UNIMA-USA fulfills its mission in a range of formal and informal ways, but especially by encouraging and providing contacts to North American puppeteers traveling throughout the world and providing the same courtesy to international puppeteers traveling through North America.
Stevie Anne Nemazee is an experimental puppet artist, designer, and writer with a passion for cinematic landscapes, performing objects, and character design.
She holds an MFA in Theatrical Design from the California Institute of the Arts and a BFA in Film Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Stevie works in the animation industry as a stop-motion puppet and armature fabricator. She has worked for studios including Chiodo Bros (Killer Klowns From Outer Space), Stoopid Buddy Stoodios (Robot Chicken), and Bix Pix Entertainment (Tumble Leaf).
When she isn't working for the man, Stevie works as a freelance puppet designer and model builder in addition to developing her own work. She was most recently honored to be chosen as an Emerging Artist for her piece "Herb the Beige" at the 2018 Eugene O'Neill National Puppetry Conference.
Stevie has chosen to study with Puppets in Prague for a two-week animation course taught by Zdar Sorm, Katarina Tazarova, and Milan Vins.
We'll share more about Stevie's experience when the program is over. Stay tuned to our Facebook and Blog for updates!
UNIMA-USA members, Karen Smith and David Heesen, husband and wife from California, attended two international puppetry festivals and seminar forums held in China this past November. The first event was in Shangai, the second in Langzhong in Sichuan Province. David and Karen were royally hosted in both cities! And their exposure to Chinese puppetry was quite phenomenal! Karen and David will now share some of the highlights of their 3-plus weeks in that fascinating country. (Stay tuned for part 2.)
The 6th Shanghai International Puppet Festival “Golden Magnolia” & The 4th International Forum on Puppetry
Photo provided by Karen Smith. Chinese and international festival performers, hosts and organizers, emcees, jury members and government officials pose for a group photo after the Closing Ceremony of The 6th Shanghai International Puppet Festival “Golden Magnolia”.
Karen Smith: I was invited to the first festival and forum, which was held in Shanghai November 1-6, as a member of the Shanghai international festival jury. As Vice President of UNIMA International, I also participated in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, handed out prizes, gave an introductory speech at the forum, and generally did my best to uphold the honor of our great organization. David gave a presentation on Indonesian wayang at the forum and was an enthusiastic festival-goer.
The festival organizers were the Shanghai Dramatists Association and the Shanghai Puppet Theatre Co., Ltd, and the event was hosted by eight organizations, including Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Radio, Film & Television, UNIMA China, and China Puppetry and Shadow Arts Association.
The majority of the international shows were performed at the beautiful headquarters of the Shanghai Puppet Theatre while the three Chinese shows were performed in auditoria across the city.
The festival included ten international shows from eight countries: Dreamer (2015) by Dream Puppets from Australia; Wild West Cabaret (2017) by The Fifth Wheel from Germany; The Story of a Donkeygull (2016) by Ta Panta Fi Puppet Company from Greece; Flora’s Dance (2012) by Avital Dvory Visual Theatre Group from Israel; Dorme (2011) by La Capra Ballerina Puppet Theatre from Italy; from the Netherlands, The Thousand and Last Night by Ila van der Pouw and Little Mole Bim (2012) by Koekla; from Russia, Thumbelina (2005) by Omsk State Theatre of Puppet, Actor and Mask “Arlekin” and The Miracle of the Scarlet Sails (2016) by Teatrol-Theater; and Peter Pan (2015) by Theatre for Children Kragujevac from Serbia.
