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!

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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.

July Grab Bag

A round up of articles, links and videos that we shared this month on Twitter

1. This puppet production from England uses puppets made from organic materials and sounds really unique!

2. Fantastic giant Alice in Wonderland puppets from Barcelona’s Teatre Nu.

3. An article about one of our favorite Chicago companies, Manual Cinema.

4. Paper puppets in a Japanese music video.

5. More paper artwork, this time tiny objects recreated by artist Cybele Young

June Grab Bag

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

A new book from Ashley Bryan. See #3.

A new book from Ashley Bryan.     See #2.

1. Paul McCartney. And a robot puppet. Dancing together in this video. Need I say more?

2. Children’s author Ashley Bryan makes puppets from found objects washed up on the beach near his home on Little Cranberry Island, Maine. Read this interview from Publisher’s Weekly about his new book of puppets coming out this summer.

3. ADORABLE tabletop puppetry is featured in the production Moominsummer Madness from Polka Theatre in London. Based on the stories of legendary author Tove Jansson, you should definitely check this out if you are in the UK.

4. A gallery of Drabbits from the fabulous Imaginarium Galleries in Pennsylvania.

5. I think it’s safe to say that Julie Taymor’s work on Disney’s The Lion King was the first glimpse many people had of non-Sesame Street puppets. It’s coming back to the Kennedy Center this summer.

June Grab Bag

Katherine Fahey’s amazing crankie. See #1.

1. I was lucky enough to catch the work of the marvelous Baltimore artist Katherine Fahey at a Puppet Underground cabaret this week. She creates beautiful shadow puppet ‘crankies’ for music videos and other stories. Check out some of her work here and here.

2. One of the places that has long been on my ‘To Visit While in NYC’ list is the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Now that they have announced the upcoming Henson Gallery, devoted to all things Muppet, I think it should move to the top of the list.

3. Baby Universe is a play opening next week at Studio Theatre, that combines puppets with a variety of other media. I won’t be able to see it, but it looks amazing, so you should all go and then tell me about it!

4. Our friends at SCRAP DC have announced their Summer Carnival! Cake walks, lemonade, face paint and games and best of all, all the proceeds go to helping this fantastic crew continue to bring us unique, affordable and recycled arts supplies. Tickets available here.

March Grab Bag

See item #3.

See item #2.

This month’s grab bag has a decidedly paperish theme, perhaps because we spent so much time building paper puppets at the beginning of the month. Here are some videos, artists and events that caught my eye:

1. Artist Irving Harper is profiled on the website Etsy; take a look at his amazing paper creations!

2. The animated short Paperman by Disney won an Academy Award, proving that paper airplanes are the route you should take to find love! This is the same award won by Shaun Tan in 2010 for his short based on the picture book The Lost Thing. See the trailer for Paperman here.

3. Another spectacular combination of paper and video is the music video of this song by Josh Ritter. 12,000 pieces of construction paper were used!

4. Richard Sweeney is an artist from the UK whose paper sculptures have greatly influenced our designs for the environment and creatures for Paper World. You can take a look at his amazing creations on his Flickr page.

5. We were excited to see the dates announced for Figment DC 2013! After our fantastic experience last year, which you can read about in this blog post, we are starting to think about what we can offer audiences at this year’s event. Maybe it will involve paper! Who knows?