Berky uses ‘Fables and Foibles’ to teach

Provided Photo
Doug Berky performs at 5 and 7 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall.

Doug Berky is a one-man show, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be alone onstage.

Joined by a cast of characters including crocodile, tiger and monkey puppets and masks, Berky’s troupe is nearly a complete zoo.

“I enjoy the masks so much because no one ever gets tired of looking at my mug, because they don’t see it very often,” Berky said. “I’m able to create images that people will be able to remember and enjoy in the context of the story.”

At 5 and 7 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall, Berky will perform his show “Fables, Foibles and Imaskinations” as part of the Family Entertainment Series.

The performance is based on a series of folk tales from various countries including India, France and ancient Korea.

“There’s so much to learn from different cultures and stories that one of the things I’ve enjoyed doing is finding stories that teach us something about being in a community,” Berky said.

Through puppetry, verbal storytelling and masks, Berky’s show offers entertainment with a relevant lesson. A chapter of the performance, “The Tiger’s Whisker,” tells the story of a woman whose husband has recently returned from fighting in a war. 

Berky said that, despite the age of the fables he tells, the tales remain applicable to modern life.

“We still have people returning from war who have faced incredibly horrible things, and the dilemma of how to help them heal is the same,” he said. “Somehow, when you are able to tell the story or talk about a situation in a different context with different people, people who are close to that are able to hear and appreciate it a new way. Part of developing this show was to deal with more contemporary issues.”

In Berky’s past visits to Chautauqua, he was impressed by the family audience his show attracted. By creating “Fables, Foibles and Imaskinations,” a show he believes will be especially appropriate for Chautuaquans, he hoped to appeal to an older audience while retaining childrens’ interests.

“The adults will enjoy the expressive or abstract qualities of the show,” Berky said. “The environment at Chautauqua is one where people are open to experiences — to learn — and that’s always what you want for your audiences: That people are open to whatever you might bring.”

The mime Marcel Marceau inspired Berky’s first forays into performance art. Berky said he was intrigued by the physicality involved in Marceau’s act.

“I’d always been a jock in high school and college. What I saw in his work was a nice combination of athletics and theater,” Berky said. “Once I began making masks, I was able to be physically active and do the kind of character work I enjoy. The mask work gave me the artistic work of sculpting and painting.”

The combination of movement and meticulous artistry, which Berky is known for internationally, creates a dynamic performance Berky said is both entertaining and educational.

“I find stories that move and touch my heart,” he said. “I think if they’re meaningful to me, I’m able to bring something more to them for my audience.”