From host country China, three major productions were on offer: from Sichuan, The Dragon Gate Legend (2014) by Sichuan Giant Puppet Troupe; from Guangdong, Garbage Battle (2016) by Guangdong Province Puppet Art Theater Co., Ltd; and from Shanghai, the premiere of The Last Warrior Elephant (2018) by SMG Live and Shanghai Puppet Theatre Co., Ltd. These three productions represented three very different styles of Chinese puppetry. The Sichuan production, performed with the large rod puppets the region is famous for, is a colorful and charming fresh take on a local legend, a blend of traditional rod puppetry with first-class modern staging, lighting and a score based on music of the Nanchong region. The Guangdong production takes a very contemporary theme – garbage, and the looming catastrophe for the planet if we humans don’t do something quickly about managing our waste. This show with human actors – all young members of the company – and body and costume puppets among the mixed puppetry techniques on show, is an exuberant piece of theatre. The third production, Shanghai Puppet Theatre’s The Last Warrior Elephant, based on Shen Shixi’s novel of the same name, is set in Xishuangbanna (Yunnan Province) during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). With its nod to War Horse and William Kentridge aesthetics, this is a major production of international quality, visually and technically beautiful, a stunning full-length drama with human actors, dancers, and a herd of elephants each masterfully animated by three puppeteers.
Provided by Karen Smith. Cathryn Anne Robinson (from New Zealand, partner and co-founder with Peter of puppet companies in Hobart, Fremantle and Wellington), L. Peter Wilson, Tang Dayu, David Heesen, Karen Smith.
The four international festivals I have attended in China since 2014 have all had a “competition” component. At this, the Golden Magnolia Shanghai International Puppet Festival, the 11-member jury comprised nine prominent Chinese administrators, artists, and leaders in the field of Chinese puppetry – Liu Wenguo, Zhou Yusheng, Mao Shi’an, Chen Yingxian, Wang Hao, Tang Dayu, Yu Rongjun, Wang Junjie, He Xiaoqiong – and two international judges – myself (Karen Smith) and L. Peter Wilson (co-founder and Artistic Director of Tasmanian Puppet Theatre, Hobart, Tasmania, 1970-1980, today the Terrapin Puppet Theatre; co-founder and former Artistic Director of Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle, Western Australia, 1981-1996; Artistic Director of Capital E National Theatre for Children, Wellington, New Zealand, 1997- ; and founder, director and performer of his own company, Little Dog Barking Theatre Company, Wellington, New Zealand, 2010- ).
At the International Forum, the following were the four keynote speakers, with the title of their presentations. Li Yannian: “Themes and Aesthetics of Chinese and Foreign Puppetry”; Rob Bloemkolk: “About Tarzan and growing older on stage”; Zhao Genlou: “Integration of World Puppetry and Active Inheritance and Development of Traditional Puppetry”; and David Heesen: “An Introduction to Indonesian Wayang, a Video Presentation”.
Dave’s and my local guide from Shanghai Puppet Theatre was Qian Jialei (English name “Elisa”). She, along with all the artists and personnel at the theatre, looked after us very well! They were wonderful hosts.
DavidHeesen: We are staying in a fine, old hotel (The Pacific) just across from the main park in Shanghai, People’s Park, arrangements made for us by the good folks at the Shanghai Puppet Theatre. Karen is serving as one of two international judges at their week long biennial festival. So, by day and night we attended performances, and the rest of the time is spent eating. For lunches and dinners there might be a dozen of us seated around a table with a massive lazy Susan turntable in the middle piled with 20 to 30 dishes. Ducks, chickens, pigeons, quail (and their eggs), pork ribs, pork chops, pork char siu (Chinese BBQ pork), squirrel fish, jelly fish, carp, sponges and mushrooms, pak choy, ong choy (water spinach), other choys, melons – anything that moves or grows is fair game. And it just keeps coming and coming.
Photo provided by Karen Smith. (Left to Right): Tang Dayu (Vice President, UNIMA China; Vice President, China Puppetry and Shadow Arts Association; National First Class Actor), Karen Smith (UNIMA-USA; Vice President, UNIMA), Liu Jin (Office Director, Shanghai Puppet Theatre), and He Xiaoqiong (General Manager, Shanghai Puppet Theatre Co., Ltd; National First Class Actor)
Something curious is coming our way! The cast of Center for Puppetry Arts' Harold and the Purple Crayon is taking over UNIMA-USA's Instagram this Saturday, 4/20. Don't miss this special behind-the-scenes look at this innovative adaptation.
