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Cory Einbinder’s amazing puppet stars in ‘The Service Road’

String theory

The Brooklyn Paper

With great scientific advances come great puppets.

The Adhesive Theater Company has made good use of their residency at the New York City College of Technology, producing the technologically dazzling, multi-media, performance-spectacle “The Service Road” — and giving birth to one rather peculiar, but undeniably original puppet.

“I’ve been fantasizing about building a puppet like this for some time,” said Cory Einbinder, the artistic director at Adhesive Theater. “Fortunately, technology has finally caught up.”

Einbinder’s mannequin may, at first glance, seem like nothing more than a string-operated toddler with an obscenely large head — he calls it, appropriately, Big-Headed Toddler, or “Tod” for short. But flip a switch and his creation’s broad countenance will glow with the projected image of its puppeteer’s face.

“We’re using some new technology and it really brings this boy to life, really giving him a full range of expression and gives the audience the impression of a little, two-year-old toddler walking around on stage,” the puppet master said.

The key to this radical technology is the rapidly diminished size of pico, or handheld projectors, one of which Einbinder has lodged comfortably in his puppet’s over-sized noggin.

The projector is then connected to a camera, which Einbinder has rigged to transmit the puppeteer’s expressions in real time onto the doll’s face.

“Projectors are just getting small enough, bright enough, and last long enough on a battery to make it feasible to be used on stage,” said Einbinder.

For Einbinder, it may come as a relief to finally take the Big-Headed Toddler out of his head and onto the stage, but for puppeteer Caroline Tamas, the challenge of operating “Tod” and acting in front of a camera took some getting used to.

“I was not aware of how ambidextrous and coordinated I needed to be in order to really inhabit him — it’s like that old trick of patting your head and rubbing your stomach simultaneously,” Tamas said.

“I spent much of the first day cross-eyed because the camera, harnessed to a helmet, hangs about one-foot in front of my eyes,” she added.

The performance itself, “The Service Road,” deals with the themes of remorse and the Herculean task of redemption, and takes place in good-old Prospect Park.

“The play is about a park tour guide and it takes place during a very violent storm, not unlike one we just had here in Brooklyn and through that, things begin to unravel for her and she keeps trying to do good, but her past is haunting her” Einbinder said.

Aside from “Tod” and the heroine tour guide, the cast is rounded out by the set itself, which buckles and billows as the storm rolls in.

“The set itself is kind of like a giant puppet, we have these trees on the stage that bend and kind of collapse and do different things with the storm coming, so the whole set is really interactive,” said Einbinder.

“The Service Road” at the Voorhees Building on the City Tech campus(186 Jay St. near between High and Nassau streets in Downtown, www.theatreworkscitytech.org). Opens Jan. 11 7:30 pm, through Feb. 2.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

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