When you think of the 1980s movie “Top Gun,” it’s easy to picture Tom Cruise wearing aviators and looking ever so handsome in his uniform. This image won’t be completely fulfilled in the All Puppet Players’ adaptation of the film, “Top Gun: Live, Abridged & Completely Underfunded.” It premieres Feb. 7 at Mesa Encore Theatre’s Block Box On Brown.
All Puppet Players owner and artistic director Shaun Michael McNamara and his team have managed to take an iconic movie and make it something adults can enjoy and laugh at — with puppets.
McNamara chats with GetOut about this show’s unique approach to the movie classic.
Q: You create the personalities for each puppet. Which puppet is the hardest to work with?
A: When creating a puppet’s personality, it really depends on the person controlling the puppet and how they use their acting ability and arms. Often times, the actor or actress will use a voice that they would not normally use if they were physically on stage. So it starts with the voice, and the personality follows. We have a character named Leila; she is the hardest one because she flips in and out of being sweet and then being angry. I love her split personality, and she is fun to play versus another puppet that is serious — like Tom Cruise, for example.
Q: Where did the idea for All Puppet Players come from?
SM: The idea actually happened by accident. I ended up doing a Rocky Horror show and used a puppet as my character because I was embarrassed to be associated with the show. After that, I really wanted to do ‘Hamlet,’ but I was too young, so I thought, ‘If I cover my body and my face and use a puppet, then I can do the show.’ After that, my wife and I spent all of our savings and bought puppets off of eBay, and it just went from there.
Q: What makes this show different?
SM: The budget. We purposely made an effort to only spend $100 on the sets, costumes, props and planes. In doing so, we spent 150,00 times less than the original budget for the film, at $15 million. So we have the highest concept we have ever tried to achieve — with the lowest budget we have ever had. We have people wearing cardboard planes and missiles being launched out of foam. It really is the most ridiculous thing you can think of: a Hollywood Blockbuster, on stage with puppets. We are truly on the ‘Highway to the Danger Zone!’
• Nicole, a junior at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is an intern for GetOut.