City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP

‘Ghastly Dreadfuls’: What makes an adult puppet show?


The non-puppet stars of "The Ghastly Dreadfuls II" at The Center for Puppetry Arts. Photo by Clay Walker.

When I explained to pals and far-away family that I was going to an adult puppet show on Thursday night, I got a skeptical, slightly nervous, “So…what is that?”

I didn’t have much of an answer, just two tickets to opening night of “The Ghastly Dreadfuls II: Handbook of Practical Hauntings and Other Phantasmagoria,” at the Center for Puppetry Arts.

This is an updated version of the Halloween favorite, told through live music, dancing and short puppet stories in a variety of styles. The show is more spooky than scary, more macabre than evil. One story, “The 11:59″ is kind of a sweet tale that’s actually adapted from a wonderful children’s book, “The Dark Thirty.” A dance recollected from a cat character’s memory would be completely child-friendly, but is no less hilarious for adults, especially cat owners.

But “Dinosaurs” or “The Shoemaker and the Elves” it is not.

Here’s why:

1) Booze
When I saw the Center’s family show “Adventures of Little Noodle,” I heard a lot about broccoli and body image. At the “Ghastly Dreadfuls,” I was able to buy a Yuengling at the cash bar and take it into the theater.


Le Petit Vampyr! Why won't anyone take him seriously? Photo by Bill Jones

2) Dry humor
Almost any puppet show is going to have some laughs, but these are just more mature, and all the more hilarious. The fantastically British humor in “The Inexperienced Ghost,” an H.G. Wells adaptation, would said over most kids’ heads. “Le Petit Vampyr” is, as expected, a little vampire so cute that he could easily star in a family show — if he didn’t have a thing for busty blonds.

3) The occasional F-bomb
Just one, tucked among very few forays into adults-only language. But that’s waaaaay more than you’ll ever see in a kids’ show.

4) Childless audience
Seeing a puppet show with an audience aged 16 and up is a wholly different experience than seeing one with kids and parents. It’s  a small theater, but it was almost full last night, and I could tell this was precious, precious grown-up time for some folks there. I was happy to share it with them.

The lesson here: don’t bring your kids to an adult show just because it includes the word “puppet.” But if you’re looking for a Halloween activity that doesn’t involve little ones asking for candy, this is a very mature way to say, “Sorry, I’m busy.”

Here are a few “Ghastly Dreadful” events and discounts:

  • There will be special appearances by The Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons on Oct. 21-22, 28-29.
  • Oct. 22 is “Zombie Night.” There’s a “Pick our Brain” game before the show, a “Zombie Box” with discount tickets. Zombie costumes are, of course, encouraged.
  • Oct. 31 is the annual “Ghastly Dreadfuls” Halloween Costume Contest.
  • Get $2 off any full price ticket by wearing a costume to any performance.
  • Wear a costume to any performance and save $2.00 on a full-price ticket. It’s not valid on previously purchased tickets.
  • Students get half-off tickets on Thursdays with a valid student ID.

Here’s a “Ghastly Dreadfuls” trailer from a few years ago — some of the stories have changed this year, but you’ll recognize the music and a few of the puppets.

Want to go? “The Ghastly Dreadfuls II” continues through Nov. 1. $20, $11 for members for Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday shows. $24, $14 for members for Friday and Saturday shows. Center for Puppetry Arts, 1404 Spring St. N.W., Atlanta. 404-873-3391,

For instant updates, follow @insideaccess on Twitter.

4 comments Add your comment

[...] Stage: Final show for “The Ghastly Dreadfuls II,” 5 p.m., Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta. More info. [...]

[...] at all what the Ghastly Dreadfuls II is, as Inside Access blogger Jamie Gumbrecht tells us in her review of this show for [...]


October 16th, 2009
9:14 pm

I always dreaded this day when idiots begin to post non-sense.

Barack Obama

October 16th, 2009
8:23 pm

This is exactly the kind of elitist government-funded waste of your tax dollars that I stand for! Working people of America, this is the future! Yes, we can waste your tax money!