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.
The Japan Foundation is now accepting project proposals for Performing Arts JAPAN (PAJ) touring and collaboration grants for the 2019 - 2020 fiscal year. This program is designed to provide financial assistance to nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada with an aim to introduce Japanese performing arts to local audiences.
Deadline for applications is October 31, 2018.
The touring Grants assists with the presentation of Japanese performing arts at multiple locations in the United States and/or Canada, with emphasis on locations outside major metropolitan areas where there is little exposure to Japanese performing arts.
The collaboration Grants facilitates the collaboration of Japanese and American/Canadian artists so that they may create a new work through research, residencies, artists' discussions etc. with the potential to develop into a touring project and further an appreciation of Japanese culture when presented to audiences in the United States and Canada.
To be eligible for an award, project must be to present Japanese performing arts and/or to conduct performing arts collaboration between Japanese and American/Canadian artists. Grants are awarded only to U.S.-based or Canada-based nonprofit organizations. The proposed project must commence between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. For tours, the project must tour to at least two locations outside New York and Los Angeles. For collaborations, the project must be a new work jointly explored and created by Japanese artists and American/Canadian artists.
Join us in NYC for the 2018 Membership Meeting on August 10 at 4pm ET.
Open to all current Members of UNIMA-USA and anyone interested in joining, this meeting will explain what UNIMA-USA has been up to this last year. Our Board of Directors will be there to greet you and answer any questions you might have.
Don't miss the opportunity to submit your proposal for a puppetry project geared towards adults.
The Jim Henson Foundation Puppetry Residency at the famous Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut offers space and support to a deserving artist/company as they work towards the completion of a new work of puppet theater. Residents receive 2-4 weeks of full room and board on-site at the O'Neill, dramaturgical support from the O'Neill literary office, and a $5,000 grant to cover expenses,
Interested artists must submit letters of intent by Monday, July 16, 2018. Materials are accepted only via online submission.
To learn more about submission materials and the details of the residency, visit The O'Neil's website.
Festival Producer Manuel Moran, who served as President of UNIMA-USA in 2016 and 2017 and who continues to serve as a Vice President of UNIMA International, is the moving force behind the event that adds to the puppet "must-do" calendar for summer of 2018 (along with the Puppeteers of America regional festivals: Pacific Northwest in Calgary, Alberta June 1-3 and Southeast Regional in Asheville, NC June 28-July 1). This IPFFNYC offering is planned to create an ongoing tradition and, for those spending summer in the city (or traveling to join), this event promises to beat the heat with puppetry.
UNIMA-USA will be holding its annual Membership meeting (and streaming it live on our Facebook) at the venue on Friday, August 10 at 4pm (more information will be forthcoming). At noon on Saturday, August 11 (see final schedule), Members of the current UNIMA-USA Board will be presenting a panel discussing how puppetry and UNIMA-USA linkages can open a world of art, friendship, and collaboration. Karen Smith will discuss the World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts (WEPA) showing how it can alert you to the who, what, why, and where of puppets in places you might be heading. Kurt Hunter (Concordia University) will note how recent participation in UNIMA Festivals in France and Germany has fed his performance and teaching. Steven Kaplin (Chinese Theatre Works) will talk about going global with China. Kathy Foley (UC-Santa Cruz) will present on possibilities for learning and collaborating in Indonesia looking toward the 2020 Bali UNIMA World Puppetry Festival. Colette Searls (UM-Baltimore County) will present on training she did in Brussels and how it has impacted her creative work. We invite you all to join!
Moran's Teatro SEA will present their award-winning and recently remounted/rebuilt production, Sueño: A Latino take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, free for the community with its 25 actors, singers, dancers, and puppeteers. Teatro SEA’s “Latinized” version of this theatrical classic aims to spark interest in young and underserved audiences that do not ordinarily have the opportunity to see Shakespeare’s work. With 65 carnival puppets, stilt walkers, and masks including “Vejigantes and Cabezudos” (folkloric characters from Puerto Rico, used in festival celebrations), this production extends the presentations of Shakespeare’s work in Latin America (which dates back to the 1800s). It will allow Americans to see an adapted Latino version of the master’s play. The Clemente, Teatro Latea, and UNIMA’s Three Americas commission are venue partners. .
Everyone has a website these days. Whether it’s a personal website, a company website, or a blog, all websites provide a platform for connection. Since UNIMA-USA is all about connection—between puppeteers, scholars, fans, and audiences—we want to ask you to consider adding our logo and/or link to your website.
Sharing UNIMA-USA with your digital network offers exposure to help us remain strong as an organization. It also shows that you are a vital member in a global community of like-minded individuals; that you strive to celebrate puppetry worldwide, all the time.
