On the weekend of January 12th – 14th, 2007, I was in Chicago, to introduce and promote Handmade Puppet Dreams Volume 2 at Links Hall in Chicago. The screening was part of program 2 of Off the Map and Into the Murk: Spelunking into Puppetry, a 4-week puppet themed performance and film series curated by Barbara Whitney that ran from January 5th-28th, 2007.
From curator, Barbara Whitney’s Program notes:
Puppetry in all its most tender and raucous forms, lends itself to a unique exploration of the seamy creases and transcendent spirit of the human experience. This month, we’ll explore the uncharted territories of the Self – form the airy reaches of the spirit into memory and fantasy to the landlocked regions of the body into blood, phlegm, and bile. And flatulence. Join this award-winning group of international puppetry artists as they plunge into the murk and emerge transformed.
Program Two Description:
Friday and Saturday, January 12th and 13th, 8:00PM, Sunday January 14th, 7:00PM
Myopia, Lolly Extract and Amber Marsh
Myopia explores the inner space between life and death, centering on the dubious reality of the expensive, enigmatic world of medicine and modern society’s relationship with its shifting dichotomy. Extract and Marsh last collaborated for the 2006 Links Hall Shadow Puppet Festival with “The Strange and Unfortunate Dream”
Lolly Extract, a master puppeteer, has worked in the field for more than twenty-five years. Her most recent projects include: King Tut, created for the Chicago Public Library 2006 Summer Reading Program; a 25-foot tall Komodo Dragon Parade Puppet completely animated with a flicking tongue, a life sized animated Sea Turtle that lays eggs, color changing, Moon Jellyfish, and a giant Parrot Fish with a special pooping animation, all created for Chicago’s Shedd Aquariam; and puppets for productions at Columbia College Chicago, Hell in a Hand Bag, and Redmoon Theatre.
Amber Marsh is a second-generation puppeteer living and working in New York City. She co-founded an experimental puppetry troupe called Imagination Explosion, that performed a new abstract piece at the Theater for the New City, NYC, in 2006. She collaborates with many other artists and projects, including the Latin American Community Arts Project, and teaches in puppetry at the Montessori School, NYC. Marsh also teaches summer workshops in El Salvador.
Babel, Clare Dolan and Gabriel Levine
Inspired by a series of short stories by Isaac Babel, this performance combines cantastoria – an ancient form of picture-story recitation involving lush painted backdrops and a singing narrator wielding a very large stick – with puppet and mask dances, battles, births and deaths. In true Babelian fashion, this puppet show careens from the banal to the beastly, illustrating greater truths about the generosity and avarice of human beings, and the sheer beauty of life, despite all of its brutality and disappointments.
Clare Dolan has been creating cantastoria performances, toy theater shows, and life-sized puppet plays since 1992. Ms Dolan’s secret double life as a current small town librarian / struggling artist / nursing school student and former Bread and Puppet Theater puppeteer unmistakably influences this new piece. This production is a creation of the Performance Department of the The Museum of Everyday Life, a developing new museum, both theoretical and actual, based in Glover, Vermont and Ms. Dolan’s brain.
Gabriel Levine is a theatre artist, scholar and muscician lving in Montreal, Quebec. He is a composer and founding member of the avant-Yiddish band Black Ox Orkestar. From 2001-2005, he was co-artistic director of Le Petit Theatre de l’Absolu, whose work was featured in many festivals, including New York’s International Toy Theater Festival, the Recontres Internationales du Theatre de Papier in Troyes, France, Chicago’s Puppetropolis, and La Semaine Mondiale de la Marionnette in Jonquieres, Quebac. Gabriel is also a French-English translator, and holds an M.A. in Social and Political Thought from Toronto’s York University.
Handmade Puppet Dreams: Volume II
Handmade Puppet Dreams is a provocative, challenging, and savvy collection of puppet shorts created by the next generation of small-scale artists. Previously shown at the Cannes Marche’ du Film 2006, the 30th Annual Atlanta Film Festival, the Rhode Island Film Festival, and the Voice 4 Vision Festival in New York City. The festival’s creator and curator, Heather Henson, is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design.
