The Unfinished Eye

Written and designed by STEPHEN KAPLIN,
Based on artwork and texts by EVE KAPLIN.

First performed at Arts at St. Ann’s, Brooklyn, 1998.
Direction and Puppet Design: STEPHEN KAPLIN
Lighting, Sets and Sound: BILL BRADFORD

Stage consists of two screens. Large Rear Projection screen is Stage left. A smaller paper screen is stage right. An overhead projector on a low table is set up in front of the Paper Screen.

The characters of CHAVAH, THE SERPENT and the PROJECTIONIST are played by masked actors. EVE is a bunraku-style puppet that can be manipulated by one, two or three operators.


EVE KAPLIN- Artist and designer in many mediums, graduated from Rhode Island School of Design. She produced works in glass (studying with Dale Chahuly), ceramics, handmade books, puppets, toys, clocks, plus a line of costume jewelry and accessories that sold across the U.S., Europe and Japan under the name “Eve Kaplin Design”.
During the 1984 Christmas holiday season she travelled to Brazil with members of her Capoeira circle under the leadership of Meistre Jelem. They traveled between Rio and Bahia in a minibus, staying at friends’ houses, meeting other capoieristas and taking part in the end-of-year festivities. She died of a severe viral infection early January 2, 1985, in a hospital in Salvador, Bahia. Her sketch journal from this trip and a stack of postcards, written but never sent, are the source of most of the text for this show.

This project was initiated by Eve’s brother, Stephen about the time of the 10th anniversary of her death. It was workshopped and produced at the Arts at St Ann’s as part of their first Puppet Lab.


Unfinished Eye 1


Image of TREE OF LIFE on large Rear Projection Screen.

Capoeira Dance. Shadows of musicians and fighters in front of Screen, SERPENT and CHAVAH’ s silhouettes battle and separate over and over.

Image of TREE OF LIFE on large Rear Projection Screen.

              Berimbau da fez chamada.
       Berimbau has called
              Ja e hora de lutar
       It is the hour to play (it is time to play)
              Quem mao luta fica longe
       Who does not play, stay away
              Quem luta pode chegar
       Who plays can come
              A Ogun que e Santo Forte
       To Ogun, who is a strong saint (powerful)
              Capoeira pede sorte
       Capoeria asks for luck
              Que essa danca e de matar
       Because this dance can kill (is that which can kill)
              Ie-e-e de matar


SERPENT and CHAVAH unwrap EVE puppet. Her eye sockets are empty. Chavah unburies an APPLE from the foot of the TREE. She slices it open and takes out two eyes. She starts to paint them blue, but SNAKE intrudes. The result is that one eye is painted blue the other is half blue, half brown, CHAVAH inserts the EYES into EVE’s face. EVE comes alive.

Unfinished Eye 2


PROJECTIONIST crosses with candle. Sits by overhead projector in front of small paper screen. With a mirror, she flashes OP light into EVE’s face. EVE walks over, looks into the hood and is blinded by the light. PROJECTIONIST makes her sit to one side and begins to instruct her. Draws a fish in sand tray. Gives Eve a marker and has her trace it’s projected image onto the paper screen. Puts more object on the OP table and EVE traces them onto the screen.

A list of symbols–
Water     fire      ice      fish    boat      house.
A knife, a boat, and an airplane.
A solid domed building rests on glass walls. or, the                        opposite case. We see what is inside.
Black drops of rain. red drops of rain.
inside we see mechanisms of control:
         the pillar stands alone.
The water floats in midair.
          10 x 10           10 of each
10 arms
a fiery wheel with 10 spokes
where voice spoke from the depths
This wheel would become a funnel, a tunnel, a channel to the future. There would be light in the distance (gravitation)
Gravitation/ gravity

Unfinished Eye 3

JACOB’S LADDER appears on Large Screen. A vision of the Universe in the form of four colored disked linked by a perpendicular axis. EVE tries to draw this vision VISION onto the paper screen.

Everyone has gone in search of
                                                               ’ ’ [yod, yod]
                                                               floats on the page                    
EVE                   COLADA                     [CHAVAH]

A Snake’s shadow slithers behind paper screen. Eve tries to pin the SNAKE’s shadow on the PAPER SCREEN. SERPENT’S HAND reaches up with matte knife and cuts the PAPER SCREEN. He bursts through the PAPER SCREEN and grabs EVE by the throat. EVE faints.

Snakes as in Chinatown-
the dry snake coil.
The snake became a wheel. The wheel became a wheel of fire. The wheel of fire spun across the sky. It seemed like a comet. it straightened out. Its tail stretched out across the sky. It traversed the sky in an instant. Again and again with the dawn, a strange, stinging sleet. the snake eats me, because of my name.
My name.
Name as destiny.
Destiny as luck.
as luck would have it.
any thing can be a snake. anything can be anything.

Unfinished Eye 4

EVE PUPPETEER and PROJECTIONIST undress puppet. CHAVAH’s blue skirts become OCEAN WAVES. EVE swims and floats on her back. Swimming Dance. CHAVAH bathes EVE tenderly and redresses her.

As a daughter of the Sea, I can learn from my origins,
lesson of a wave crashing,
and a flowing, interaction crashing acceptance of
each renewal into oneself within oneself.

Unfinished Eye 5


EVE puppet lounges on front edge of stage, picking through POSTCARDS and reads the back of them. She hands them off to SERPENT.

Resolutions do Novo Ano Dec. 31
Focus energy-
believe that I can learn to do anything.
(Capoeira, handstands, play music, etc.)
The “eye of mercy”- Keep open.
Be curious and not afraid.
Be listening, and learning-
If I know something, teach that-
Gather in, give out.

SERPENT knocks off first one than the other puppeteer.
EVE dies.
CHAVAH lays her out on O.P. TABLE. and covers her with blue shawl.

TREE OF LIFE on the Large RP Screen.


A lover
A good place to live and work

I would send these
wishes to the sea
in hopes of their
full fillment in the
coming year.

CHAVAH removes EVE’S EYES and plants them beneath TREE.
CANDLE pulled across stage on strings.
Blackout except for slowly moving candles and photo of Eve, on large RP screen, subtitled: “Eve Karen Kaplin, Chavah Gittel, Colada 1956-1985”


Unfinished Eye 6

Stephen Kaplin studied puppetry at UCONN under Dr. Frank Ballard and graduated in 1979. He received an MA in Performance Studies from New York University in 1989. Since 1981, he has lived in New York City, working in all aspects of puppet theater. Mr. Kaplin has been the co-Artistic and Technical Director of Chinese Theatre Works since its founding in 2001– designing sets and puppets, as well as co-directing and performing all major CTW productions. Mr. Kaplin is a co-founding member and co-artistic director of Great Small Works– a collective of theater artists dedicated to stretching the boundaries of live and puppet theater in New York City since 1995.