Meet Nina Budabin McQuown

FullSizeRender copyWe are thrilled to be welcoming Nina Budabin McQuown to the Wit’s End company this fall. Nina is a puppeteer and poet who first began working with us several years ago as a researcher on Malevolent Creatures. They  also ran sound for part of the Saudade tour and have now started performing with us as well. Here is a short interview so you can get to know them!

Wit’s End Puppets: What is your earliest memory of puppets? Where did you first encounter them?

Nina Budabin McQuown: My mom was a storyteller, and there were always puppets hanging around my house. She used a method of telling stories with pieces of flannel that she’d layer on a board made of the same stuff. She’d build these pink-iced cookies and people and scenes out of flannel that were mesmerizing to me as a kid. I forgot all about them for years, and then a friend showed me a strange old early twentieth-century book on making hand puppets and I started making paper mache heads toward a giant ensemble show that I never ended up actually doing. All those little goblin heads I made make really good Christmas tree toppers though, particularly if you’re Jewish.

WEP: You’re a published poet and some of your poems have been turned into puppet pieces. Can you talk a little about the relationship between poetry and puppetry? What was the process like for turning your poetry into live theater?

NBM: There are plenty of models of good poetry puppetry integration out there, too–Theater Ooblek’s series of Baudelaire poem-crankie-song-shows, and the Alphabet Arts Poetry and Puppetry Series that Amber West ran for years in Brooklyn. Peter Schumann at Bread and Puppet uses loads of poetry in his work, and something that I read about his work once draws a connection between the ways that poetry and puppetry are both arts that expect audiences to participate in the making of meaning as they read or watch, rather than sitting back and receiving a story. As for the process of making shows, it’s wonderful. There’s nothing like watching a bunch of people you respect put in so much time and energy to create an interpretation of something you wrenched painstakingly out of your own head and make something new out of it. And it’s challenging. Puppetry is the art that enfolds all arts, so ultimately it works, but since it’s primarily movement and object based, where the capabilities and quirks of the objects do most of the making in the show, so many words can really slow things down. The challenge is to let the visuals be the show instead of just illustrating the words, I think. Anna Lublina, who with Lilly Kaplan and Ruthie Natanzon created this last show based on my poems called The Story of the Orca’s Silver Tongue as Told by the Manager of the Only Taco Bell in Juno did a wonderful job of letting the words be words and bringing in all kinds of other exciting visual and sonic elements.

WEP: Tell us a little about your time at Bread & Puppet.

NBM: Bread and Puppet is an enormous community of artists and organizers. I got to be an apprentice there and go on tour with them in the last year, and it’s been a privilege to witness how this vast network coalesces both to produce Peter Schumann’s vision, and to support connections between artists and the production of art all over the world. So much has been said about that theater and I don’t have much to add, but I suppose I’d say that the most resounding lesson for me, from my time there so far is that whatever you have in mind you should do it and do it now. I’ve always been a deliberate and slow sort of artist tending towards perfectionism, like a lot of artists I think, so the lesson of making it, finishing it, and putting it on the stage as fast as possible has been an essential one for me.

WEP: What are you most excited about creating or working on with Wit’s End Puppets?

NBM: I got involved with Wit’s End originally as a researcher and a writer for Malevolent Creatures, so I’ve gotten to prowl through libraries and archives looking for sources on folklore and other supporting material. I’ve loved having the opportunity to work on writing for puppetry, and building and performing with so many kinds of puppets. It’s also been a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with other writers and artists—I think that’s what I’m most psyched for, Wits’ End’s focus on drawing together the puppetry community in and around DC. There is so much for art to do in this city, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.

Advertisements

A Huge Thank You

IMG_2326

A first glimpse of our crankie!

Saudade would not have been created without the help and support of many, many people who agreed to be interviewed about their experiences as immigrants to the DC area. Some of these people also helped us record sound clips for the show; others contributed their memories, stories of challenges they have faced and of course, moments of saudade. For reasons of privacy, we are only identifying people by their first names, but we want to acknowledge everyone and say a huge thank you for your help!

Sonia – Stephanie – Eiko – Sebastian – Ruth – Santiago – Ana – Juliana – Ottoniel – Eddy – Victor – Juan – Seare – Yolanda – Yanira – Oscar – Anamaria – Fernando – Nurya – Alexei – Genevieve – Grimaneza – Cintia – Rosario – Miguel – Svetlana – Nurbiya – Benta – Souad – Natalia – Hoummad – Noelya – Marisabel – Julio – Zohar – Emi – Diego – Johanna – Andrea – Doyoung – Fabiola – Artemis – Savana – Erick – Emma – Victoria – Omar – Arie – Susana – Medina – Amanda – Mehdi – Rashad – Sandra – Birol

August Grab Bag

#5 The website Bookriot has excited muppet arms for both books and Muppets!

#5 The website Bookriot has excited muppet arms for both books and Muppets!

A roundup of articles, links and videos that we highlighted on Twitter this month. 

1. The first book on puppetry I ever bought was by John Wright of The Little Angel Theatre in Islington, London. His wife Lyndie still carves puppets for them and this article about her is just lovely. If you go to London, try to see a show there.

2. As we continue to work on Malevolent Creatures, this website looks intriguing and will hopefully help out our research.

3. At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, the show The Pure, the Dead and the Brilliant took a look at the upcoming Scottish independence referendum through the eyes of four Scottish fairies, including Selkie. Read a review here.

4. Yet another amazing interview with one of the giants of contemporary illustration and a special hero of ours, Shaun Tan.

5. And because really, most things should end with the Muppets, here is Bookriot with a roundup of literary-related Muppet antics. Enjoy!

Adventures in Interviewing

IMG_1962We have a busy year ahead of us! Along with remounts of several collaborative projects and our ongoing development of Malevolent Creatures, we are creating a new shadow puppet play called Saudade. 

It’s a project based on stories of the immigrant experience and right now I’m doing lots of interviews with people in Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland. I’ve heard many different perspectives, but everyone seems to agree that the two things that make us long for the places we come from are family and food. I’m looking forward to working on assembling the many moments I’m hearing about into a beautiful shadow play experience!