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Puppet theater puts Verne’s ideas in motion

These are no sock puppets taking the submarine stage Saturday at the Jacklin Arts & Cultural Center.

Sculpted, jointed and outfitted versions Captain Nemo and Professor Aronnax will star alongside live actors in a touring adaptation of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” as the Portland-based Tears of Joy Theatre puts a new spin on the old book at the Post Falls venue.

The theater’s puppets “are always really eclectic and colorful and grab your attention the moment they get on stage,” said Shaina Nomee, the JACC’s executive director.

Staged around an 11-foot submarine, the show is a “steampunk” version of Jules Verne’s novel. Published in 1870, it tells the story of Nemo and his submarine Nautilus, built in secrecy to travel the seas in search of both scientific knowledge and revenge.

Steampunk is a type of science fiction that often features anachronistic elements and steam-powered machinery.

In a video on the theater’s website, set and puppet designer Jason Miranda talked about translating Verne’s book for the stage and creating puppets with a steampunk visual edge. The submarine’s ribbing, for example, appears on the vessel’s exterior.

“The thing I like about steampunk is that it sort of externalizes the inner workings of any scientific apparatus,” Miranda said. “So if you have a gear on the outside, it’s what makes it go.”

To create the puppets, Miranda said he tried to imagine the characters’ traits as shapes. The forceful and knowledgeable Nemo is an angular, barrel-chested, broad-shouldered puppet, even though Nemo is described a bit differently by Verne.

The puppet show lets kids who might not be ready for Verne’s novel access some of its important points, Miranda said in the video: “If one kid goes home and says, ‘Wow, I really want to learn more about how a battery works,’ that’s kind of the goal – to go out and learn, to be curious, to be Nemo.”

A puppet-making workshop for children after the show will last about an hour, Nomee said.

Adrian Rogers

When: 2 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Jacklin Arts and Cultural Center, 405 N. William St. in Post Falls.

Tickets: $7, or $20 for the show and workshop. Call the Jacklin at (208) 457-8950 or go to