FIAMS & the PI challenge

By Andrew Periale, editor Puppetry International magazine

I recently returned from the fabulous FIAMS, or, Festival International des Arts de la Marionnette à Saguenay. This was the 15th iteration of the biennial festival, which is to say, the thirtieth anniversary of its founding. Saguenay is a town several hours drive north of Québec City.  The landscape is beautiful and the people are a fun-loving, artistic lot. In the six days of the festival there are puppet companies from all over the world performing from morn to midnight. There are lots of shows for families, street theater, museum exhibits, lectures and panel discussions. Our own Manuel Morán had a showing of his documentary about puppetry in Puerto Rico (see review in Puppetry International #45). There are also plenty of shows for adult audiences and a late night cabaret featuring music and dancing so that festival-goers and performers can unwind after a busy day.

I was there in my role as editor of Puppetry International and continued the “PI Challenge,” in which representatives of UNIMA-USA bring issues of PI to festivals in other countries and give them to puppet people who might spread the “gospel” of international friendship and understanding through the art of puppetry.

For more on this wonderful festival, see my review of FIAMS 2017 in Puppetry International [page 32, PI #42]. There will be more reviews and articles in upcoming issues of both the Puppetry Journal and Puppetry International.

2019 Membership Meeting: See you there!

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Join us in MN for the 2019 Membership Meeting on Friday, July 19 from 6-7pm CDT.

Open to all current Members of UNIMA-USA and anyone interested in joining, this meeting will explain what UNIMA-USA has been up to this last year. Our Board of Directors will be there to greet you and answer any questions you might have.

We will meet in the Whiting Proscenium Theatre in the University of Minnesota's Rarig Center.

Not at the festival this year? Head over to our Facebook page to watch the meeting live! A recording of the meeting will be available afterwards if you can't join us live. Please be sure to check your time zones - this meeting will take place 6-7pm CDT, 7-8pm EDT, and 4-5pm PT!

See you there!

Process!

by Drew Allison

The Puppeteers of America’s National Puppet Festival is right around the corner and I look forward to seeing performances, attending workshops, and catching up with colleagues and friends. 

One of the most important takeaways from a festival for me is a re-charging of my creative batteries.  The cafeteria conversations, late night discussions over a glass of wine, and strolling chats on the way to the next event comprise an important component of festival life. 

These are the times when we can discuss process.  It’s during these times we can discuss how we get from the start of a project to the fruition of a project; our unique approaches, timelines and steps.  It’s a different process for each of us.  I find discussing process with other puppeteers to be so fascinating and I always look forward to this opportunity. 

Social Media has given us fantastic outlets for sharing process.  I think of puppeteers like Ronnie Burkett, Hobey Ford, and others who are so generous when sharing their process photos and insights.  Amazing!

I think of puppeteers like Heidi Rugg who started the Facebook group The Fettig Project, giving us a conduit to see how puppeteers design and create mechanisms to solve specific needs as they progress along their process timeline.  Wonderful!

So, I’m packing up my process toolkit to use at the festival; what I think works and doesn’t work, different approaches for different projects.  Dealing with clients and dealing with myself!  Can’t wait to talk process at The National Puppet Festival next month!

Grey Seal Puppets process pics provided by Drew Allison:

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Join or renew now for 18 Months of Membership!

Join or renew today at any level to extend your puppetry world with 18 Months of UNIMA-USA Membership for the same price as an annual Membership. Receive six quarterly newsletters, three issues of Puppetry International magazine, access to both the 2019 and 2020 Membership Directories, and no renewal until January 1, 2021.

Image from  Specialised Puppetry  by H.W. Whanslaw and Victor Hotchkiss (1939)

Image from Specialised Puppetry by H.W. Whanslaw and Victor Hotchkiss (1939)

In addition to providing you with great benefits, your Membership helps UNIMA-USA provide so much value to the puppetry community. We provide an annual scholarship that funds a study abroad experience for puppeteers looking to learn from masters in other parts of the world. UNIMA-USA’s Citations of Excellence reward the best of puppetry arts in this country, while providing credible recognition that aids puppeteers as they seek audiences in this country and abroad. We believe in sharing information with the world— whether it’s through articles in Puppetry International, the only magazine of its kind with peer-reviewed content, or through our blog. The support of our Members is crucial to that goal.

Questions? Contact our Membership Office at unimausa@gmail.com or at (404) 881-5110. Lindsey is always happy to hear from you!

Adventures in China Part 2: Langzhong, Sichuan Province, November 18-22, 2018

Photo courtesy of UNIMA CHINA. (Left to Right): After introducing the 2020 Bali Congress and World Puppetry Festival, Karen Smith presents two Balinese shadow puppets (Hanuman and Barong) to Wang Biao (Director, Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe) and Wang Fang (Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe).

Photo courtesy of UNIMA CHINA. (Left to Right): After introducing the 2020 Bali Congress and World Puppetry Festival, Karen Smith presents two Balinese shadow puppets (Hanuman and Barong) to Wang Biao (Director, Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe) and Wang Fang (Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe).

UNIMA-USA members, Karen Smith and David Heesen, husband and wife from California, attended two international puppetry festivals and seminar forums held in China this past November. The first event was in Shanghai, the second in Langzhong in Sichuan Province. David and Karen were royally hosted in both cities! And their exposure to Chinese puppetry was quite phenomenal! Karen and David will now share some of the highlights of their 3-plus weeks in that fascinating country.

