In 1994 UNIMA-USA began maintaining a list of members who make their names available to foreign puppeteers traveling through North America. This guide enables traveling puppeteers to contact members who can open their homes and develop friendships with artists from other countries.
UNIMA-USA only compiles the information; the guide is made available to foreign puppeteers who may then make direct contact with members listed in the directory. If you would like to have the oppurtunity to be contacted by a travelling puppeteer, write to:
Hands Across The Sea
Jean Marie Keevins, Coordinator
CURRENT PROGRAM NEWS
Puppets in Prague
By Liz Joyce
Back in 2000, I stumbled upon a traditional Czech marionette carving workshop in Prague. I had just taken up carving puppets and marionettes and decided taking a class would improve my skills. The two weeks that I spent in the Czech Republic that summer were more than I could have imagined.
Artist, toymaker and puppeteer Mirek Trejtnar taught this first workshop of 8 participants from Korea, Ireland, England, France and the US. Many of us were artists, I was one of the few puppeteers. Behind the scenes, Leah Gaffen (then girlfriend, now wife) assisted with planning and coordination. We designed our characters, did technical drawings, cut out and drilled our wooden parts, carved, painted, costumed, assembled and performed a short piece with our puppets. Along the way, a talented crew of Czech puppet experts assisted us. In the evenings, we explored the city. We saw puppet shows tucked away in the city’s many theaters and outdoor festivals, far from the throngs of tourists. We visited puppeteers’ studios, soaked in exhibits and relaxed at the pub afterwards. We were a family for those two weeks, making new friends and in the end,taking home our freshly created marionettes.
In the years since, hundreds of students have carved their way through Puppets in Prague. Many students kept returning, so Mirek created additional puppetry workshops including traditional Czech marionettes, stop motion animation, breakaway marionettes and added more opportunities to perform. The latest workshop addition, Family Puppet Theaters, caught my eye. Combined with the planned PIP 15 Year Anniversary, reunion and puppet festival, I decided to return to Prague.
The workshop was intense. We each made our own short piece on our own little toy theater stage, creating 3-5 12-inch marionettes in two weeks. Mirek, other carving artists, costumers, and animators assisted us to meet our deadline. We even had our own directors to help us bring it all together. It was summer camp in a storybook foreign land….with beer!
The PIP 15 Fest took place on Kampa Island. It was filled with performances from Buchty a Loutky, Toymachine Puppet Theatre, PIP alumni and our family puppet theater shows, sprinkled around the Island. Over the years, Leah and Mirek have created a vast network of artists and puppeteers from near and far. It was an eclectic and rather Bohemian crowd with loads of Czech kids romping about. We paraded, ate cake and at sunset, set a puppet adrift on the Vltava River. The celebration also included a panel discussion, an exhibit of PIP puppets from past workshops, a Puppet Kucha slide show and time to reconnect with old friends. Congratulations to Puppets in Prague for 15 years of carving, creating and connecting and here’s to many more!