Actor and drummer Andrew Deeb returns to Sarasota to try his hand at puppetry.
Deeb’s left arm again. He stepped to the side of the stage and began to massage his forearm. Deeb plays the drums and has worked as an actor in New York City for the last six years. He’s used to straining his muscles onstage. But this is something new — puppetry.
Deeb, along with castmates Julia Amundson, Cat Patterson and Tim Vanbeverhoudt is trying a lot of new things in Florida Studio Theatre’s production of “Rumplestiltskin.”
Hundreds of area children and their families will see the show, which opened Sept. 28 and runs through Nov. 20, kicking off FST’s 25th year of its Write A Play Program. This fable will serve as the spark to hopefully inspire school children to submit their own original work to the theater for a chance to have it produced later in the year.
Deeb most recently was studying and working as an actor in New York City at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, jumped at the challenge to inhabit the role of a puppet. “As soon as I put this guy on, it becomes for me like two separate entities, but with a single mind,” says Deeb.
Adapted by Beth Duda and Adam Ratner and directed by Jason Cannon, this take on the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale subtracts the brothers’ penchant for menace to make room for plenty of stage craft, magic and, of course, the title character himself.
“I love doing things in acting that I’ve never done before,” says Deeb. “It’s like putting on a mask. It was very transformative in a way, and it freed me up to make big choices.”
When in character, the normally relaxed Deeb transforms into a ball of energy, and his voice raises to a cackle.
Once he had the foundation of muscle control, voice and posture down, the newly minted puppet master couldn’t be stopped.
“There came a day during rehearsal where I told Andrew he was off the leash,” says director Jason Cannon. “Once he felt comfortable with the puppet, he was allowed to follow any and every impulse.”
Where he was once literally paralyzed from over-using his hand and arm muscles, Deeb is now elastic and agile, channeling his entire body into the foot-long puppet.
Every day, Deeb performs his manic character for school children and families, and he hopes that his maiden voyage into puppetry makes an impact on his hometown community.
“I feel like I’m home,” he says. “I’ve never done children’s theater before. For me, the stakes are higher than a regular performance, because the children can call you out on anything. They’re right there with you. Watching these kids fully engaged is the best response ever.”