The 7th National Puppetry and Shadow Art Inheritance Showcase by Young and Mid-Aged Puppeteers

The International Forum on Inheritance & Contemporary Development of Puppetry & Shadow Art

Langzhong, Sichuan Province, November 18-22, 2018

Karen Smith: And now here are some glimpses of the second festival and forum, which was held in the smaller city of Langzhong, November 18-22.

The Langzhong festival and forum were hosted by UNIMA China and The People’s Government of Langzhong, and organized by the Publicity Department of Langzhong, as well as the Culture, Tourism and Press Bureau of Langzhong Government, the national (Nanchong) base of Puppet and Shadow Art, and Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe, among other government and cultural entities both locally and from the cities of Chengdu and Nanchong in Sichuan Province.

Dave Heesen: Langzhong is a (relatively) little town intent on asserting its prominence in traditional shadow puppetry. To that end, they just sponsored their first international puppet festival, featuring about 28 separate shows by younger Chinese performers. Some of these involved shadow puppets, others rod puppets, string puppets or (my favorites) glove puppets. It’s kind of like the Peking Circus when it arrived in North America in the 1970s. The technical mastery of, say, the acrobats and contortionists or those involved in balancing 12 people on a single bicycle is astounding. Likewise, when it comes to animating these puppets, the Chinese have nailed down and mastered the techniques. No one does it better! Most of Chinese traditional puppetry traces its origins back to the regional operas and classical literature like The Journey to the West or The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Ideally, the performances are filled with live music – drums, piercing whiny voices, and those fabulous boing, boing, boing gongs and cymbals. (I can’t get enough of these tunes!) Recently, there has been a fair share of official government support for bringing these forms back after the hit they took during the Cultural Revolution. Karen’s job was to open the festival and grace it in her capacity as vice president of UNIMA, the international guild of puppetry. She also opened and attended a seminar where about 20 participants from offshore and from China presented papers on various aspects of puppetry. (Karen prepared a couple short spiels on Indonesian, Indian and American puppetry which I can step up and present when pressed to do so.) And then, of course, we had to begin eating again. Big time. 

Karen Smith: I think David has given you a flavor of the Chinese “Showcase” segment. It was wonderful! 

While there was a small international component to this second festival held in Yangzhong in Sichuan Province – five companies, from Australia, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Portugal, and South Korea, performed – this festival was essentially a juried showcase of Chinese puppetry, where excerpts from the classical and traditional repertoires and the occasional “modern” piece were performed by young and middle-aged Chinese puppeteers. Great stuff! As several groups of younger puppeteers performed the same excerpts from the traditional repertoire, you really got to be able to distinguish between the so-so or competent and the gifted performers. For the interested audience member, this was like an intensive class in Chinese puppetry techniques and stock repertoire. Fabulous!

David and I thought one of the special aspects of the festival segment was the part played by co-organizers, the two brothers Wang Biao and Wang Fang, fifth generation Sichuan-style shadow masters and joint leaders of their family company (their sons and grandchildren also perform shadow puppetry) – the Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe. The brothers had convinced the city of Langzhong into donating to their troupe a large traditional-style building situated in the old part of the city, which the Wang brothers have renovated, turning it into a theatre complex with stage auditorium, meeting rooms and provision for a puppetry and shadow theatre museum. The multi-storied complex itself is quite extraordinary, with extensive carving and courtyards within courtyards.

Over two days, around 20 speakers presented at the Langzhong forum, among them UNIMA members Lucile Bodson (France; Treasurer, UNIMA) Tito Lorefice (Argentina; President, UNIMA Professional Training Commission), Cariad Astles (UK; President, UNIMA Research Commission), Samodra Sriwidjaja (President, UNIMA Indonesia), Maria José Machado Santos (President, UNIMA Portugal), Yasuko Senda (UNIMA Japan-Nihon UNIMA), Frans Hakkemars and Joanne Oussoren (UNIMA Netherlands), Bae Geunyoung, Kim Jinyeong and Lee Soojung (UNIMA Korea), Carol Sterling (UNIMA-USA), David Heesen (UNIMA-USA), and several eminent Chinese scholars and bureaucrats.

David presented a slideshow on traditional and modern Indian puppetry, with a focus in the latter half on four Delhi-based puppeteers – Meher Contractor (co-founder of UNIMA India), Dadi Pudumjee (President of UNIMA International), Ranjana Pandey (President of UNIMA India), and Puran Bhat (kathputli master).

Once again, in my capacity as UNIMA International’s vice president, I participated in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, gave an introductory speech at the forum, talked about the 2020 Bali Congress and Festival, and handed out prizes to the recipients at the award ceremony.

Photo courtesy OF UNIMA China. Outside Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe theatre and museum complex in Langzhong. Back row, L to R: Manuel Dias (puppeteer, Portugal), David Heesen (UNIMA-USA), Tito Lorefice (Argentina, President, UNIMA Professional Training Commission), Joanne Oussoren (UNIMA Netherlands), Frans Hakkemars (UNIMA Netherlands), Chinese gentleman (?)  Upper Middle row, L to R: Nuno do Ó (musician, Portugal), Carol Sterling (UNIMA-USA), Maria José Machado Santos (President, UNIMA Portugal), Chinese gentleman (?), Cariad Astles (British UNIMA, President, UNIMA Research Commission), Julia Davis (UNIMA Australia)  Lower Middle row, L to R: Chinese gentleman (?), Louise Lapointe (Canada, AQM, President, UNIMA International Festivals Commission), Richard Hart (President, UNIMA Australia), Wang Biao (Director, Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe), Karen Smith (UNIMA-USA, Vice President, UNIMA), Tó Zé Bexiga (musician, Portugal), Jinyoung Kim (UNIMA Korea)  Front row, L to R: Wang Fang (Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe), Samodra Sriwidjaja (President, UNIMA Indonesia), Yasuko Senda (UNIMA Japan-Nihon UNIMA), Lucile Bodson (Treasurer, UNIMA), Yulita Samodra (UNIMA Indonesia).

