Pablo Cano: The Toy Box at the Museum of Contemporary Art

From September 22 through November 11, 2012.

The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) North Miami presents a revival of Pablo Cano: The Toy Box, an enchanting marionette production based on La Boîte à Joujoux, a children’s ballet composed by Claude Debussy in 1913.  First presented at MOCA in 2004, Pablo Cano: The Toy Box features marionettes created from found objects by Miami artist Pablo Cano, choreography by Katherine Kramer and music performed by pianist Karen Schwartz.  When not in performance, the marionettes, stage set and works on paper by Cano will be on view in MOCA’s main gallery as an exhibition.  This 2012 production celebrates the 150th anniversary of composer Claude Debussy’s birth.

Debussy’s La Boîte à Joujoux is a solo piano piece that was intended for marionettes but never realized during the French composer’s lifetime.  A delightful work containing French folk melodies, parodies of other composers, and quotations from Debussy’s own works, the musical score for La Boîte à Joujoux included drawings by artist André Hellé and told the story of a love triangle between three dolls, a ballerina, a toy soldier and Polichinelle (Punch). The cast of characters reflected the tradition of Commedia dell’arte and other stock characters popular in European street theatre.  Inspiration for the music came from Debussy’s seven-year-old daughter, Chouchou and her collection of old dolls.  Varying circumstances prevented the work from being staged with marionettes and plans to have it performed as a ballet were impeded by the outbreak of World War I.  Debussy’s orchestrations were posthumously completed by Andre Caplet, and the ballet premiered with an adult cast at the Theatre Lyrique du Vaudeville in 1919, a year after Debussy’s death. 

Cano’s marionettes infuse the production with a sense of wonderment that reflects the era in which the work was originally composed.  His harlequin, ballerina, and toy soldier characters were created in a Cubist style from such non-traditional materials as coffee cups, vintage piano keys, and seat cushions and move about on the stage like musical notes on a page. Elements of the early 20th Century Dada movement’s exploration of found objects, fantasy and the absurd are reflected in the production’s sense of playfulness. Cano’s expressionistic set design was influenced by the 1919 film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. 

Pablo Cano: The Toy Box Performance Schedule

Saturday, September 22 at 2:00 p.m.
Friday, September 28 at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 13 at 2:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 14 at Noon and 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 3 at 2:00 p.m.

Pablo Cano was born in Havana, Cuba in 1961; Cano’s influences include traditional marionette theater and performance art by the Dadaists of the 1920s.  Materials for his marionettes come from Miami thrift stores and streets of his Little Havana neighborhood.  Cano’s first mediums included painting, drawing, and ceramics.  At the age of 18, he began his study of Cuban art and identified with the work of artists such as Enrique Riberon, Amelia Pelaez, Wifredo Lam, and others.  During his 20’s, he became fascinated with the work of Russian Constructivist artist Alexandra Exter.  Inspired by Exter’s work and the use of found objects in Dada art, Cano began his own adventure in creating marionettes, taking advantage of the wide range of materials discarded on city streets. Choreographer Katherine Kramer has deeply influenced and inspired Cano to understand movement for the choreography of his solo marionette performances.  As a performance artist, he continually explores the challenges of space, movement, color, light and sound.  In addition, Cano has created The Pablo Cano Magical Marionette Theater, Gallery and Workshop at the new Young at Art Museum in Davie FL. Cano has performed in New York at Lincoln Center Out of Doors and exhibited at the Lincoln Center Gallery. This year, Cano has converted his home into The Red Velvet Theater, a white box space for experimental marionette and dance performances.  He holds a B.A. degree from Maryland Institute College of Art and an M.F.A. degree from Queens College in New York.

Katherine Kramer, Choreographer
The Toy Box revival is Katherine Kramer’s 10th collaboration with Pablo Cano.  She is a performer, choreographer, educator, movement coach, producer, who is working this year as Artist-in-Residence for the Theater and Dance Program at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.  As a jazz tap dancer and musician, she specializes in coaching dancers in musicality and musicians in physicality and has collaborated with many of the finest in both genres.  Her “Whole Body Music” method of training both dancers and musicians has been presented in residencies at universities throughout the U.S.  She is the recipient of a 2010 Artist’s Innovation Award from the Montana Arts Council, a 2008 Fulbright Grant to work in Prague, and she received a Creation Fund Grant from the National Performance Network, and created Stop Look Listen, which was performed in Miami and New York.  Her one-woman show, Rhythms of the Heart, included performances at Jacob’s Pillow and international festivals.  In Havana, Cuba, she has taught tap to Danza Contemporarea and Conjunto Folklorica de Cuba, and in Fortaliez, Brazil worked with Valeria Pinherio and Co. Vata. She served as choreographer and movement coach for Robert Redford on his film, The Horse Whisperer.

Karen Schwartz, Pianist
Karen Schwartz has performed as soloist, as well as collaborative artist for chamber musicians, opera singers, musical theater and dance productions alike. In addition Karen has served as musical director and arranger for several original children’s productions. She has traveled the world performing all styles of music at sea for several summers.  A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory and the Juilliard School of Music, this native New Yorker has appeared in such notable venues as Weill Recital Hall, Merkin Hall, The Joyce Theatre, Steinway Hall and the Beacon Theater. Among other significant musical adventures Ms. Schwartz taught the actor Samuel L. Jackson how to assimilate the role of concert pianist in The Caveman’s Valentine, film that premiered at Sundance Film Festival. She first brought the idea of The Toy Box to Pablo Cano after having unearthed it with much research and translation and performed at its U.S. premiere at MOCA North Miami in 2004. She currently lives and teaches in New York.

The Museum of Contemporary Art
770 NE 125th Street
North Miami, FL 33161

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