd Play Festival. Tickets range from $3 to $4. For specific plays and performances, as well as to purchase tickets, go to www.hop.dartmouth.edu.

∎ Children’s Theatre continues its eight-week cycle of plays on Monday with a pair of Upper Valley performances of the classic Rapunzel. The troupe, which is based in Lincoln, N.H., will perform at the Claremont Opera House at 10 a.m. ($6 at the door) and at the Plainfield Town Hall at 1 p.m. ($7 at the door, and $25 for a four-pack). The shows are about a half-hour long, and are targeted for ages 3 and up.

Bar and Club Circuit

Acoustic rocker Dan Walker will come from the Granite State’s seacoast to Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Friday. The music starts at 9 p.m. The same time the next night, the funky four-piece Wall-Stiles will play at the bar.

∎ Walker will also play at Jesse’s in Hanover at 5 p.m. on Friday.

∎ Rock and dance band Conniption Fits will play a 21-and-over show at Salt hill Lebanon at 9 p.m. on Friday. On Saturday at 9 p.m., Enfield’s Brooks Hubbard will bring his acoustic rock to the pub.

∎ Acoustic duo Andrew & Kitch of Sunapee will stop by a Salt hill Pub for the second time this month tonight, when they play Salt hill Newport at 8:30 p.m. Jim Hollis will play at the bar at 9 p.m. Friday, and the multifaceted Claremont band The Squids will perform at 9 p.m. the next night.

∎ Blues artist Bill Brink will stop by the Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon on Friday. His show starts at 9 p.m.

∎ Jim Yeager will play tonight at Bentley’s Restaurant in Woodstock. The show begins at 8 p.m.

∎ Upper Valley mainstay Brian Warren will perform at Quechee’s River Stones Tavern Friday night at 8.

∎ Hanover’s Canoe Club has another full weekend of performers slated, all beginning at 7 p.m. Tonight, the versatile Susan Gabriel will perform alongside David Westphalen. Guitarist Phil Singer will perform on Friday, and Gillian Joy will bring her solo piano show to the restaurant on Saturday.

∎ Sensible Shoes will make its way to Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern on Friday. Music starts at 9 p.m.

Open Mics

∎ Salt hill Pub in Hanover runs an open mic, hosted by Chad Gibbs, on Mondays at 9 p.m.

∎ At Salt hill in Lebanon, Brian Warren and Seth Barbiero will host an open mic tonight starting at 8.

∎ Brian Warren also hosts an open mic at Bentleys Restaurant in Woodstock. It’s on Mondays, starting at 8:30 p.m.

∎ Bradford’s Colatina Exit hosts an open mic on Tuesdays starting at 8 p.m.

∎ The Wheelers run an open mic night at the Seven Barrel Brewery on Wednesday, beginning at 8 p.m.

∎ Gregory Brown hosts an open mic at Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern, beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3242. Send Highlights to Highlights@vnews.com.


This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The play A Legendary Romance, which will begin its run at the New London Barn Playhouse on Wednesday, was authored by Timothy Prager and Geoff Morrow. It will be directed by Dartmouth College senior lecturer Carol Dunne. An earlier version of this article gave the wrong authors.