Kindergarten Puppeteers

I was delighted to spend February working with the kindergarten after-care group at School within School at Logan Annex, a Reggio Emilia inspired center of learning. We spent four sessions learning about different kinds of puppets, building our own puppets from recycled materials and inventing scenes and stories to perform in small groups. Here are some photos of their marvelous, creative work!

The student who made this was very clear that it was a duck, with gold wings.

The student who made this was very clear that it was a duck, with gold wings.

This puppet is named Elizabeth.

This puppet is named Elizabeth. Her hair is scrap fabric and her body is a toilet paper tube.

Students performing a scene using chairs as a stage.

Students performing a scene using chairs as a stage.

The chairs allowed students to play puppets both above and below the seats.

The chairs allowed students to play puppets both above and below the seats.

Three student made puppets hitch a ride on a chipmunk puppet that a teacher brought.

Three student made puppets hitch a ride on a chipmunk puppet that a teacher brought.

February Grab Bag

PUPPET STANDUP! See #3 for all info.

PUPPET STANDUP! See #3 for all info.

1. An interview with Shaun Tan that made me slightly less grumpy that I missed his Keynote Address at the SCBWI Winter Conference earlier in the month. Favorite quote: “…we have to make sense of ourselves within a world that can shift and change radically…” That’s the story of Cabinets of Kismet in a nutshell!

2. Basil Twist, who is one of the most well-known contemporary puppeteers in the US, is creating a lobby installation as part of The Rambler by the Joe Good Performance Group. At the American Dance Institute, March 2 and 3; more info here.

3. Standup is a tough business, particularly when you’re a puppet. THIS Saturday, February 23 at 8 & 10pm, come support local puppets in Puppet Standup, a showcase of the best puppet comics working today. Get tickets here and if you use the code GRABBAG, you’ll get 20% off General Admission tickets to the 10pm show! Don’t miss this unique event (no ventriloquists here!) at the Warehouse Theater, 645 New York Ave, NW.

4. If you’re searching for a fun night out this week or next week, look no further than the Mead Theater Lab at Flashpoint and the show Canterbury, produced by our friends at the Pointless Theatre Company.

5. Our friends at Puppets in Prague still have a few spaces left in their March workshops on making marionettes, for anyone lucky enough to be in Prague this spring.

Mount Pleasant Children’s Puppet Hour

If you missed the world-premiere performance of Coyote Places the Stars at the Smithsonian American Art Museum a few weeks ago, don’t worry. We will be reprising the show (without the workshop) at the semi-annual Mount Pleasant Children’s Puppet Hour, on Saturday February 16, at 4pm. There will be five different puppet shows, as well as live music, taking place at St. Stephen’s Church, 1525 Newton St. NW.  The shows are appropriate for all ages and the suggested donation is $5. We hope to see you there!

Puppet hour poster

January Grab Bag

Some interesting puppet-related links and videos from around the world that I came across this month:

1. Titeres Monini is a puppet company from Mexico. This video of their show telling the story of the Meso-American feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl shows their truly stunning shadow puppets.

2. Salt & Poppet Theater from Australia created the shadow puppets in this video. The poem was written and read by Neil Gaiman. Note to self: new goal is to create puppets for a poem by a favorite author.

3. When I was performing in the Avignon Off Festival in 2009, one of my favorite shows that I saw was an Italian version of Sleeping Beauty called Rosaspina that included puppets. After a little digging, I found the show on YouTube! It still makes me smile.

4. Perchance to Dream is a theater company from New York that is now starting to produce in D.C! Welcome! Everyone should go see their production of Twelfth Night (it has puppets!!) at Fort Fringe that starts on February 8. More info and ticket sales can be found here.

5. Shaun Tan has a new book! It’s actually a museum catalogue called The Oopsatoreum and it details the (fictional) inventions of a fictional inventor named Henry Mintox. The book was produced for the Sydney Powerhouse Museum (I wish the Smithsonian museums had cool names like that) and goes with an exhibition that they are putting together this year. More information is on Tan’s website here.

Store Spotlight: Fragers Hardware

Buying materials at a regular hardware store when you are a puppeteer is a process that can be awkward and frustrating. The fact is that you are often buying items which you are going to use in an unconventional fashion, and occasionally it is hard for hardware store people to accept that. Add to that the fact that I’m a woman, which apparently makes the employees of some places (cough, Logan Hardware, cough) automatically assume that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve gotten strange looks in many different hardware stores around the city, except for one.

Fragers Hardware

That is Fragers Hardware, a landmark of Eastern Market that has been in business since 1920. They are located at 1115 Pennsylvania Ave SE and occupy three distinct buildings–a hardware store, paint store and equipment rental store. Whenever I go to Fragers, there is always someone free to answer questions or give advice and when I explain that I am a puppeteer looking for materials, they nod and say “Oh, cool!” They always have what I am looking for, or are able to order it easily. If you appreciate stores where everyone is given time and consideration, make this your source for hardware in D.C.

The hardware room, where we spend lots of time searching for that perfect size nut or bolt.

The hardware room, where we spend lots of time searching for that perfect size nut or bolt.

Aisle full of supplies for puppet projects or home repair.

Aisle full of supplies for puppet projects or home repair.

We think this sign is entirely appropriate!

We think this sign is entirely appropriate!