Photo courtesy OF UNIMA China. Outside Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe theatre and museum complex in Langzhong. Back row, L to R: Manuel Dias (puppeteer, Portugal), David Heesen (UNIMA-USA), Tito Lorefice (Argentina, President, UNIMA Professional Training Commission), Joanne Oussoren (UNIMA Netherlands), Frans Hakkemars (UNIMA Netherlands), Chinese gentleman (?)

Upper Middle row, L to R: Nuno do Ó (musician, Portugal), Carol Sterling (UNIMA-USA), Maria José Machado Santos (President, UNIMA Portugal), Chinese gentleman (?), Cariad Astles (British UNIMA, President, UNIMA Research Commission), Julia Davis (UNIMA Australia)

Lower Middle row, L to R: Chinese gentleman (?), Louise Lapointe (Canada, AQM, President, UNIMA International Festivals Commission), Richard Hart (President, UNIMA Australia), Wang Biao (Director, Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe), Karen Smith (UNIMA-USA, Vice President, UNIMA), Tó Zé Bexiga (musician, Portugal), Jinyoung Kim (UNIMA Korea)

Front row, L to R: Wang Fang (Sichuan Wang’s Shadow Puppet Troupe), Samodra Sriwidjaja (President, UNIMA Indonesia), Yasuko Senda (UNIMA Japan-Nihon UNIMA), Lucile Bodson (Treasurer, UNIMA), Yulita Samodra (UNIMA Indonesia).

Meet Stevie Anne Nemazee, our 2019 Scholarship Recipient

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Stevie Anne Nemazee is an experimental puppet artist, designer, and writer with a passion for cinematic landscapes, performing objects, and character design.

She holds an MFA in Theatrical Design from the California Institute of the Arts and a BFA in Film Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Stevie works in the animation industry as a stop-motion puppet and armature fabricator. She has worked for studios including Chiodo Bros (Killer Klowns From Outer Space), Stoopid Buddy Stoodios (Robot Chicken), and Bix Pix Entertainment (Tumble Leaf).

When she isn't working for the man, Stevie works as a freelance puppet designer and model builder in addition to developing her own work. She was most recently honored to be chosen as an Emerging Artist for her piece "Herb the Beige" at the 2018 Eugene O'Neill National Puppetry Conference.

Stevie has chosen to study with Puppets in Prague for a two-week animation course taught by Zdar Sorm, Katarina Tazarova, and Milan Vins.

We'll share more about Stevie's experience when the program is over. Stay tuned to our Facebook and Blog for updates!

Adventures in China Part 1: Shanghai, November 1-6, 2018

UNIMA-USA members, Karen Smith and David Heesen, husband and wife from California, attended two international puppetry festivals and seminar forums held in China this past November. The first event was in Shanghai, the second in Langzhong in Sichuan Province. David and Karen were royally hosted in both cities! And their exposure to Chinese puppetry was quite phenomenal! Karen and David will now share some of the highlights of their 3-plus weeks in that fascinating country. (Stay tuned for part 2.)

The 6th Shanghai International Puppet Festival “Golden Magnolia” & The 4th International Forum on Puppetry

Photo courtesy of UNIMA CHina. Chinese and international festival performers, hosts and organizers, emcees, jury members and government officials pose for a group photo after the Closing Ceremony of The 6th Shanghai International Puppet Festival “Golden Magnolia”.

Photo courtesy of UNIMA CHina. Chinese and international festival performers, hosts and organizers, emcees, jury members and government officials pose for a group photo after the Closing Ceremony of The 6th Shanghai International Puppet Festival “Golden Magnolia”.

Karen Smith: I was invited to the first festival and forum, which was held in Shanghai November 1-6, as a member of the Shanghai international festival jury. As Vice President of UNIMA International, I also participated in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, handed out prizes, gave an introductory speech at the forum, and generally did my best to uphold the honor of our great organization. David gave a presentation on Indonesian wayang at the forum and was an enthusiastic festival-goer.

The festival organizers were the Shanghai Dramatists Association and the Shanghai Puppet Theatre Co., Ltd, and the event was hosted by eight organizations, including Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film & Television, UNIMA China, and China Puppetry and Shadow Arts Association.

 The majority of the international shows were performed at the beautiful headquarters of the Shanghai Puppet Theatre while the three Chinese shows were performed in auditoria across the city.

The festival included ten international shows from eight countries: Dreamer (2015) by Dream Puppets from Australia; Wild West Cabaret (2017) by The Fifth Wheel from Germany; The Story of a Donkeygull (2016) by Ta Panta Fi Puppet Company from Greece; Flora’s Dance (2012) by Avital Dvory Visual Theatre Group from Israel; Dorme (2011) by La Capra Ballerina Puppet Theatre from Italy; from the Netherlands, The Thousand and Last Night by Ila van der Pouw and Little Mole Bim (2012) by Koekla; from Russia, Thumbelina (2005) by Omsk State Theatre of Puppet, Actor and Mask “Arlekin” and The Miracle of the Scarlet Sails (2016) by Teatrol-Theater; and Peter Pan (2015) by Theatre for Children Kragujevac from Serbia.

