Category Archives: Puppetry

Science, Environmentalism, and Religion in “Invisible Earth”


One of the gems of the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area is Paperhand Puppet Intervention, and I just got home from an amazing performance at the North Carolina Museum of Art.  Ari Picker, from the local band, Lost in the Trees, composed the music. For all ages, the production, “Invisible Earth,” included the historic naturalist Charles Darwin as a narrator. When Darwin wrote “The Origin of Species,” it was quite controversial.  This controversy is still present today in the debates about what should be taught in schools in terms of evolution versus creationism.   Moving from science to social science, Robin Williams, the sociologist, not the comedian, discussed various American values.  According to him, one of the values of United States society is science.  (Of course, we could critique this idea with the rise of anti-intellectualism, but I’ll save that for another day.)

In the performance tonight, the puppeteers walked the audience through the history of the Earth.  This included a look at the Earth before life, as single-celled organisms arose, as multicellular organisms arose, eventually leading to life as we know it.  The puppets also got more complex to reflect the complexity of life, as noted by my spouse.  For a moment, I really reflected on the fact that at some point, some being took the very first breathe on the planet!

Eventually, the story turned to the fact that we might destroy the Earth.  It even discussed the carbon cycle!  “Invisible Earth” acted as an agent of socialization, targeting both children and adults.  It taught lessons about the world, science, and also the views of religion about the creation of the world over time. As an example, one of the pictures shown was of the world turtle that bears the weight of the world.  There was one scene in which God created humans.  The puppets in that section were amazing!

In the last section, we were told that we need to take responsibility for changing our habitat.  They began with using the beaver and the creation of dams as a metaphor and moved into how unsustainable our cities are.  They noted that we’re between stories right now.  What will come next?  These words resonated with me.  Not only is our future in terms of the health of the Earth and our own surival a mystery, but in terms of our culture, we are also lost at sea.  Changes are happening at such a rapid pace, what will we become?

In any event, there’s one more showing tomorrow at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and I hope that if you’re living in this area, you’ll check it out!


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Filed under Puppetry, Sociology