A Soundscape that Set the Scene

by Howard Sherman
 Puppeteers Rowan Magee & Emma Wiseman
Puppeteers Rowan Magee & Emma Wiseman

When asked if there was a sound design that she was particularly proud of, sound designer Kate Marvin mentions her extensive sound work on a puppet play, Chimpanzee. “There are a number of productions that I have found really exciting; one that I have been working for a long time on is Chimpanzee. I just got back from doing the European premiere of it at the World Puppet Theatre Festival in Charleville-Mézières, France. I’ve been working with this group of artists on this puppet show since 2011-2012; it’s this beautiful Bunraku puppet.”

Chimpanzee was created by Nick Lehane, a Brooklyn-based puppeteer and theater artist and was developed through workshops, including the 2019 Jim Henson Foundation Residency at The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, The Jim Henson Carriage House, and Puppet BloK at Dixon Place. It premiered at the HERE Arts Center in New York City this past spring, stage managed by Mariah Plante. 

Of this unique theater piece, Sara Holdren in New York magazine wrote, “Nick Lehane’s gorgeous puppet play about an aging, isolated chimpanzee piecing together fragments of her youth with a human family is based on true events. Sometimes bleak, sometimes beautiful, it’s a meticulous, deeply felt nonverbal memory play.” Intrinsic to the storytelling was the lighting, designed by Marika Kent, and Marvin’s sound design.

“There’s no dialogue or anything for this piece; we’ve basically created the scenery for the piece using sound,” explains Marvin. “There’s a lot of music in it, but there are many, many sound effects in it as well; it’s complicated. It’s been really exciting to work on, and really challenging to work on. It’s definitely one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.”