From host country China, three major productions were on offer: from Sichuan, The Dragon Gate Legend (2014) by Sichuan Giant Puppet Troupe; from Guangdong, Garbage Battle (2016) by Guangdong Province Puppet Art Theater Co., Ltd; and from Shanghai, the premiere of The Last Warrior Elephant (2018) by SMG Live and Shanghai Puppet Theatre Co., Ltd. These three productions represented three very different styles of Chinese puppetry. The Sichuan production, performed with the large rod puppets the region is famous for, is a colorful and charming fresh take on a local legend, a blend of traditional rod puppetry with first-class modern staging, lighting and a score based on music of the Nanchong region. The Guangdong production takes a very contemporary theme – garbage, and the looming catastrophe for the planet if we humans don’t do something quickly about managing our waste. This show with human actors – all young members of the company – and body and costume puppets among the mixed puppetry techniques on show, is an exuberant piece of theatre. The third production, Shanghai Puppet Theatre’s The Last Warrior Elephant, based on Shen Shixi’s novel of the same name, is set in Xishuangbanna (Yunnan Province) during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). With its nod to War Horse and William Kentridge aesthetics, this is a major production of international quality, visually and technically beautiful, a stunning full-length drama with human actors, dancers, and a herd of elephants each masterfully animated by three puppeteers.

Photo courtesy of UNIMA CHina. Cathryn Anne Robinson (from New Zealand, partner and co-founder with Peter of puppet companies in Hobart, Fremantle and Wellington), L. Peter Wilson, Tang Dayu, David Heesen, Karen Smith.

Photo courtesy of UNIMA CHina. Cathryn Anne Robinson (from New Zealand, partner and co-founder with Peter of puppet companies in Hobart, Fremantle and Wellington), L. Peter Wilson, Tang Dayu, David Heesen, Karen Smith.

The four international festivals I have attended in China since 2014 have all had a “competition” component. At this, the Golden Magnolia Shanghai International Puppet Festival, the 11-member jury comprised nine prominent Chinese administrators, artists, and leaders in the field of Chinese puppetry – Liu Wenguo, Zhou Yusheng, Mao Shi’an, Chen Yingxian, Wang Hao, Tang Dayu, Yu Rongjun, Wang Junjie, He Xiaoqiong – and two international judges – myself (Karen Smith) and L. Peter Wilson (co-founder and Artistic Director of Tasmanian Puppet Theatre, Hobart, Tasmania, 1970-1980, today the Terrapin Puppet Theatre; co-founder and former Artistic Director of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle, Western Australia, 1981-1996; Artistic Director of Capital E National Theatre for Children, Wellington, New Zealand, 1997- ; and founder, director and performer of his own company, Little Dog Barking Theatre Company, Wellington, New Zealand, 2010- ).

At the International Forum, the following were the four keynote speakers, with the title of their presentations. Li Yannian: “Themes and Aesthetics of Chinese and Foreign Puppetry”; Rob Bloemkolk: “About Tarzan and growing older on stage”; Zhao Genlou: “Integration of World Puppetry and Active Inheritance and Development of Traditional Puppetry”; and David Heesen: “An Introduction to Indonesian Wayang, a Video Presentation”.

Dave’s and my local guide from Shanghai Puppet Theatre was Qian Jialei (English name “Elisa”). She, along with all the artists and personnel at the theatre, looked after us very well! They were wonderful hosts.

David Heesen: We are staying in a fine, old hotel (The Pacific) just across from the main park in Shanghai, People’s Park, arrangements made for us by the good folks at the Shanghai Puppet Theatre. Karen is serving as one of two international judges at their week long biennial festival. So, by day and night we attended performances, and the rest of the time is spent eating. For lunches and dinners there might be a dozen of us seated around a table with a massive lazy Susan turntable in the middle piled with 20 to 30 dishes. Ducks, chickens, pigeons, quail (and their eggs), pork ribs, pork chops, pork char siu (Chinese BBQ pork), squirrel fish, jelly fish, carp, sponges and mushrooms, pak choy, ong choy (water spinach), other choys, melons – anything that moves or grows is fair game. And it just keeps coming and coming. 

Photo courtesy of UNIMA CHina. (Left to Right): Tang Dayu (Vice President, UNIMA China; Vice President, China Puppetry and Shadow Arts Association; National First Class Actor), Karen Smith (UNIMA-USA; Vice President, UNIMA), Liu Jin (Office Director, Shanghai Puppet Theatre), and He Xiaoqiong (General Manager, Shanghai Puppet Theatre Co., Ltd; National First Class Actor)

Photo courtesy of UNIMA CHina. (Left to Right): Tang Dayu (Vice President, UNIMA China; Vice President, China Puppetry and Shadow Arts Association; National First Class Actor), Karen Smith (UNIMA-USA; Vice President, UNIMA), Liu Jin (Office Director, Shanghai Puppet Theatre), and He Xiaoqiong (General Manager, Shanghai Puppet Theatre Co., Ltd; National First Class Actor)

Harold is taking over our Instagram!

Something curious is coming our way! The cast of Center for Puppetry Arts' Harold and the Purple Crayon is taking over UNIMA-USA's Instagram this Saturday, 4/20. Don't miss this special behind-the-scenes look at this innovative adaptation.

https://www.instagram.com/unimausa/

Want to take over our feed for a day? Member companies can reach us at unimausa@gmail.com to pitch a one-day takeover idea.

