What if King Friday — the long-reigning puppet monarch of the kiddie TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” — came upon hard times?

What if he was now living in squalor beneath a vaudeville house, where other strange or eccentric puppets hang out and behave in bizarre ways?

That’s the premise behind a puppet show scheduled for Mayo Street Arts on Saturday. Dubbed “King Friday’s Dungeon: A Puppet Slam,” the event will feature eight Maine puppet acts, each about 10 minutes long, in a night of adult-themed puppet antics.

Yes, you read that right: Adult-themed puppet antics.

Puppet slams are on the rise nationally, but the event at Mayo Street Arts is likely the first one in Maine, said Blainor McGough, the venue’s director and a participating puppeteer.

“We’ve had puppet shows for kids, but nothing like this,” McGough said. “It might be a bit more risque than a regular puppet show, a little on the bawdy side, or just have things that kids don’t go for.”

McGough, who learned puppeteering at Portland’s Shoestring Theater, got the idea to do a puppet slam from Heather Henson, daughter of “Muppets” creator Jim Henson. Heather Henson visited Mayo Street Arts this past summer, talked about the puppet slam movement nationally, and put the idea in McGough’s head.

Acts scheduled for the show include a traditional “Punch & Judy” fighting couple act by Shoestring Theater, a performance by Naked Wall Street Sock Puppet Theater, and an adaptation of the Samuel Beckett play “Come and Go” performed by the marionettes of Libby Marcus.

McGough’s “King Friday” will emcee the event, introduce acts and do his own performance. But don’t expect him to be the same harmlessly blustering royal presence he was on PBS.

“He’s a parody of the original,” McGough said. “I thought it would be freaky if I could make him reach out and grab people.”

The show is being billed as “for adults only,” and for teens if accompanied by an adult. Other puppeteers scheduled to perform at the slam include Julie Goell, Tim Harbeson, Zach and Dylan Rohman, and Reuben J. Little.

Puppeteers will use hand puppets, rod puppets and marionettes (on strings) to perform short, fast-moving pieces. The show will have a variety-show feel, McGough said, giving the audience a good idea of the range of things that puppets can do when in creative hands.

“There’s really a great pocket of puppeteers here in Maine, and this will be a chance to see a lot of them together,” she said.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at [email protected]


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