Jesús Caballero (left) constructing a puppet for the máquina real. Photo courtesy of Luis Caballero.
We’re very excited about our new issue of PI – “Our Intangible Cultural Heritage.” If the precise meaning of this theme eludes you, Annie Katsura Rollins’s intro to her article (below) on the effect of this designation on Chinese shadow puppetry may help pierce the fog. In our wide-ranging articles on the subject, I believe we broaden the definition in a number of ways – all to the good!
“In 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added a new category to their previously established heritage distinctions: natural and tangible cultural heritage. UNESCO’s newest category, intangible cultural heritage (ICH), was created to fill a gap in categories to include ‘traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts’… Puppetry, as a performed traditional practice, qualifies best as an intangible cultural heritage within UNESCO’s three categories. However, puppetry, a performed practice with a decidedly tangible physical element––the puppet or performing object––exposes the limits of categorical safeguarding theories and methods and shows us new ways to consider safeguarding our intangible cultural heritage.” - Annie Katsura Rollins
The magazine is being printed as I type, and should be out in mid to late April, along with lots of “bonus material” on the website: unima-usa.org/index – look for PI #45.
I had the pleasure of attending two of the four days of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry’s Living Objects: African-American Puppetry Symposium and Conference, co-curated by Drs. Paulette Richards and John Bell (full disclosure—my husband). This gathering accompanied an exhibit which is currently on display at the Ballard Museum, University of Connecticut, through April 7th.
The Symposium portion of the gathering included three full days of panel discussions, addressing topics such as Minstrel Performance, Puppetry and Community and Afro-Diasporic Storytelling, featuring scholars, teachers and practitioners sharing their experiences, research, and ideas. The Festival portion included performances by African-American puppeteers with diverse styles and themes.
Edna Bland in The Greatest Love Story Ever Told
The Festival and Exhibit span an eclectic range of puppet genres and performance styles – including shadow, marionette, rod, bunraku, over-life-size figures, an evening of ventriloquism, a Sunday morning of Gospel Puppetry, screenings of contemporary films, and a revival performance by the legendary Crowtations. The powerful thread linking the artists and scholars is their shared passion for identifying a common cultural heritage, one whose history is strongly rooted in African mask and object ritual, and was savagely severed by slavery. Both the exhibit and the Festival put a spotlight on the beauty and struggles they share. And I sensed joy among them, in the chance to come together, to discover both common histories and widely differing puppetry styles.
I was told that this is the first such exhibit since one produced by the Center for Puppetry Arts 25 years ago. As Brad Brewer said, let’s not have to wait another 25 years for similar recognition!
Paulette Richards says that the Living Objects exhibition “cannot yield a definitive statement of what African American puppetry is,” but it can offer “a fresh perspective on African American experience…African-American puppetry is exultant even when it addresses painful themes such as the legacy of slavery or systemic violence against black men.” And, “gathering these prismatic, complex, and exultant perspectives together opens a space for reflection on how object performance nurtures the human spirit.”
I felt privileged to be in that space, and I believe that other participants felt the same – a space which nurtured my spirit and educated my understanding of the African diaspora.
If you can get to UConn before the exhibit closes on April 7th, I encourage you to go see it. If not, extensive documentation of the exhibit and (coming soon) symposium is posted on the exhibit website.
Participants from Baltimore. From left to right: Valeska Populoh, Dirk Joseph, Azaria Joseph, Sequoia Joseph, Sheila Gaskins, and Schroeder Cherry.
Join the McClellanville Arts Council in a celebration of World Puppetry Day which falls annually on March 21.
The Arts Council will host an exhibit of puppet creations by long-time puppeteer Drew Allison. Over 25 puppets will be exhibited from past performances, on-camera appearances and commissioned works.
The story of each puppet and their role will accompany each piece. Puppeteer Drew Allison will be on hand to chat at the Exhibit Opening on March 21, 2019 at 7:00pm at The McClellanville Arts Council Gallery. The exhibit will run from March 21, 2019- April 13, 2019.