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A note from Andrew Periale, Editor of Puppetry International Magazine

Jesús Caballero (left) constructing a puppet for the  máquina real . Photo courtesy of Luis Caballero.

Jesús Caballero (left) constructing a puppet for the máquina real. Photo courtesy of Luis Caballero.

We’re very excited about our new issue of PI – “Our Intangible Cultural Heritage.” If the precise meaning of this theme eludes you, Annie Katsura Rollins’s intro to her article (below) on the effect of this designation on Chinese shadow puppetry may help pierce the fog. In our wide-ranging articles on the subject, I believe we broaden the definition in a number of ways – all to the good!  

“In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added a new category to their previously established heritage distinctions: natural and tangible cultural heritage. UNESCO’s newest category, intangible cultural heritage (ICH), was created to fill a gap in categories to include ‘traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditionsperforming artssocial practices, rituals, festive eventsknowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts’… Puppetry, as a performed traditional practice, qualifies best as an intangible cultural heritage within UNESCO’s three categories. However, puppetry, a performed practice with a decidedly tangible physical element––the puppet or performing object––exposes the limits of categorical safeguarding theories and methods and shows us new ways to consider safeguarding our intangible cultural heritage.” - Annie Katsura Rollins

            The magazine is being printed as I type, and should be out in mid to late April, along with lots of “bonus material” on the website: unima-usa.org/index – look for PI #45.

Attending the Living Objects: African American Puppetry Symposium and Conference

by Trudi Cohen

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I had the pleasure of attending two of the four days of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry’s Living Objects: African-American Puppetry Symposium and Conference, co-curated by Drs. Paulette Richards and John Bell (full disclosure—my husband). This gathering accompanied an exhibit which is currently on display at the Ballard Museum, University of Connecticut, through April 7th.

The Symposium portion of the gathering included three full days of panel discussions, addressing topics such as Minstrel Performance, Puppetry and Community and Afro-Diasporic Storytelling, featuring scholars, teachers and practitioners sharing their experiences, research, and ideas. The Festival portion included performances by African-American puppeteers with diverse styles and themes.

Edna Bland in  The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

Edna Bland in The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

The Festival and Exhibit span an eclectic range of puppet genres and performance styles – including shadow, marionette, rod, bunraku, over-life-size figures, an evening of ventriloquism, a Sunday morning of Gospel Puppetry, screenings of contemporary films, and a revival performance by the legendary Crowtations. The powerful thread linking the artists and scholars is their shared passion for identifying a common cultural heritage, one whose history is strongly rooted in African mask and object ritual, and was savagely severed by slavery. Both the exhibit and the Festival put a spotlight on the beauty and struggles they share. And I sensed joy among them, in the chance to come together, to discover both common histories and widely differing puppetry styles.

I was told that this is the first such exhibit since one produced by the Center for Puppetry Arts 25 years ago. As Brad Brewer said, let’s not have to wait another 25 years for similar recognition!

 Paulette Richards says that the Living Objects exhibition “cannot yield a definitive statement of what African American puppetry is,” but it can offer “a fresh perspective on African American experience…African-American puppetry is exultant even when it addresses painful themes such as the legacy of slavery or systemic violence against black men.” And, “gathering these prismatic, complex, and exultant perspectives together opens a space for reflection on how object performance nurtures the human spirit.”

I felt privileged to be in that space, and I believe that other participants felt the same – a space which nurtured my spirit and educated my understanding of the African diaspora.

If you can get to UConn before the exhibit closes on April 7th, I encourage you to go see it. If not, extensive documentation of the exhibit and (coming soon) symposium is posted on the exhibit website.

Participants from Baltimore. From left to right: Valeska Populoh, Dirk Joseph, Azaria Joseph, Sequoia Joseph, Sheila Gaskins, and Schroeder Cherry.

Participants from Baltimore. From left to right: Valeska Populoh, Dirk Joseph, Azaria Joseph, Sequoia Joseph, Sheila Gaskins, and Schroeder Cherry.

A Whimsical World: The Puppetry of Drew Allison at the McClellanville Arts Council Gallery in South Carolina

Drew Allison. Photo by Simon Hare.

Drew Allison. Photo by Simon Hare.

Join the McClellanville Arts Council in a celebration of World Puppetry Day which falls annually on March 21. 

The Arts Council will host an exhibit of puppet creations by long-time puppeteer Drew Allison.  Over 25 puppets will be exhibited from past performances, on-camera appearances and commissioned works. 

The story of each puppet and their role will accompany each piece.  Puppeteer Drew Allison will be on hand to chat at the Exhibit Opening on March 21, 2019 at 7:00pm at The McClellanville Arts Council Gallery. The exhibit will run from March 21, 2019- April 13, 2019.

For additional information about Drew Allison and his company called Grey Seal Puppets, see their website at www.greysealpuppets.com or check them out on social media. 

You can contact Drew for additional information as well at drew@greysealpuppets.com

Exciting New Blog Features Puppet Performance Reviews from 1999-2009

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Donald Devet recently created a blog featuring puppet performance reviews he wrote while living in New York City from 1999-2009. During those 10 years he reviewed shows by Ralph Lee, Basil Twist, Gretchen Van Lente, Janie Geiser, Liz Joyce, Kevin Augustine, Lake Simons, Edward Einhorn and many more.