Introduction by Marsian De Lellis
Puppeteer, performance artist, and former Chicagoan, Marsian De Lellis has been active in the puppet community, curating “Blood from a Turnip”, Rhode Island’s Only Late Night Puppet Cabaret, at Perishable Theatre and organizing puppet slams throughout New England, Los Angeles, and Orlando. Currently, Marsian works as the artistic director of www.Puppetslam.com – the New American Vaudeville and resides in Valencia, CA, where he is pursuing an M.F.A. degree in Puppetry from CalArts.
The films were:
Harker – Tony Giordano, Jason Murphy, Scott Shoemaker (2005)
This retelling of the story of Jonathan Harker was fashioned as a homage to German Expressionist silent films. It recreates the mood and feel of these films by using expressionless puppets and exuding their emotions with camera work, lighting, music, and skillful puppeteering. Tony, a performer/writer, Jason, a photographer and cinematographer, and Scott, an accomplished artist and puppet builder, all reside in Orlando.
Finger Puppets Everywhere – Laura Heit (2005)
10 second live action spots featuring hand made finger puppets, interspersed throughout the program
Unicycle Baby Guy – Matty Sidle (1997)
Absurd, black and white mini films starring Unicycle Baby guy, the nicest little chap who, waist down, is a unicycle. All he wants to do is make friends with the galaxy’s other creatures but, problem is, all he gets is his tire flattened. His only support comes from his best-est friend ever, a talking Shoulder. Matty Sidle studies filmmaking at RISD. His work has screened at Sundance, Chicago International Film Festival, NY Underground Film Festival, and an online series for MSN and MTV.
A Small World – Lyon Hill (2005)
Lyon and Jenny-Mae use paper cutouts, shadow puppets, and dance beats to celebrate their engagement – on the rid “It’s a Small World” in Walt Disney World – and wedding – at a puppet theatre decorated as a fairy tale forest – in October 2004. This video was created in their home studio in Columbia, SC. Lyon Forrest Hill is a visual artist and has worked with the Columbia Marionette Theatre for nine years, the last six as puppet-maker and Co-Artistic Director. He is married to sculpture artist Jennifer Mae Stephen-Hill.
Project Huxley – Simon A. Brown (2005)
Huxley is a monkey imprisoned in a lab, forced to take part in a “Monkey Typing Shakespeare” experiment by a sadistic lab Assistant. Secretly, he harbors dreams of playing Hamlet, but can he escape from his tormentors and embrace his theatrical dreams?
The Tea Party – Kate Artibee (2006)
A group of friends gather at the edge of the woods for afternoon tea. Chaos ensues when baby-cat arrives without the cake he promised. Captured on one roll of super 8 film and created with all in-camera editing. Katie Artibee is dedicated to preserving the art of small format film.
Isemond – Xander Marrow and Mat Brinkman (2005)
Isemond the tailor and her friend Goose join forces in a peculiar way to battle a hungry developer. Xander Marrow is a puppet maker and projectionist, steeped in the underground. She is a member of Dirt Palace, a feminist art collective and has developed the very popular, “Movies with Live Soundtracks” series. Mat Brinkman draws comics and make noise music. His comic serial “Multi-Force” appears in Paper Rodeo. Highwater Books recently published a compilation of his early comics, Teratoid Heights
Dante’s Inferno – Sean Meredith (2006)
Performed in epic toy theatre style, using paper puppets and sets, Dante’s Inferno is a satirical update of the classic tour of Hell. It’s venue is the familiar places of modern civilization: mini malls, airports, gated communities, used car lots, and the US capitol. Sean Meredith recently finished directing his first feature film after years of juggling filmmaking, editing and moonlighting as a vintage dishware expert. He directed and edited the 2003 film In Smog and Thunder: The Great War of California, which screened at the 2003 Newport Beach Film Festival
Thundering Through the Dawn – Bernie McGovern and Patrick Tianen
Thundering Through the Dawn is the saddening, true and funny tale of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Traveling Circus. In 1918, eighty-six of their performers were killed during one of the worst American train wrecks in history. In this preview you’ll witness portions of their last day on Earth.
Links Hall has been Chicago’s intimate home for independent dance and performances as well as a vital community workspace and venue that supports artistic innovations, since 1978. The Links Hall Performance Series supports local, national, and international artists in their development and in artistic exchange with local and national peers.
While in Chicago, I also appeared on the Feast of Fun podcast.