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Open Eye goes small, small scale in 'Refreshments'

​Open Eye Figure Theatre's Michael Sommers admits his latest work "isn't the best business model."

For Refreshments, which runs through next weekend at the south Minneapolis theater, audiences will participate in a three-part promenade-style shadow-puppet show in and around the theater. Audiences for each performance are limited to 20.

The pieces center on loss and lamentations. "It's a great pre-summer event in the spirit of sadness," Sommers says.

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The genesis for Refreshments came last summer, when Sommers traveled to Indonesia. "I was there for research and did some teaching. There was also a festival in Jakarta that I was asked to perform at. So I performed there at the schools and a little bit on the streets."

While there, Sommers immersed himself in the traditional shadow puppet forms of the country. The ideas jostled around in his mind until he was asked to participate in a self-portrait art show. "I made a shadow puppet and thought about the pantheon of Gods and the role of the clown in all of these works."

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The mythic traditions of the culture, centered on the battle between the gods of light and dark, fuel Refreshments. The evening features several different pieces presented throughout the Open Eye Figure Theatre and surroundings.

To make the shadow puppets, Sommers has used a laser cutter, which means the pieces, while still created by the puppeteer's hands, are also very intricate.

Along with looking at the pantheon of Indonesian gods, Sommers also explored the idea of lamentations. "In the first piece, light is defeated by dark, which causes the lamentations," he says.

After that, the audience is divided into two groups to see the second segment before reuniting for the finale. There will also be food and drink before and after the program. 

"I always like doing something different this time of year; something that can inspire further work. It lets me do what I want to do and use the space in a different way," Sommers says.
He is also hoping to bring a sense of the story and style to Open Eye. "There's nothing post-modern about this. I want to explore how you tell the story through this arcane performance form," he says.

He also wants to bring the feeling of disorientation that can come from visiting a foreign land. "There is always that sense of not knowing exactly what is going on," Sommers says. 

Performances of Refreshments start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $18 and are not available at the door.