New Year, New Shows: A Note From the Artist

PST Presents the WORLD PREMIERE performance of...

"Squirrel Stole My Underpants" by Bonnie Duncan

Sat & Sun: Jan 26 & 27 at 1pm & 3pm
Thurs & Fri: Jan 31 & Feb 1 at 10:30am
Sat & Sun: Feb 2 & 3 at 1pm & 3pm


About the Show: Sylvie is sent to the backyard to hang up the laundry. The moment her back is turned, a mischievous squirrel steals her favorite piece of clothing and runs off. When Sylvie gives chase, an entire world emerges from her laundry basket, and curious characters show her the way through mysterious lands. Will our lonely heroine rescue her underpants and discover the magic within herself? Join us on this adventure to find out!

Bonnie and Tim:
 "They Gotta Be Secret Agents"
About the Performer: Bonnie Duncan had already travelled the world as an acrobatic dancer and award-winning fringe theatre artist when she took a break from touring to raise her three young children. Bonnie found herself wanting to tour the world again, but this time with a show for kids. In addition to trying out ideas for the piece in her living room (her husband, Dan Milstein, directed the show), the growing community of local puppeteers nurtured by the Puppet Showplace Theatre gave Bonnie the resources to complete the work.

Bonnie Duncan has been creating and performing work as a dancer, puppeteer, and actor for the past 13 years. She danced for 8 years with Snappy Dance Theater and in 2007, formed “They Gotta Be Secret Agents” with Tim Gallagher, to create work mixing dance, theater, puppetry and circus arts. Her work has been shown in theaters in Boston, Providence, New York City, San Francisco, Austin, TX, Germany, and Czech Republic. The Secret Agents were awarded Austin Critics Table Award for “Best Touring Show of 2011,” Best of the Fringe, San Francisco, and were nominated for Most Innovative Show at Prague Fringe Festival.

The Making of Squirrel Stole My Underpants

Bonnie Duncan and her three Children.

Squirrel Stole My Underpants came at a time in my life when I was looking for a change.  I have three small children—a four year old and two 19 month old twins. Before I’d started a family, I’d worked part time as a drama teacher, and, in every free minute, thrown myself into a blizzard of art and performance making—dance, puppetry, costume design, circus arts.  But with my oh-so-wonderful and yet oh-so-demanding family, that just wasn’t proving to be possible anymore.

Creating a show I could tour for family audiences felt like it brought a lot together: I could draw on all the (weird, wonderful, and totally unmarketable) skills I had developed; I could build a schedule around my family life (and maybe even have an excuse to take them all on the road with me); and I could get back to what I love—making art.

Squirrel 4.0
I was lucky enough to obtain early support from Puppet Showplace Theatre and the Jim Henson Foundation.  With the time that gave me, I was able to really delve into what can make a family show feel wonderful. Many ideas came and went but a few themes stuck with me:  how hard it is to grow up, those magic items that make you feel secure as a kid, and the injustice of something being taken.  And, thus, Squirrel Stole My Underpants began to take shape. 

Fast-forward ten months and here we are:  premiere week at Puppet Showplace. 

Top Ten Things I learned from this process:

1. Kids will always get sick the week of a deadline.  Sleep goes by the wayside and some things just don’t get done---whether it is laundry or fixing the broken rod on a puppet.

2. Once I surrounded myself with amazing collaborators, my work got better.  The musicians, costume designer, director, and set designer are all super talented and I feel so lucky that they are on my team.
Bonnie on the set of "Squirrel Stole My Underpants"
3. If you need to know if something works on stage, show your kid.  Then, show his friends.  If they don’t like it, scrap it. 

4. Having the support of the Puppet Showplace & Henson Foundation gave me structure, a place to rehearse, business advice, connections for assistance--you name it.

5. Some things work on paper.  A lot of those things don’t work on stage.  Make a mock-up first, put it on its feet, build it out if there is promise.  Then throw it out if it still doesn’t work.

6. I built four versions of the main character before I found the perfect design.  Sometimes you just have to make things over and over before it is right. 

7. At some point during a rehearsal, I looked up and laughed hysterically.  I realized that I am in my 30s and making a show about hot pink polka dot underpants and squirrels.

8. Procrastination is part of the process.  The internet, baking an elaborate cake, and just staring out the window are part of it all.  It may feel like the show will never get made but it does especially when there is a deadline involving the possibility of embarrassing yourself in front of strangers.

9. Having a studio space in my apartment was key.  When the kids napped, I worked with no commute time.  My husband (who directed this show) and I also worked in our dining room in the evenings after everyone was asleep.  Working from home made everything possible.

10. This may be a solo show but it is far from a solo process.  Family, friends, and colleagues made this possible.  Without them, I would still be staring at a blank stage.

I feel very thankful that Squirrel Stole My Underpants.

--Bonnie Duncan