For additional information about Drew Allison and his company called Grey Seal Puppets, see their website at www.greysealpuppets.com or check them out on social media.
Donald Devet recently created a blog featuring puppet performance reviews he wrote while living in New York City from 1999-2009. During those 10 years he reviewed shows by Ralph Lee, Basil Twist, Gretchen Van Lente, Janie Geiser, Liz Joyce, Kevin Augustine, Lake Simons, Edward Einhorn and many more.
Donald’s intent in creating a blog of reviews is to provide a model for other reviewers, both in and out of the puppet world. As you are well aware, puppet performances are often given short shift by many commercial theater reviewers who are oftentimes unfamiliar with puppetry as a theatrical art form and sometimes don’t take the work seriously.
Because of his extensive background in stage puppetry, Donald has treated the performances in his reviews with respect and has given an honest evaluation of the performers’ intents.
He believes it’s beneficial to puppeteers and the public at large to visit a blog site dedicated specifically to reviews of puppet shows. Donald’s goal in creating “Puppets In Review” (https://puppetsinreview.home.blog/) is to demonstrate that puppetry should be given as serious consideration as any other performing arts genre.
The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut is pleased to present the Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium to celebrate the rich world of African American puppetry in the United States. This four-day series of performances, presentations, discussions, film screenings, and workshops will take place February 7 to 10, 2019 in Hartford and Storrs, Connecticut.
Activities for the Living Objects: African American Puppetry Festival and Symposium will occur in various venues on UConn’s Storrs campus February 8 to 10, with related festival events with UConn Hartford at the Hartford Public Library on Thursday, February 7, 2019 and at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art on Saturday, February 9, 2019.
Attendees have two options to participate in Living Objects Festival and Symposium events:
1. Living Objects performances in Storrs and Hartford are open to the public. Individual tickets can be purchased at bimp.ticketleap.com.
2. To attend all Living Objects Festival and Symposium events, including performances, panel discussions, film screenings, and more, registration is required. Registration can be completed at www.cvent.com/d/bbqbh7.
The festival will feature performances by Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins, Megan Piphus, David Liebe Hart, Dirk Joseph and String Theory Theater, Pandora Gastelum, Bruce Cannon, Nate Puppets, Yolanda Sampson, Edna Bland, and more!
These events are part of the current Ballard Institute exhibition Living Objects: African American Puppetry, on display through April 7, which for the first time brings together historical and contemporary puppets, masks, and performing objects by African American artists and puppeteers. Many of the exhibition's contributors, as well as scholars from around the United States, will come together at the festival and symposium to celebrate the past, present, and future of African American puppetry.
Living Objects Festival and Symposium registrants may purchase one-day, three-day, or student passes to attend all festival and symposium events. Registration will include breakfast and lunch. To register for a one-day or three-day pass to the festival and symposium, visit www.cvent.com/d/bbqbh7. To read more about the Living Objects exhibition and festival, visit bimp-exhibitions.org/livingobjects.
The New Victory Theater, New York City’s premier nonprofit performing arts theater devoted year-round to kids and their families and classmates, announces the call for applications to the 2019-20 New Victory LabWorks program.
New Victory LabWorks is seeking applications from New York City-based artists and companies interested in creating new work for family audiences in the areas of theater, dance, music, circus, puppetry arts and other performing arts.
For artists of all disciplines who desire an experience tailored to their specific needs and individual creative processes, New Victory LabWorks offers selected artists a stipend, ample dedicated rehearsal space in the New 42nd Street Studios and the possibility of holding Open Rehearsals for industry professionals, fellow artists and New Victory Member families. Facilitated by New Victory staff, these experiences provide the invaluable feedback of peers and target audiences alike.
