When Irvine Valley College's "Theatrefaire for Children" started staging the classic fable "Pinocchio," the first priority was to make it as fantastic as possible.
Artistic director Blake Gould decided the best way was to turn the play's animal characters into sensational, lifelike creations and make the puppet-boy's famous nose-growing scene a believable but surprising moment. Theatrefaire had artists familiar with prosthetics mold the masks and hired technicians to build a robot that can actually grow a three-foot-long nose on stage.
The result, according to Gould, is a "really wonderful and different theater experience that makes the production come alive."
The robot, which is a detailed facsimile of actor Jeff Wilson, has animated eyebrows and lips, as well as a retractable nose. "Besides the (nose) scene, we use it to give the impression the puppet is turning into a boy," said Gould. "It can be pretty startling."
Gould also noted that the cat, fox and donkey masks worn by the young cast change every night because the artists add different makeup to complement the various facial prosthetics before each performance.