Stars and Space Creatures

We are nearly done with objects for Arts on the Horizon’s new baby theater show Space-Bop. We are thrilled to be collaborating again with Tia Shearer-Bassett and working for the first time with Christylez Bacon and Seamus Miller. Back in the summer of 2015 we participated in a workshop of this piece and now rehearsals start in just a few days! Meanwhile, here are some photos from the building process.

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A new star pattern, with one of our light-up gadgets in the background.

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A rather bumpy planet surface.

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The somewhat messy beginnings of another planet.

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Pieces of the astronaut helmet, before being put together.

Five Firsts: Wit’s End Puppets in 2015

It’s been a busy year here at Wit’s End Puppets; a year filled with new work and new friends and collaborators! Here is a list of our top five ‘first’ moments from the year.

IMG_23095. First crankie!
Ever since I saw Katherine Fahey’s amazing crankies, I’ve wanted to tackle constructing one ourselves. It was a thrill to work with Katherine this year on our shadow play Saudade. 

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4. First Fringe show in way too long!
Our very first show using the name Wit’s End Puppets was back in 2010 for the Capital Fringe Festival. We had a wonderful time working with banished? productions on their piece I Thought the Earth Remembered Me for this year’s festival.

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3. First video shoot!
It was a whole new world for us, incorporating puppets into a gothic, lush set for a music video with She Monster Productions.

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2. First City Arts Project grant! 
We are thrilled that DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities decided to award us a grant to tour Saudade around the city in collaboration with the American Immigration Council and GALA Hispanic Theatre. If you would like to help support this tour and send us to even more places, you can donate here!

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1.First International performance!
Traveling to Winnipeg for the Winnipeg International Storytelling Festival was an amazing opportunity. We met so many incredible artists and teachers; people who work every day to help immigrants and refugees in Winnipeg. It was an honor to share our art with them and hear their thoughts and stories.

Here’s to a 2016 that’s just as rewarding and exciting!

Peacocks and Puppets

Although we mainly work with puppets for the theater, last month we had the opportunity to work on a short film project with She Monster Productions up in New York City. It was a video for the song ‘The Waltz’ by Ian Axel and featured several Muppet-style puppets alongside human actors. The puppets were provided by us and the New York based puppet company Puppetsburg. Set partly in the city and partly in an afterlife with a decaying, ornate feast, the video follows two women as they find each other, are separated through death and then find each other again.

Puppetry for film is very different than for the stage, and although our arms got tired, it was fun to try moments over and over again, with no thought for an audience’s patience or sight lines. Everyone connected with the project was creative and eager to try new things. And we got to meet a peacock! His name was Dexter and he wasn’t all that thrilled with tons of people and puppets invading the apartment where he lives, so while it would have been fun to have the puppets try and interact with him, we resisted. Here are some photos of the shoot. We will share the video when it is finished!

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Emily and Cecilia resting between shots.

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The feast table, set with all kinds of odd objects.

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Cecilia taking a quick nap behind the table.

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Puppets with one of the actors. They  look cute, but they can be dangerous!

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Peacock! Say hi to Dexter.

Hand Puppets in Central America

Students in El Salvador show off their sock puppets.

Students in Ilobasco show off their sock puppets.

After traveling to Canada and Armenia, my final adventure of the summer season was heading to two different countries in Central America to teach puppet workshops. Under the auspices of the non-profit Co-partners of Campesinas, I was invited to teach puppetry to students in the towns of Ilobasco in El Salvador and Chichicastenango in Guatemala.

A teen from El Salvador with his hand puppet. The head is a gourd that grows locally.

A teen from Ilobasco with his hand puppet. The head is made from a gourd that grows locally.

These two workshops were structured very differently. In Ilobasco, students ages 6-25 were grouped by age for a week long art and conflict resolution workshop during a school holiday. Due to changing school schedules, transportation challenges and family obligations, there were different numbers in the classes each day and not all students were able to stay for the entire workshop. Despite this, the younger students built sock puppets and used them to invent short scenes while the older students experimented with constructing hand puppets that used local gourds as heads.

A student in Guatemala sews her puppet's body.

A student in Chichicastenango sews her puppet’s body.

In Chichicastenango, the workshop was hosted by a community organization called ASDECO and lasted for five days. I had a class of about 20 students, mainly teens and young adults, with some older participants, who made paper mache hand puppets. Unlike in El Salvador, where the focus of the workshop was creative expression, this one was intended to further the cultural goals of ASDECO who are dedicated to preserving and sharing the indigenous Ki’che culture of the region. Magdalena, an ASDECO staff member, led discussions about the traditional Ki’che stories of the Popol Wuj, which the students then turned into a short puppet play. I taught the group to construct hand puppets of the play’s characters with paper maché heads and cloth bodies. The finished piece was shared with the center’s staff and other community members on our final day.

Puppetry is not a very common art form in Central America. Few of my students in either Ilobasco or Chichicastenango had ever seen a puppet show and usually it was on TV rather than live. It was wonderful to see the students making creative decisions as they built their puppets and sometimes using other skills such as embroidery or beadwork to add to puppet clothing. I’m looking forward to seeing what else these artists create in the future.

The class in Chichicastenango, with their puppets.

The class in Chichicastenango, with their puppets.