What is the first name that comes to mind when you hear the word puppet? Likely, it’s Jim Henson. Many books and thousands of pages have been written about Jim Henson’s life and work. This will, however, be the first book to focus solely on his love of the field of puppetry, an important and as yet unexplored aspect of Jim Henson’s lasting legacy. The Jim Henson Foundation’s International Puppet Festivals brought puppet theater into mainstream American theater.
Jim Henson knew that in order to introduce U.S. audiences to puppet theater our American companies would need to be seen with the best in the world. Thus, a festival! To realize Jim Henson’s vision for a puppetry festival in New York, the author served as producing director, working with Jim’s daughter Cheryl, who served as executive producer, to produce five award-winning festivals that would equal the European festivals and put U.S. puppet artists on the international stage.
Between 1992 and 2000, The Jim Henson Foundation presented five International Festivals of Puppet Theater in New York City and developed a national touring program. The festivals presented 136 different productions from 31 countries in 24 theaters throughout New York City. Over 120,000 people attended New York performances; nearly 400,000 saw exhibitions; 100,000 more attended Festival on Tour performances, and millions of people read about the festivals.
Out of the Shadows examines the festivals and their continued legacy, including a look at the contemporary puppet theater landscape. This year, 2020, is the 20th Anniversary of the last Henson Festival and the 30th Anniversary of Jim Henson’s death. It is time to reflect back.
Featuring a lone human performer against a tide of geometric performing objects and a chorus of indifferent puppeteers, Erdos submerges the audience in a series of meditations about our dependence on technology, the allure of blind faith, and the question of whether participation is even a choice.
The show featured Kate Brehm, Rachael Shane, Alex Young, Maiko Kikuchi, Sarah Plotkin, and Kate Reilly. Directed by Amanda Friou. Music by Nehemiah Luckett. Costume design by Sarah McMillan. Set and puppet design by Kate Brehm
Beginning with this post I will be making weekly ‘flashbacks’ To “5 Years Ago Today“. Mixed in with current interviews with performers and photographs from shows either happening ‘online’ or previously posted! Enjoy!
From the ‘press release: a multi-disciplinary spectacle with a marching band, dancers, 12-foot puppets, shadow puppetry and moving projection screens. The band is an award-winning group, the Soul Tigers, young men and women who attend Benjamin Banneker High School in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Also featured are the Banneker Dancers.
I had a great time interviewing Efrain del Hierro of Poncili Creacion from Puerto Rico. His wild object creations are so much fun and he enjoys the work as you can tell from the constant ‘glow’ on his face. Watch this great interview and then come see Efrain and brother Pablo put on a ‘spectacle’ like you probably have never seen before!
From the Press Release:
In Bending Endinning… Poncili Ceación will humbly try by any means–with aggressive energy & unorthodox techniques–to remove from the human minds of the audience the belief that not everything is possible. Prepare yourself to be touched, challenged & surprised while they perform open-mind surgery on your preconditioned brain.
Using large-scale transformative sculpture, raw magic & visceral energy, Poncili Ceación plunges us into a whimsical nightmare to contemplate the beauty of nothingness all around & within us. This is one ride that you won’t escape unscathed.
This one-of-a-kind night of unconventional puppetry will also feature a cardboard invasion by Brooklyn’s own BOXCUTTER COLLECTIVE! Core members Sam Wilson, Jason Hicks, Tom Cunningham & Joe Therrien are part of an extended family that includes Puppeteers, Painters, Performers, Builders, Educators, Workers, Union Organizers, & Mischief Makers. They make cultural work for the revolution from garbage & bad jokes. Their aim is to take down the rotten empire one cardboard puppet show at a time.
Taking over two years to develop and perfect, PACKRAT is a new multi-media puppetry play that contemplates humanity’s relationship with the natural world. Inspired by the classic survival and adventure novel, “Watership Down,” PACKRAT follows one peculiar rodent on his vivacious journey to discover the interconnectedness of life.
Sofia Brünn, a Weimar cabaret star from the 1930’s Berlin finds herself transplanted to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. During her time in the camp, she forges an unlikely friendship with Pavel, a rat. Despite the lack of food that has driven away the rest of his kind, Pavel remains with her out of his love for her and her art.
This is a show about resistance and hope, and the need to fill the soul as well as the body. A dark comedy, The Last Rat of Theresienstadt is a low tech, multi-media play with music, puppetry and live-action projections that incorporate original songs, artwork, poetry, and humor created by prisoners in Theresienstadt.
Inspired by folk tales and the natural world, fools in plein air: fermented rain employs puppets, objects, projections, movement, and six performers to dissolve the boundaries between mind/body and sleep/wakefulness. In this commission, Swiss writer Robert Walser walks through the dreamscapes of artist Marc Chagall, revealing human interconnectedness, the porousness of boundaries and the illusion of human dominance.
About the Artist
Patti Bradshaw is a director, puppet artist and choreographer. Her work has been seen in NYC, Greece, Portugal and Japan. In recent years, she has devised movement/puppetry theater works inspired by the painter and poet Florine Stettheimer: Flowers in Space and Garden of Florine: Impending Storms; Franz Kafka’s last and unfinished novel, K and the Way and the inner life of poet Fernando Pessoa: Disquietude and Next to the Last Poem, in addition to other original performance projects and collaborations. Recent works have been presented at Dixon Place, 92nd St Y, Roulette Intermedium, St. Ann’s Warehouse, FiveMyles Gallery, Brooklyn Studios for Dance, and Triskelion Arts. She was a multi-year member of St. Ann’s Puppet Lab and has received support from the Jim Henson Foundation, and artist residencies at BkSD and from Barbara Bray Ketchum at Sarah Lawrence College.