Donald’s intent in creating a blog of reviews is to provide a model for other reviewers, both in and out of the puppet world. As you are well aware, puppet performances are often given short shift by many commercial theater reviewers who are oftentimes unfamiliar with puppetry as a theatrical art form and sometimes don’t take the work seriously. 

Because of his extensive background in stage puppetry, Donald has treated the performances in his reviews with respect and has given an honest evaluation of the performers’ intents.

He believes it’s beneficial to puppeteers and the public at large to visit a blog site dedicated specifically to reviews of puppet shows. Donald’s goal in creating “Puppets In Review” (https://puppetsinreview.home.blog/) is to demonstrate that puppetry should be given as serious consideration as any other performing arts genre.

In addition to his own reviews, Donald invites others to contribute to the “Puppets in Review” blog. To begin the process of submitting a review: https://puppetsinreview.home.blog/submit-your-review/

Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut is pleased to present the Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium to celebrate the rich world of African American puppetry in the United States. This four-day series of performances, presentations, discussions, film screenings, and workshops will take place February 7 to 10, 2019 in Hartford and Storrs, Connecticut.

Activities for the Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium will occur in various venues on UConn’s Storrs campus February 8 to 10, with related festival events with UConn Hartford at the Hartford Public Library on Thursday, February 7, 2019 and at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art on Saturday, February 9, 2019.

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Attendees have two options to participate in Living Objects Festival and Symposium events:

1.    Living Objects performances in Storrs and Hartford are open to the public. Individual tickets can be purchased at bimp.ticketleap.com.

2.    To attend all Living Objects Festival and Symposium events, including performances, panel discussions, film screenings, and more, registration is required. Registration can be completed at www.cvent.com/d/bbqbh7.

The festival will feature performances by Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins, Megan Piphus, David Liebe Hart, Dirk Joseph and String Theory Theater, Pandora Gastelum, Bruce Cannon, Nate Puppets, Yolanda Sampson, Edna Bland, and more!

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These events are part of the current Ballard Institute exhibition Living Objects: African American Puppetry, on display through April 7, which for the first time brings together historical and contemporary puppets, masks, and performing objects by African American artists and puppeteers. Many of the exhibition's contributors, as well as scholars from around the United States, will come together at the festival and symposium to celebrate the past, present, and future of African American puppetry.

Living Objects Festival and Symposium registrants may purchase one-day, three-day, or student passes to attend all festival and symposium events. Registration will include breakfast and lunch. To register for a one-day or three-day pass to the festival and symposium, visit www.cvent.com/d/bbqbh7. To read more about the Living Objects exhibition and festival, visit bimp-exhibitions.org/livingobjects.

Applications Now Open for New Victory LabWorks

The New Victory Theater, New York City’s premier nonprofit performing arts theater devoted year-round to kids and their families and classmates, announces the call for applications to the 2019-20 New Victory LabWorks program.

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New Victory LabWorks is seeking applications from New York City-based artists and companies interested in creating new work for family audiences in the areas of theater, dance, music, circus, puppetry arts and other performing arts.

For artists of all disciplines who desire an experience tailored to their specific needs and individual creative processes, New Victory LabWorks offers selected artists a stipend, ample dedicated rehearsal space in the New 42nd Street Studios and the possibility of holding Open Rehearsals for industry professionals, fellow artists and New Victory Member families. Facilitated by New Victory staff, these experiences provide the invaluable feedback of peers and target audiences alike.

Some current and previous New Victory LabWorks Artists include: Molly Powers Gallagher; Hit The Lights! Theater Co; Max Darwin and Alexander Dinelaris Jr.; Nambi E. Kelley; Preeti Vasudevan; Faye Chiao and Anton Dudley; Breton Tyner-Bryan; Bluelaces Theater Company; Aaron Jafferis; Spellbound Theatre; AchesonWalsh Studios; Kate Douglas; Kaneza Schaal and Christopher Myers, and Phantom Limb Company.

For more information, program requirements and the 2019-20 application, visit www.newvictory.org/labworks


For questions, email LabWorks@newvictory.org. Applications will be accepted through Friday, February 1, 2019.

3rd International Conference on Training in the Arts of Puppetry

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May 15-20, 2019 in Florianópolis, Brazil

The Third International Meeting on Training in the Arts of Puppetry will address the theme:

Staging and diversity of contemporary theatrical creation processes.

Traditional puppet theater such as the Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese shadows, the Chinese hand puppet theater, the Bunraku, the Pulcinella family, the puppi Siciliani, the Czech rod marionettes - to mention only a part of this vast territory - presents strictly defined forms, adapted to the puppet genre, with a fixed dramaturgical structure and a definite gestural vocabulary. In the traditional repertoire, stories and characters change while aesthetics and impact on the audience remain the same. The type of puppets - their physiognomy, their color pallet and their dynamics - is in perfect harmony with the type of dramaturgy that has been created for them. The puppeteers are committed to achieving the performance virtuosity so much appreciated by the public and the differences between artists are expressed in fine performing nuances and in the fine art aspect of the puppets. The staging, even when it is innovative, follows the codes of each of the forms. With respect to traditional puppet theater training, knowledge is often transmitted through master-student learning.

Contemporary Puppet Theater is situated at the other pole of creation. Inspired by the potential of its new expressive means, artists from the fields of dance, mime and the visual arts turned to puppetry. This encounter has given birth to new and spectacular forms, which combine the puppet with the body of the actor, which invented the  “body masks” and the fictional or imaginary body, and which converge at the intersection of puppetry, acting and mime performance. The imaginary invades the plateau. The staging changes its status; it becomes a conceptual act and the director, a creator.

