Room To Panic

directed by Federico Restrepo

Photo by Gian Marco Lo Forte 

"Room to Panic" is a new work by LOCO7 ( depicting, in movement and visual theater, the struggles of the immigrant's mind on the path toward assimilation. The piece is conceived and created by Federico Restrepo and Denise Greber with music composed by Elizabeth Swados. It brings together magical puppets, choreography, three-dimensional scenery and video. Typical of Federico Restrepo's style, the puppets will include huge winged creatures, fifteen foot high politicians and mothers, a dancing puppet house and body-puppets of Restrepo himself. There is a cast of ten. Federico Restrepo is a Colombian-born master of puppet theater and physical theater who stages epic thoughts using giant puppetry, acrobatic choreography and tempestuous music. In recent years, he has conceived his shows primarily with two collaborators: Denise Greber (concepts, costumes) and Elizabeth Swados (musical score). "Room to Panic" is the culminating production of a trilogy that Restrepo began in 2002, exploring the phenomenon of being a stranger in a strange land. Compared to the preceding two shows, it is more autobiographical and psychological. There is a living collage of images on the experience of living in a new culture. Since immigrants in a new country feel like fluttering birds without a home, the show opens with a flock of giant puppet birds plunging through the oceans on a huge boat. A "Memory Box" with a huge ear glides through the space, representing what's nagging at them that they can't forget. Large "Mother" puppets suggest memories of home; cooking videos suggest the foods that are left behind. A "Panic Room Dance" illustrates the feeling of being trapped in a new place. Its movement includes pantomime of straining against encircling walls. One performer repositions the "tent" of his life at varying places around the space: the image is of a "house" where you set down roots and stabilize yourself. Eventually, he "outgrows" the tent, bursting through it with his head and arms. Restrepo dons body puppets to indicate how we assume new identities; he removes them to indicate breaking free of memories. Throughout, there is the feeling that all the characters are going through the same process--they are all immigrants at various parts of their journey. Masks descend around the space, representing their forefathers whose memories haunt them. Massive "Politician Puppets" pass a giant globe from hand to hand, indicating the ultimate authority of the powerful. Ultimately, the cast erects a floor-to-ceiling puppet house from large panels, symbolizing that they will finally be at home. The visual feast is played to a continuous score by Elizabeth Swados that is sung by the ensemble and played live with percussion, violin, Shakuhachi and keyboard. The piece will also incorporate text from "Gate of the Sun" by Lebanese novelist and playwright Elias Khoury, which will be used as spoken text and sung in the score. Restrepo's "immigration trilogy" began in 2002 with "9 Windows," in which nine episodic vignettes revealed a series of multi-media, live art paintings depicting the experience of being displaced. "Open Door," the second episode, had a score by Elizabeth Swados and premiered in 2006. It directly addressed the impact of the many new immigrants of New York City, who were shown living together in the a huge puppet apartment building, exchanging stories and revealing their states of mind. "Room to Panic" is conceived and created by Federico Restrepo and Denise Greber, directed and choreographed by Federico Restrepo with puppet, set, video and light design by Federico Restrepo. Costume Design is by Denise Greber. Music is composed by Elizabeth Swados. Text is taken from "Gate of the Sun" by Elias Khoury (with permission from the author). The performing ensemble includes Federico Restrepo, Denise Greber, Cary Gant, Allison Hiroto, Sara Galassini, Emily Vick, Linwood Young, Joah Gonzales, Kat Yew and Dmitry Chepovetsky (all of whom dance, sing and manipulate puppets). Musical director is Kris Kukul. The musicians are Yukio Tsuji (percussion and shakuhachi), Heather Paauwe (violin) and Jon Sapino (keyboard). The Tent Puppet is designed by visual artist Catarina Leitão ( Additional video design by Angela “Nena” Sierra (


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 10/19/2008 at 2:30pm

Theatre/Venue La MaMa Experimental Theatre 

74A East 4th St  New York

Phone Number for Reservations 212-475-7710 
Website for reservations  
Running time 1hr. 20min. 


Producing Organization: LaMaMa Experimental Theater Club  
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