Below is a logo you can display on your website, along with a brief description of UNIMA-USA you can copy and paste if you wish. Help us connect with your network. We’ll keep celebrating puppetry worldwide!
“UNIMA-USA is the United States branch of Union Internationale de la Marionnette, the international puppetry organization. Founded in 1966 with Jim Henson serving as its first chairman, UNIMA-USA works to promote international understanding and friendship through the art of puppetry.”
The story of upstate New York rural towns is a common one: shuttered factories, missing millennials, and empty storefronts. Perry, situated roughly halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, changed this script when an influx of performing artists, dancers, and visual artists moved to town and started working there.
One of these new artists chose Perry to host the first New York State Puppet Festival (NYSPF, June 14-24, 2018), a festival bringing world-renowned artists to perform, exhibit, and discuss puppetry with the public. This is the first time that this type of festival has been produced in upstate New York.
Theatre artist Josh Rice is starting the NYSPF. Josh grew up in Perry and left after he graduated from high school to pursue theatre in college. At that time, in the early 2000s, there were not many job prospects back home for him.
“Growing up I didn’t know what theatre was. After seeing comedy improv at SUNY Brockport, and getting a chance to intern at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London and to really see the possibilities in theatre, it changed my life,” says Josh. “Then, theatre became my life. To be able to bring theatre back to my community, and, maybe, to other kids like me—who don’t know what is out there in the world until you are exposed to it—that feels like I’m contributing to something greater.”
Photo Credit: NYSPF Sanbaso with Koryu Nishikawa V - Ayumi Sakamoto
The artists participating in the NYSPF have made significant contributions to the puppetry field and are traveling from throughout the world to attend. Josh has worked with many of the artists featured in the festival, including Dan Hurlin, Koryu Nishikawa V, and Tom Lee, fulfilling his dream to bring his colleagues to present their work in his hometown.
New York State Puppet Festival Artists include:
· Dan Hurlin, Winner of the Rome Prize & Alpert Award in Theatre, a Guggenheim Fellow, and Director of the Graduate Theatre Program at Sarah Lawrence College in an exhibits of his works
· Koryu Nishikawa V, Japanese National Cultural Treasure and fifth-generation headmaster of Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo Theatre Company
· Concrete Temple Theatre presenting the internationally-acclaimed family show Gepetto: Extraordinary Extremities
· Tom Lee & Lisa Gonzales premiering their dance/puppetry hybrid piece, Place (No Place). Tom Lee will also present a shadow puppet piece for children, Tomte
· Sam Jay Gold presenting his new Czech-marionette and Balinese shadow puppetry-inspired piece, Untold Stories from the War with the Newts
· Josh Rice presenting his original puppet piece, The Marooned
· Hamida Khatri, a Pakistani-born puppeteer and visual artist, teaching puppetry workshops based on her social justice program, Project KALI
The Wyoming County Rural Arts Initiative, a policy initiative from the Wyoming County Industrial Development Agency, Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, and Arts Council for Wyoming County, also helped bring in an influx of artists.
Josh was a recipient of a grant from this program, which offered funding to artists to start arts-based businesses in the community. He started his own storefront theatre, Theatre@37, on Main Street Perry, which will be the main performance venue for the New York State Puppet Festival. His neighbors include the Genesee Dance Theatre, a pre-professional dance company, the Arts Council for Wyoming County, and several visual artists who have studios in a former department store building.
Jackie Hoyt, the Executive Director of the Arts Council for Wyoming County says “The impact of arts projects like the New York State Puppet Festival on communities like ours is profound. We now can say that our communities can see works of art never seen before in the entirety of the state, right here in our communities.”
The program is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by the Arts Council for Wyoming County. The Perry Main Street Association served as the fiscal sponsor for the NYSPF.
As a puppeteer who does a lot of performances in schools, I’ve noticed distinct changes over the last ten years in the atmosphere associated with elementary school audiences.
There are the obvious, disturbing, new-normal practices of background checks, fingerprinting, driver’s license name tag stickers, and being buzzed into the office.
But I’ve also noticed less perceptible changes as well.
Drew Allison. Photo by Debbie Page.
This is a quirky one, but a certain one. School assemblies are less of a “happening” now than in the past. There are many attributable reasons for this, but the fact remains that often the office front line has no idea I’m coming, custodians rarely set up chairs for teachers, teachers often don’t open associated Study Guides and the obligatory pre-show fly-by from a school administrator is often a super brief, out-of-breath handshake as they hurry on to the next task that they’re late for in their overstuffed days.
Teachers have traded in the practice of sometimes grading papers during a performance to sometimes being on their phones or other devices. I understand the pressure and duress teachers are under. However, our performances are often the first real theatre experience that students are a part of. As an adult, being on a device is not the right theatre etiquette message to send to your students.
