National Puppetry Festival

This video is a small snippet from the Ghastly Dreadfuls’ puppet show at the Atlanta Puppetry Center. The Dreadfuls have a full- blown hour plus show of macabre vignettes including music. It is just a small example of the wonderfulness that IS the festival.

The Puppeteers of America is a national organization that supports, educates and showcases American puppeteers. What that means is that we are a group of professionals and amateurs that take inanimate objects and give them life. These “shows” range from birthday party gigs to cabaret acts, and everything, imaginable,in between, from dance, black light to Punch and Judy.

There are puppet troupes and puppet theaters all over the nooks and crannies of the United States. Puppet Slams with renegade puppet acts are cropping up all over as well. Every other year the Puppeteers of America host a National Puppet Festival so that everyone in the art of puppetry can come together, share ideas, and showcase shows. These wonderful shows during the festival are only open to attendees. We, in the audience, all know “how it is done”,but are simply amazed at our colleagues’ creativity, talent, manipulation techniques and above all, passion for the art. After the show, the artists invite their fellow puppeteers up behind the stage to check out the rigging and ask questions. Puppeteers are usually self taught and are eager to pass the knowledge on.

Lest you think that these shows are only for children, keep in mind that we see shows that are crafted by the puppeteers who worked on “Strings”, “Being John Malkovich”, and Muppet Movies. We also see shows, like the one above that are geared for adult audiences. Some rival theater and dance productions.

Also, during the week there are over 30 different workshops to take, everything from building, manipulation, grant writing, setting up businesses to puppetry in education are included. This year I taught a workshop on how to align puppet shows to state and local curriculum standards.

I took two workshops, one by Paul Spirito from UConn’s puppet studio on using a variety of materials, and what the pros and cons of those materials were, and the other from Robin Walsh on designing, making and manipulating a scarf marionette. I am eager to use the knowledge that I got, and have a cabaret act in mind using a scarf marionette that I would like to work on and maybe present one potpourri evening. (Potpourri is sort of like open mic night at your local pub, but without the liquor, but WITH the rowdy audience).

So now I look forward to the next festival in 2 years. I have lots of things to work on, and think about.


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