While on tour last year, I made a stop at Madcap Puppets' headquarters in Cincin- nati, Ohio. The director, John Lewan- dowski, took me on a tour of the former Bell Telephone Exchange Building, which was about to be completely refitted as Madcap's new home, with a 200-seat theater, a community education center and an exhibit hall. Clearly this would be more than just a home base for a touring company—it would be a "puppet center." John remarked that, in Europe (where he'd worked for many years), you didn't find this model of "puppet center." Well, what did one find in Europe? Asia? The Middle East? I had a feeling that the answers to these questions could easily fill an issue of Puppetry International. It turns out I was right!
If you are reading this, then chances are good that you already know something about puppet centers. Here in the United States we are blessed with a number of institutions that com- bine multiple functions in one entity, which might
include producing original work for the puppet theater, presenting the work of outside troupes, housing a museum of puppet artifacts, offering professional training for puppeteers and workshops for the general public, archiving materials of historic significance and so on.
Madcap is not the only institution that is growing; Vince Anthony brings us up- to-date on the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, our nation's largest puppet center, and the new construction there that will make this one of the premier centers for puppetry in the world. We also have thumbnail portraits of the Puppet Showplace (Boston) and the Great Arizona Theater (Phoenix). John Bell writes about the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and the University of Connecticut's Puppet Arts program. Other US centers that we didn't have room for here (but are well worth a visit) include the Northwest Puppet Center (Seattle), the Puppetry Arts Institute (Independence, MO), Owl Glass Puppetry Center (West Liberty, IA) and In The Heart of the Beast (Minneapolis).
Centers from around the world were happy to chime in, and we have articles from Cuba, Great Britain, France, Spain, Russia, Iran, China and Japan. Claudia Orenstein was recently in India and gives us a fascinating look at a number of puppet centers there. Whereas centers in many countries are housed in large buildings, a center in India might well be located in the basement of a puppeteer's home.
So whether you spell it "Center" or "Centre"*—and you'll find both of them here—the puppet center seems to reflect the puppeteer's desire to create a place where all the aspects of puppetry are available to the public: its history, its many forms, its use in education and therapy, and the ephemeral nature of its primary manifestation: the live performance.
*Center? Centre? Originally, everyone spelled it "centre," until Noah Webster's Spelling Reform. Webster tried to make spelling more logical. Many Americans adopted his spelling of "center," so that, today, about 92% percent of Americans use this spelling. The number drops in other countries, with the smallest numbers of "center" spellers in Great Britain (19%) and Australia (18%). We may be grateful that not all of Webster's proposals stuck, or we might have "wimmen" complaining of "akes"!