What dramaturgy must we invent for a theatre that is constantly seeking its form and is continually changing? What will be the markers along the way for the author, the playwright, and the director? Should we create rules and handbooks? Could it be even possible? We know that there is no definitive truth.

Contemporary theater seldom starts with a text written for the stage. Its sources are often a literary text, a musical piece, a theme, an idea, and a desire to question reality. The dramaturgical structure is created for the show; writing and staging must work in a relationship of complicity, evolving together until the end of the creative process.

After having discussed the definition of puppetry and puppet theater in 2015, the pedagogy and the links between traditional and contemporary theater in 2017, the Third International Conference on Training in the Arts of Puppetry 2019 organized by the UNIMA Training Commission in collaboration with the Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina, in Florianópolis and with the participation of academics, practitioners and students will examine different aspects of the current notion of directing:

• How to define the director? Its functions differ according to the processes of creation and are not definitive.

• How to teach directing? What directing? For what theater?

• What could be the pedagogy for a puppet theater in constant transformation? We should consider that today “the puppet” is born of a profusion of contemporary forms, produced with an overflowing inventiveness: how to approach directing and be able to teach it in this perspective of a theatre in permanent evolution?

We intend:

- To explore what is directing today, in relation to the diversity of the creative processes and the diversity of the dramaturgical forms.

- To explore the pedagogy (s) of directing. How does pedagogy meet the requirements of a theatre, which presents a broad diversity forms?

- To explore the history of the staging to show the various historical periods and the directors thinkers who, seeking to give substance to their shows, had deep reflections with respect to the aesthetics of the show, to the relationship between show and spectator and the impact that the show will have on it.

- To explore the importance (extension) occupied by the visual image in the contemporary theatre, question its functions in the dramaturgy of the show, and the relation with the current technologies.

For this purpose we propose work topics such as:

1. Conference on the evolution of the staging, its goals, its challenges, and the relationship between staging and dramaturgy.

2. The presentation of unique creative processes, linked to artistic personalities.

3. Practical workshops that show various pedagogical approaches to the teaching of staging.

4. Debates and round tables with the guests in the presence and with the participation of students and teaching artists.

The Universidade do Estado Santa Catarina), Florianópolis, will host the conference.

You can find more information on the UNIMA website.

World Cultural Heritage in America

provided by Ayhan Hulagu

PHOTO PROVIDED BY AYHAN Hulagu

PHOTO PROVIDED BY AYHAN Hulagu

Ayhan Hulagu, who established Karagoz Theatre Company in America, has been performing the traditional Turkish shadow puppet theater all over. Taking the stage in America’s various states, especially in Washington DC, Hulagu says that Karagoz attracts more attention abroad.

Since its naming to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009, Karagoz has started to draw attention all over the world. Lots of panels, workshops and festivals regarding Karagoz have been arranged. Turkish performer Ayhan Hulagu has organized a group of theatre makers with the aim of traveling around America to introduce Karagoz to more people. Hulagu’s first performance was in Washington DC, the capital of the United States. After that he made special shows in Virginia and Iowa. Ayhan’s performance recently served as the opening show of Great Plains Puppet Festival, which is one of the most well-known puppet festivals in the USA. Hulagu opened the festival with his two shows named Swing and Magic Tree, adapted from Turkish veteran Karagoz performer Muhittin Sevilen’s plays. In general, Hulagu prefers to perform Karagoz using both Turkish and English during the shows. Performing under the same roof of Karagoz Theatre Company, Hulagu underlines that the American people are very interested in Karagoz shows.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY AYHAN Hulagu

PHOTO PROVIDED BY AYHAN Hulagu

Ayhan Hulagu started a project named Karagoz Triplet two years ago in İstanbul. He has taken the stage abroad as part of this project’s second section. He summarizes his project like this: “I started Karagoz Triplet in İstanbul. I performed a Karagoz show in İstanbul’s streets. My second project is Karagoz on the way. Within this framework, I have taken the stage in various countries, especially in America. After I complete my shows in America, I am planning to take stage in Europe. Last part of Karagoz Triplet will be in Turkey, named Karagoz at home. Lastly, I am planning to meet Turkish audiences with Karagoz. In Turkey, I want to express my experiences performing Karagoz shows as I travel all over the world. My time touring in America has been an extraordinary experience for me. Also, it is a big pleasure to have a chance to introduce our traditional Karagoz show all over the world.”

DEADLINE EXTENDED! Build a Sauropod Marionette for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

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Submit your proposal by by 4:00 pm on January 14th, 2018 to be considered for this project. NHMLA plans to select an experienced artist to develop and fabricate a new puppet to be used in regular programming at the museum.

Project Goals and Technical Requirements:

The selected contractor will work with NHMLA paleontological staff to develop and create a marionette interpretation of a sauropod dinosaur, the precise species will be determined at the beginning of the development process. Core requirements include:

  • The total budget for the puppet must not exceed $10,000.

  • The puppet must match those visual characteristics outlined during development with paleontology staff.

  • Puppet is capable of interacting regularly with guests of all ages.

  • Puppet should coexist aesthetically with other Dinosaur Encounters puppets.

  • Puppet control design must be ergonomic and practical for repeated use during 30 minute performances.

  • Puppet weight should fall under 15 pounds.

