A Broken Wrist and a One-Handed Witch
A fiery witch loses her hand to an angry mob, tames wild beasts in the forest, and starts hustling small town folk and casinos out of all their money, with one hand.
One-Handed Witch is a silent film with shadow puppets. It was written and scored by Oakland based circus composer and theater polluter Samson Y Hiss with shadow puppets and film production by filmmaker and shadow puppet artists Rita Deiola and Sara Draghi in Italy. It is a collaboration with film, puppets and music. One-Handed Witch will be screened with a live musical score performed by a band of witches on March 4-5 at PianoFight OAKLAND in Oakland CA.
Two years ago, Hiss fell off his bike in the rain on the Lefty O’Doul Bridge in San Francisco and broke his wrist. After an x-ray confirmed his swollen suspicions he started to compose organ music for one hand. Working titles for each piece of music were chosen in accordance with his discomfort and emotions: One Hand Tied Behind My Back, Sleight of Hand, Pocket Pool, A Hand for a Hand. One day while playing a Wizard Of Oz slot machine in a casino, inspiration struck and he wrote the script for One-Handed Witch.
Hiss’ previous theater works were both staged performances consisting of opera singers, circus performers and a live five-piece band. Poison Circus, his latest theater work, had a cast of 10, of which included mezzo soprano Nikola Printz, tenor Alex Taite and contortionist Hunny Bunny. That was back in 2019, before COVID came to town and shut all the theaters down.
“With theaters in the dark, I was pushed to write and score a silent film with shadow puppets. There was only one catch, I didn’t know any shadow puppets and puppet slams and puppet cons were all closed down.” – Samson Y Hiss
One year ago, the seemingly impossible task of finding and convincing a shadow puppet to collaborate with the Hiss began.
Hiss found filmmakers and shadow puppet artists’ Rita Deiola and Sara Draghi down a long road. Their most recent film credits include: Svegliati Europa, a film about the drama of immigration.The yarn? Hiss started prospecting for shadow puppets almost a year ago, and only after a cross-continental search did he find a few. They shared couches, chat rooms, and virtual meetups. They shared ideas, ideals and sketches, and then one bushfire after another.
One puppet, who he performed with in the Festival of Ghouls, was evicted and had to quit the project. A second, the clown Joel Baker, flew to France for a juicier gig. The third, 80 Bug, was hit with multiple Covid deaths in her family and had to bow out. Rita and Sara were the fourth.
Hiss found this female shadow puppet duo on Instagram after stalking Manual Cinema’s Follow list for the better half of a year.
“In shadow theater there’s no feeling of seeing something absolute: it is as if the viewer, seeing the shadows that move almost by magic, completes unconsciously, creating within himself the image of that shadow.” – Rita Deiola
Film and Theater
One-Handed Witch is a story of savagery and survival. It consists of four different vignettes, each highlighting a new chapter and trial by fire for the witch. She faces torture and death in the forest. She outlasts starvation and insanity on the road. She concocts spells of monetary triumph in the casino. She escapes the hand of reckoning and gets revenge in a theme park. And she does it all with one hand.
The screening of One-Handed Witch will have bookends; live acts introducing the film and closing the film.
“I set out to make a silent film with shadow puppets, but I couldn’t help writing a couple acts for the stage. The itch to ride my unicycle was too unbearable.” – Samson Y Hiss
The pandemic has pushed musicians and performing artists in many directions. It pushed Hiss to write and score a silent film with shadow puppets. One-Handed Witch will be screened with a live musical score performed by a band of witches on March 4-5 at PianoFight OAKLAND in Oakland CA.