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Hand, hand, fingers, fun

Marionettes entertain crowd at HCC

Marionettes entertain crowd at HCC

February 20, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

An audience of about 500 watched Capt. Hook run offstage Sunday as a large, ticking crocodile waddled closer to him.

Above the scene, David Syrotiak, 69, was pulling strings and mouthing words.

Syrotiak started the National Marionette Theatre about 45 years ago and now performs worldwide with his two children, Catie and Peter Syrotiak. They pulled the strings of at least 18 marionettes Sunday afternoon for a performance of "Peter Pan" at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater.

David Syrotiak, who writes the group's scripts, said adapting a story to fit the needs of the puppeteers can be challenging.

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"You have to make sure there aren't eight characters on stage talking at the same time," he said. "There are only three of us."

The Syrotiaks stood about 6 feet off of the floor while moving the strings of each character. Each marionette needs at least 11 strings to do basic movements on stage, Peter Syrotiak told the crowd after the show.

Children were invited to ask questions and also visit backstage.

The stage itself appeared larger, but was actually only 12 feet wide and 2 feet tall, Peter Syrotiak said after the play. Each puppet's strings are 7 feet long.

Brittany Durben, 5, of Williamsport, had seen the Disney movie "Peter Pan" before Sunday's marionette version. She was able to spot immediately which parts had been left out of the theater adaptation.

"It wasn't the whole movie," she said. "I know it."

The part of the performance when Capt. Hook threatened the Lost Boys and discovered their hideout was underground was not in the Disney version, she said.

"I really liked it," she said.

Syerra Grove, 5, and her twin brother Dakota Grove, also 5, each liked a different animal from the play.

Syerra liked the crocodile - the largest puppet used Sunday - which was usually chasing Capt. Hook.

"He bit the pirate," she said.

Dakota said his favorite marionette was the dog, Nana.

Nine-year-old Katie Snyder said she also liked the crocodile.

"When it kept coming, (Capt. Hook) kept getting scared," she said.

Peter Syrotiak said children are usually surprised to see what happens backstage.

"It was king of amazing," said Joey Pietrzak, 8, of Hagerstown.

The puppeteers stand on a large platform above the stage and have to coordinate moving around each other while moving their characters.

"We're sort of on autopilot backstage," David Syrotiak said.

At one point during the show, Tinkerbell - made from a clear Christmas ornament with a white light and a battery inside - began to flicker. The light eventually burned out.

He said a spare Tinkerbell was used.

"We had to bring in the stunt Tinkerbell," Peter Syrotiak said.

Mariah Chapelle, 10, of Sharpsburg, said she saw the National Marionette Theatre's performance at HCC last year when they performed "Snow White."

Sunday's performance was about the 15th time the group has performed at HCC, David Syrotiak said.

"We do as much as we can for three people," Peter Syrotiak said. "And whenever we do a show, we do one that is for both adults and children."

Next year, the group will be performing "Pinocchio" at HCC.

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