Some current and previous New Victory LabWorks Artists include: Molly Powers Gallagher; Hit The Lights! Theater Co; Max Darwin and Alexander Dinelaris Jr.; Nambi E. Kelley; Preeti Vasudevan; Faye Chiao and Anton Dudley; Breton Tyner-Bryan; Bluelaces Theater Company; Aaron Jafferis; Spellbound Theatre; AchesonWalsh Studios; Kate Douglas; Kaneza Schaal and Christopher Myers, and Phantom Limb Company.
The Third International Meeting on Training in the Arts of Puppetry will address the theme:
Staging and diversity of contemporary theatrical creation processes.
Traditional puppet theater such as the Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese shadows, the Chinese hand puppet theater, the Bunraku, the Pulcinella family, the puppi Siciliani, the Czech rod marionettes - to mention only a part of this vast territory - presents strictly defined forms, adapted to the puppet genre, with a fixed dramaturgical structure and a definite gestural vocabulary. In the traditional repertoire, stories and characters change while aesthetics and impact on the audience remain the same. The type of puppets - their physiognomy, their color pallet and their dynamics - is in perfect harmony with the type of dramaturgy that has been created for them. The puppeteers are committed to achieving the performance virtuosity so much appreciated by the public and the differences between artists are expressed in fine performing nuances and in the fine art aspect of the puppets. The staging, even when it is innovative, follows the codes of each of the forms. With respect to traditional puppet theater training, knowledge is often transmitted through master-student learning.
Contemporary Puppet Theater is situated at the other pole of creation. Inspired by the potential of its new expressive means, artists from the fields of dance, mime and the visual arts turned to puppetry. This encounter has given birth to new and spectacular forms, which combine the puppet with the body of the actor, which invented the “body masks” and the fictional or imaginary body, and which converge at the intersection of puppetry, acting and mime performance. The imaginary invades the plateau. The staging changes its status; it becomes a conceptual act and the director, a creator.
What dramaturgy must we invent for a theatre that is constantly seeking its form and is continually changing? What will be the markers along the way for the author, the playwright, and the director? Should we create rules and handbooks? Could it be even possible? We know that there is no definitive truth.
Contemporary theater seldom starts with a text written for the stage. Its sources are often a literary text, a musical piece, a theme, an idea, and a desire to question reality. The dramaturgical structure is created for the show; writing and staging must work in a relationship of complicity, evolving together until the end of the creative process.
After having discussed the definition of puppetry and puppet theater in 2015, the pedagogy and the links between traditional and contemporary theater in 2017, the Third International Conference on Training in the Arts of Puppetry 2019 organized by the UNIMA Training Commission in collaboration with the Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina, in Florianópolis and with the participation of academics, practitioners and students will examine different aspects of the current notion of directing:
• How to define the director? Its functions differ according to the processes of creation and are not definitive.
• How to teach directing? What directing? For what theater?
• What could be the pedagogy for a puppet theater in constant transformation? We should consider that today “the puppet” is born of a profusion of contemporary forms, produced with an overflowing inventiveness: how to approach directing and be able to teach it in this perspective of a theatre in permanent evolution?
- To explore what is directing today, in relation to the diversity of the creative processes and the diversity of the dramaturgical forms.
- To explore the pedagogy (s) of directing. How does pedagogy meet the requirements of a theatre, which presents a broad diversity forms?
- To explore the history of the staging to show the various historical periods and the directors thinkers who, seeking to give substance to their shows, had deep reflections with respect to the aesthetics of the show, to the relationship between show and spectator and the impact that the show will have on it.
- To explore the importance (extension) occupied by the visual image in the contemporary theatre, question its functions in the dramaturgy of the show, and the relation with the current technologies.
For this purpose we propose work topics such as:
1. Conference on the evolution of the staging, its goals, its challenges, and the relationship between staging and dramaturgy.
2. The presentation of unique creative processes, linked to artistic personalities.
3. Practical workshops that show various pedagogical approaches to the teaching of staging.
4. Debates and round tables with the guests in the presence and with the participation of students and teaching artists.
The Universidade do Estado Santa Catarina), Florianópolis, will host the conference.