Puppets are underused as a means of artistic expression. In Western culture, the puppet show is sidelined as "kid stuff," implying that the medium is not an effective method for conveying anything other than simplistic stories.
Local artist Kelsey LaPoint begs to differ. In the past five years, she has mounted three puppet shows that have stretched the boundaries of the art to include more than just buttons and felt. LaPoint integrates poets, musicians, video projection and a unique style of set design to create other worlds that invite the audience in, sometimes to a claustrophobic degree.
Her latest endeavor, X-P.O.E. Anima(l), is a meditation on the frequently strained relationship between the human and animal kingdoms -- "particularly, how we perceive [animals] for our own empowerment and entertainment," LaPoint says in her notes for the work. In the somewhat moribund confines of the Historic Lemp Brewery (3500 Lemp Avenue; 314-995-4963 or www.newmusiccircle.org), LaPoint and more than twenty collaborators have created a dark and mysterious world, with caged monsters and streams of debris surrounding the audience. While the Nuclear Percussion Ensemble, Rich O'Donnell and dulcimer player Mary Sparks create an all-encompassing soundtrack, puppets, human performers, imaginary creatures, video projections and the darkness of the building itself blend together to tell a story that happens all around you. Think of it as a collage -- where you become the final layer of the production.
X-P.O.E. Anima(l) surrounds you at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday (May 20 and 21). Admission is $6 to $12. -- Paul Friswold
Some of us are considerate enough to recycle, but few of us have the vision needed to transform seemingly useless refuse into works of art. To celebrate such vision and to raise funds for healthy watersheds and clean air, the Missouri Coalition for the Environment is putting on Re-creation, an art show/auction displaying work from more than 40 artists (such as Sandra Mullins' System Integration, pictured). The preview party is from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 19, at the City Museum (701 North 15th Street), and admission is $5. Online bidding begins Friday, May 20, and ends June 16 (a closing party will be held then). For more information call 314-727-0600 or check out www.moenviron.org. -- Guy Gray
Some questions may never be answered to our satisfaction. Why do forty-year-old mothers insist on dressing like their fifteen-year-old daughters? Who put the "bop" in the bop shoo bop shoo bop? (Inside sources reveal it was Mr. Night, but we're unsure of the motive.) Thomas Frank (pictured) may not know the answers to these questions, but in What's the Matter with Kansas? he offers a water-tight analysis of a much more important phenomenon: the tendency of working-class people to vote against their own economic interests. In his incisive and often very funny book, Frank tackles this question with a keen eye toward "liberal backlash" and the social climate of middle America. He reads from and discusses Kansas at 7 p.m. at Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731). The event is free. -- Brooke Foster
The House That Jazz Built
Jazz music's demise has been proclaimed almost as often as the novel's. But look at 'em both -- they're fine. No Hollywood numbers here, yet each of these art forms is clearly too tough to die. Grand Center's Jazz at the Bistro (3536 Washington Avenue; 314-531-1012) is the place to visit in St. Louis for proof of the music's hardiness. Help JATB celebrate the upcoming 2005-2006 season (its tenth) by attending the Bistro's third annual Open House this Friday and Saturday, May 20 and 21, at 8:30 p.m. JATB Director of Operations Bob Bennett provides the music, and there'll be door prizes both nights -- plus, it don't cost a thing for this swing. -- Alex Weir