July Grab Bag

A roundup of articles, photos and events that we highlighted on Twitter this month. 

A hand puppet created by a student.

A hand puppet created by a student.

1. A fantastic article about the importance of arts education is here. Obviously, we agree!

2. Puppetry is an ancient art, but its prevalence in some parts of the world is changing rapidly. Read about traditional Indian puppetry and how it is changing here.

3. A tribute to British marionette master Frank Mumford is here.

4.Double Edge Theater up in Massachusetts is performing Sharazad this summer. Find out more about this fantastic theater in this article.

5.  These pictures of giant puppets make us wish we could see this production of The Magic Flute at the Bregenz Festival.

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INTERSECTIONS: An Artist’s Perspective

On the way to Atlas for one of our shows.

On the way to Atlas for one of our shows.

Life has been a little overwhelming of late, so it’s taken me a few weeks to be able to sit down and collect my thoughts about this year’s INTERSECTIONS festival. Performing there was a fantastic experience and I want to take the time to share a little of what made it such a special event.

Artists, even when working in groups such as orchestras, or dance and theater companies, can feel isolated. It is one of the ironies of being a working artist that you are often too busy with your own projects to have the time (and money) to see other people’s work. To that end, one of the best things about INTERSECTIONS is that it brings all the artists together in one building. Walking around before and after our show, you could hear snippets of music coming from different theaters, classical mixing with jazz mixing with flamenco. In the lobby between shows you could pick out dancers and musicians talking with audience members, everyone making space for the small children running around with their families. The free cafe concerts in the lobby and art activities for children made the space a welcoming one for audiences of all ages and fans of all kinds of art.

Puppets and instruments on tables backstage.

Puppets and instruments on tables backstage.

INTERSECTIONS takes place at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H St. NE and all the staff there worked incredibly hard to make us feel welcome and to encourage us to support each other’s work. While each performance was assigned one of the four ‘roadmaps’ (Sound, Movement, Story or Family) everyone was very enthusiastic and interested to hear about what was going on in other roadmaps and other theater spaces. Meetings, parties, and off site events were opportunities to make connections and learn about music, dance and other arts traditions that were unfamiliar. Serendipitous moments abounded (possibly my favorite was listening to Victoria Vox and Christylez Bacon improvising music together).

The Fabulas Mayas team, toasting a sold out show with cupcakes!

The Fabulas Mayas team, toasting a sold out show with cupcakes!

My one regret was that due to my crowded schedule, I was not able to see more performances by my fellow artists. A huge thank you to festival director Mary Hall Surface, and everyone at Atlas for making this such a wonderful experience. I hope to be back again another year!

May Grab Bag

Kismet is over and so (almost) is the month of May! With all the work at the theater this month, there has been less time to spend online and out and about seeking new and exciting things. But here are a few:

1. FIGMENT DC has submission forms up! We participated in this fun, free arts event last year and had a blast. If you are creative and have an idea for some kind of interactive arts activity, you should sign up! And if you would rather participate in someone else’s imaginative idea, put it on your calendar and come out to Anacostia for a fun time.

Our friends at Blue Sky Puppets will be performing at Strathmore this summer!

Our friends at Blue Sky Puppets will be performing at Strathmore this summer!

2. Strathmore out in Maryland has a whole bunch of puppet theater on tap for the summer, including our good friend Michael Cotter of Blue Sky Puppet Theater. Our friends at Pointless Theatre should be up there too for the puppet slam on August 2, so head over and say hi to them!

3. These photos by Todd McLellan came up on my radar screen via several different sources. Every time I looked at them, I had to restrain myself from going out and finding some particular tiny piece of machinery that I was convinced could become part of a puppet. Mr. McLellan, if you’re looking to get rid of any scraps, we should talk.

4. The International Toy Theater Festival is being hosted by Great Small Works up at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn from June 14-23. If you’re in the NYC area, you should check out the amazing work being done at this colossal event of miniature proportions!

April Grab Bag

Ited fell down the rabbit hole of the TED website recently, with the result that this month’s grab bag is a mix of TED videos. Some are directly related to puppetry, others are more tangential. But they all made me think, wonder, and get excited about being a working artist in the world today. Enjoy!

1.  I was intrigued by the descriptions of arts festivals in this talk by producer David Binder; I was reminded of Ping Chong’s series Undesirable Elements as well as the upcoming Figment. And I REALLY want to get a closer look at those giant puppets!

2. In conversation the other day, a puppeteer friend and I were discussing how many people now immediately think of War Horse when you mention puppets. Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler of Handspring Puppet Company talk about their amazing creations for that show in this talk.

3. Amanda Palmer is a musician, but she used to work as a living statue, a form of street performance that I’ve always loved. In this talk, she explains the art of asking and value of connecting with an audience. Lots of food for thought.

4. Traditional Chinese hand puppetry performed by Chen Xi Huang, with an amazing fighting sequence.

http://talentsearch.ted.com/video/Chen-Xi-Huang-The-ancient-art-o;TEDShanghai

5. This I think was the first TED talk (actually, TEDx talk) I ever saw, by one of the design editors at National Geographic, Oliver Uberti. I remember thinking that his comment that many of his projects “have a high risk of being terrible” sounded a lot like building a puppet. He also sounds like he’s had similar awkward conversations with employees of hardware stores who don’t quite understand what you’re trying to do!

http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxNASA-Oliver-Uberti-Smash-Th;search%3Aoliver%20uberti

These are five TED videos that intrigued me, but there are many, many more that I love and that I’m sure you will love. If you have some free time, check out the site and watch some videos. I’m sure you’ll find some interesting ideas!