The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht. The title refers a little boy whose care is being disputed by two women. He is placed in a circle and the two women are asked to grab his arms and pull him out of the circle. The woman who pulls him out is …well, perhaps not the best mother. Of course the woman who loves Michael cannot harm him, and the woman who wants him for power and status is willing to rip him apart. Azdak, the judge, gives Michael to the loving woman.
The play is about many other things concerning judgment, and the ugly world created is no place for children. The director and designers decided to have all of the children in the play be ¾ sized puppets controlled by actors. By separating the human qualities of real children from the tasks they had to perform onstage, the poignant issues surrounding the children, especially Michael, become pretty clear and strong. Michael’s emotions depicted through his operator’s work were heart-rending. This puppet idea was inspired by the Bunraku puppets of Japan. Michael’s puppeteer was
going through the same emotions in order to transmit them to her puppet. At the top of this entry is a picture of the wooden armature for the Michael puppet made with scrap wood and a Styrofoam wig block, and left is a picture of the Michael puppet in the famous chalk circle. Part of designing this world included several pencil sketches, one of which is pictured on the right. The audience, when asked about the puppets responded, “What puppets?”