SPECIAL FEATURE: UNIMA-USA TURNS 50
I admit to being a bit of a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to celebrating anniversaries. True, Bonnie (our incomparable designer) and I did take two days off earlier this month in recognition of our thirty years of marriage, and it was a much-needed change of pace. But as a rule I don’t pay much attention to birthdays (ours or our pets), municipal centennials, quinceañeras, jubilees or onomastici. 50 years of UNIMA-USA, though, is an occasion to celebrate, and not just because it’s a half century—the BIG 5 Oh!—but for all that it represents: the mission, the activities, the fellowship and so much more.
In the pages that follow, you can read about UNIMA and UNIMA-USA, but here are a few quick facts: UNIMA is the oldest theater organization in the world. There are about 6,000 members worldwide, and while UNIMA, through the work of its commissions, has done much for the field of puppetry, its most important explicit goal is to promote international friendship and understanding through the art of puppetry. This is a noble cause in a troubled and fractious world, and we are proud to be a part of it and support its work.
You won’t find much written here about our current General Secretary, Vincent Anthony, but if our board members are the engine that keeps this train chugging along, then Vince is the tracks. He has been at the helm of this organization for just shy of 25 years—half its existence!—and by garnering the support of the Center for Puppetry Arts board of directors, UNIMA-USA has a home and a staff: Lisa Rhodes (controller) and Lyrric Jackson (director of membership services). In addition to his actual job as Executive Director of the amazing Atlanta center, Vince has served on the Executive Council of UNIMA International (including as vice president), en- hancing the image of United States puppetry on the world stage. Though he prefers to keep out of the spotlight, his generosity and wise counsel have been essential to the development and growth of this organization.
UNIMA-USA also owes much to Jim, Jane, Cheryl and Heather Henson. All of them have supported the or- ganization and its activities in very substantial ways. Jim in particular was indispensible in starting the formation of our national center, supporting the work of making us a non-profit, guaranteeing the 1980 UNIMA Congress and Festival in Washington, DC, against financial loss and so much more. If it seems that the Henson contri- bution is under-represented here, it is only because it has been so well covered in both the article by Cheryl Henson in our recent “Puppetry Futures” issue, and in the summer 2016 issue of the Puppetry Journal. Our debt to them, though, is huge.
We also do not refer to the work of Donald Devet, who has been for many years our webmaster and electronic media consultant. Some of you will know Donald as one of the founding partners of Grey Seal Puppets, but for many years he has been responsible for UNIMA-USA’s web presence, keeping us current in the ever-evolving worlds of the internet and social media. Before beginning in this role—heck, before the internet existed—he also served on our board, including as president.
So many people contribute to making this enterprise a success, and you’ll hear from some of them in this issue—board members, consultants, councilors, peer reviewers—while others remain in the shadows, like our proofreader, TerrieIlaria, and all the folks at Edison Press who have worked for years to help make Puppetry International a pleasure to hold in the hand. For them, and for all of you readers, without whom this enterprise would be impossible and pointless, our heartfelt thanks. We look forward to serving you for another 50 years as we continue to improve UNIMA-USA’s service to our members and the field of puppetry in print, online and when gathered together.
Now blow out the candles and make a wish!
-Andrew C. Periale