There have been changes in the students themselves as well. Most noticeably for me is the practice of verbalizing what they are seeing. Often, I’ll find points in a performance that in the past were quiet, listening moments have now morphed into the audience murmuring scene descriptions with unrestricted glee. A product of being flooded by so much visual content coming from a device in their hands, maybe? I’m not sure.
On a more positive note, students’ perception and understanding of stories and theatre techniques has sharpened. Younger students have a comprehension and attention now that I did not see in the past.
Sometimes I stand onstage and look out at the faces of my audience and wonder if they wonder if they’re going to be attacked today, if they’re going to be shot today. I wonder if they wonder if I’m going to attack them. These are thoughts I never imagined having.
These are just a handful of the changes I have seen. But perhaps these can be a catalyst for discussion. If you perform in schools, have you seen similar things? Different ones? Or am I off-base with these observations?
Starting Sunday, May 13, the 2018 UNIMA Council Meeting begins in Bochum, Germany at the 60th FIDENA Festival. For the first time ever, you can follow the Council Meeting live on the UNIMA Internationale Facebook.
Materials for the meetings, including agenda, reports, motions, and more, are located here on the UNIMA website. Council Meeting activities will take place Monday, May 13 to Wednesday, May 16. Wary of the time difference? The live broadcasts should remain on UNIMA's Facebook to watch at your leisure (and in your time zone)!
Thanks to UNIMA for offering this exciting look into the international workings of our organization!
Starting here: Starting now! As an added benefit of your UNIMA-USA Membership, you can now access the current issue of Puppetry International on your phone, tablet or other connected device. Just go to the Current Member Portal on our website and enter the annual password.
Members, be sure to check your email for the current portal password.
At last! You can leave your printed magazine on the nightstand, or stored in your Acme Safe in pristine condition, and still have all those pithy articles with you on your Uber ride, in the café, or backstage at the next Puppet Slam. As long as there’s WiFi, PI is there!
A big thank you to Editors Andrew and Bonnie Periale, Webmaster Donald Devet, Ads Liaison Honey Goodenough, and Publications Committee Chair Kurt Hunter (along with the rest of the UNIMA-USA staff and Board of Directors) for making Membership in UNIMA-USA more valuable than ever.
Bonnie and Squirrel being mobbed by fans after a performance.
I’ve just returned from Izmir, Turkey where I performed Squirrel Stole My Underpants at the 12th Annual Izmir Kukla Günleri – Izmir International Puppet Days. During the 18 days of the festival, 50 companies from 26 countries performed all over the city – at theaters, art centers, schools, shopping malls, refugee charities, and even on sidewalks.
I performed Squirrel four times (with lights and sound run by my husband, Dan, who also directed the show) – twice for families who brought their children, and twice for hundreds of wonderfully raucous school groups who came by bus to the theater. After each show, I was mobbed by fans wanting to meet Squirrel. I felt like I was at home – sharing my own giddy, absurd delight in the world with both children and adults.
Each evening, we’d return to the hotel for “Puppet Dinner Time.” Although this irresistibly conjured up images of tiny little tables with tiny little place settings, it was in fact a very simple concept: feed the guest artists at the hotel at the same time each day. This one simple act opened our adventure up in wonderful ways.
We met puppeteers from the UK, Iceland, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, India, and Italy. We all shared tips on what to do, how to travel within the city, and how to get ourselves outside of it. We organized evenings out. We talked about contemporary puppet theater and our own approach to puppetry. We talked about what is happening in the world and in our own lives.
It’s where we connected, communicating in multiple languages, with hugs and laughter and depth. Our conversations flowed both easily and with some jolts, ranging from: puppeteers we admire; EU and US politics; family dynamics and experiences; corporate ownership of beloved stories and music; experiences touring to Iran, Japan, Palestine, and elsewhere; how we all struggle to make a living and define success; how our shows or workshops went each day.
I will admit that I was afraid of this trip – the US news is very quick to frighten us. I looked to others who have traveled to this festival and to Turkey in the last year for thoughtful insight and a boost of confidence. I am so glad I did.
UNIMA-USA’s mission statement is to promote international understanding and friendship through the art of puppetry. In keeping with that mission, I want to encourage us all to seek out opportunities to perform outside of the US. I want to encourage us all to meet puppeteers from around the world and bring them to share their work in the US.
Let’s share our love of puppet theater. Let’s work harder to soften the borders that feel as though they might close us off to the world out of fear.
We are the perfect representatives of the US – we work hard and we do what we love. We try to make sense of the world using common materials transformed into exquisite moments and stories. We share the stuff of life together with a community of people we don’t know when the theater lights dim, but with whom we are connected by the end of the performance.