  • Puppet must be delivered, meeting all aforementioned requirements, to NHMLA by March 1st, 2018

Bidding Procedure:

All proposals are due by 4:00 pm on January 14th, 2018.. No faxed proposals will be accepted. Emailed proposals are preferred, but hard copies are accepted. All proposals should be sent to The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County C/0 Ilana Gustafson at the following address: 900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 90007. All questions or comments concerning the Request for Proposals should be addressed to Ilana Gustafson, Manager of Performing Arts at igustafson@nhm.org.


Material Performance at a Dutch Festival

Pikz Palace company’s   Boucherie Bacul     .   Photo by Colette Searls.

Pikz Palace company’s Boucherie Bacul. Photo by Colette Searls.

by Colette Searls

I recently returned from the 2018 Puppet International Festival in Meppel, Netherlands, which hosted companies from across Europe the week of October 10th – 14th. One of the most exciting performances was the one-night celebration of puppet royalty, Masters@Work, with breathtaking acts by Jordi Bertran, Tristan Vogt (Thalias Kompagnons), Neville Tranter (Stuffed Puppet), and Meppel’s own Henk Boerwinkel. In addition to these standard-bearing stars, the festival offered a balance of outstanding established and up-and-coming companies working in a wide range of puppetry styles. Yet interestingly, some of the most moving shows involved little or no direct human animation – what we might strictly define as puppeteering – but seemed to celebrate the expanding art of puppetry/material performance by other novel means.

The Dutch group BOT offered a particularly touching and mind-bending performance called LEK (Leak/Leaky), a kind of object concert featuring a menagerie of invented (as well as wildly modified) tools and instruments playing with a quartet of musicians. At various points, one of these strange kinetic objects would suddenly jolt to life and move itself autonomously across the stage (particularly eerie was a self-playing cello in a wheelchair). BOT is primarily a site-specific touring company, and one of the performers explained to me that their reputation lies more along the lines of “object performance” (as he put it in English) than puppetry. But after appearing at the World Puppet Festival in Charleville-Mézières, they started hearing from other puppet festivals like this one.

The Meppel festival also proudly hosted the Architects of Air (Alan Parkinson)’s Luminarium, which is not a puppet show, but rather an enormous sculpture you get to walk inside. This beautiful installation looked from the outside like an artsy circus tent, and from the inside like the stomach of some benevolent alien whale. Visitors were invited to enter the colorful curved hallways and rooms, lie down, take pictures, meditate – most folks seemed happy to just find a spot to relax in awe. There were no moving objects and no performers. But the experience was still dynamic – a masterfully designed animation-interaction of hard materials with intangible elements of light and air.

Pikz Palace company’s   Boucherie Bacul     .   Photo by Colette Searls.

Pikz Palace company’s Boucherie Bacul. Photo by Colette Searls.

My weirdest object-performance experience was with Pikz Palace company’s Boucherie Bacul  in Meppel’s town square. I caught this funny, imaginative show during the “Hapas Rout,” where the audience walked to puppet performances staged at local eateries. As we followed our leader through the town square, we came upon this small, blood-splattered butchery with a mix of delight and horror as – upon closer inspection – we realized that this middle-aged couple was serving the flesh of dolls and stuffed animals. Treated as customers, we were quickly ushered into a comically grotesque hands-on toy butchery demo. No Barbies were puppeteered, but many were harmed. Badly. The butchers assured us that they were all well-used, and no longer able to fulfill their toy duties. But that didn’t stop us from cringing while they skinned a Burt doll, or placed a Pikachu in the meat slicer. I don’t know how much irony was intended, or if there was a vegetarian agenda here, but the resonant power of performing objects was as much on display as the pickled Barbie heads.

Perhaps all of this is a sign that puppet festivals today are looking to present an increasingly wide range of performing object work. If so, it may bring more attention to the aesthetic potency – and interdisciplinary reach – of puppetry/material performance as a whole. 

If you’d like more details on the Puppet International Festival in Meppel, please read my upcoming review in the next issue of Puppetry International.

Scholarship Application Deadline Extended to December 15th!

Apply now for the 2019 UNIMA-USA Scholarship to Study Abroad!

ELIGIBILITY

All candidates for scholarships must: 

• Be citizens or permanent residents of the United States

• Be a current member of UNIMA-USA

• Be over the age of 18

• Have some experience in puppetry or/and a university degree showing an interest in puppetry

• Applying for aid to study with a recognized puppetry professional or professional program outside of the United States, or to attend an international puppetry workshop. Independent study plans are also eligible.

HOW TO APPLY

In addition to the application form, please send the following materials to scholarship@unima-usa.org:

• 3 letters of recommendation from master puppeteers or professors in puppet theatre with whom you have worked or who know your work

• 5 images of your work

Questions? Contact Scholarship Representative Honey Goodenough atscholarship@unima-usa.org.

Tribute to Margareta Niculescu, UNIMA President of Honor

December 15th, 2019, at 7 PM  | Charleville-Mézières

For this well-deserved tribute, we join the International Puppetry Institute, the World Festival of Puppetry Arts of Charleville-Mézières, THEMAA and Latitude Marionnette to honor the memory of this great woman for her huge contribution to the Puppetry Arts throughout her life. The world of Puppet Theater will always be in mourning.

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This evening will offer the opportunity to go through the main stages of her career and her visionary thought.

We invite you to join us for this tribute to be held on December 15 2019, at 7PM at the Theater of the National Superior School of Puppetry Art (16 avenue Jean Jaurès, Charleville-Mézières - France).

Reservation required at the International Puppet Institute: +33 (0) 3 24 33 72 50