Actors Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields of Dead Man’s Bones recently ended a monthlong residency at the historic Bob Baker Marionette Theater in Los Angeles. In this exclusive behind-the-scenes journal chronicling the making of their spooky, puppet-ridden stage show, the ghoulish folk duo dishes on their life-after-death-changing experience. Photography by Hama Sanders. 1. (Above) I would only allow a picture to be taken of me if I could do 15 push-ups right before. Unfortunately, I can only do 30 push-ups each day, so there are only two pictures of me. Also, all this paint was seeping through the canvas onto the floor. We had to paint the whole floor black again before we left. Also, our friend who owned this space was pissed. Also, we’re never allowed to darken the doors here again. —Ryan
2. This is the only view of the theater we’ll ever get because apparently we’re never allowed to “darken the doors” there again, said the dragon in the office. But we two adventurers understood—every treasure needs a dragon to guard it.
3. This is Sophia. She rules with an iron fist made of friendship and dreams. She’s cooler than us. This is her right after she got her makeup done. Every night the kids would come two hours early to get their makeup done and practice the set. They would get pizza and soda pop, and sometimes they’d try to sneak in some Red Bull or Colt 45. But we wouldn’t let them… until after the show.
4. Hey, Wu-Tang. Suck it. West side!
5. This picture is actually upside down. I am painting on the ceiling. And I am painting in my own blood. —Zach
6. We both had an affair with the lady on the left. At different times, so… We also had the privilege of working with five puppeteers who are very talented—and our kind of crazy. The first time we saw a show at the theater, we knew we had to do something here. But it wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. The doors to Bob Baker are difficult to open. No outside production has been put up in the theater before, and it took some heavy lifting and real sweet-talking to make it possible.
7. We don’t really know what to say about this except that it’s us playing one of our songs. And this is what that looks like in blue lighting.
8. This is a portrait of two guys who have no idea what they are doing. Good thing a bunch of our friends were there to help. We spent two weekends painting through the night with them. When we finished the set, we cut out the sky and a friend sewed a bunch of Christmas lights into a sheet to make stars. After we used it at the Bob Baker shows, we took it on the road with us.