In 2008, I was the recipient of funding from UNIMA-USA for the run of Growing Up Linda at the Edinburgh Fringe. Growing Up Linda, was an ensemble puppet piece in which the daughter of a famous ice cream mogul must come to terms with her troubled past. Based in Atlanta at the Center for Puppetry Arts, UNIMA-USA is the North American Center of Union Internationale de la Marionnette, the oldest international theatre organization in the world. UNIMA-USA’s mission is to promote international understanding and friendship through the art of puppetry.
Founded in 1929, Union Internationale de la Marionnette is an organization in which all those people in the world concerned with the Art of the Puppet Theatre associate voluntarily in order to serve through their art the idea of peace and of mutual understanding without distinction as to race, political ideas or religion.
Dear UNIMA Education and Training Committee,
I wanted to take this time to thank UNIMA for the Scholarship for Foreign Study which I used to attend the Edinburgh Festival Theater Program, a two week long residency-workshop which was jointly administered by the Royal Welsh Academy of Music and Drama (RWAMD) and California Institute for the Arts for the past several years during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I attended August 4th – 19th, 2008. As an MFA-2 graduate student from the Cotsen Center for Puppetry and the Arts my piece, Growing Up Linda, an off-kilter look at the fictitious daughter of a famous ice cream mogul, was selected to participate in the Edinburgh Fringe. The Edinburgh Festival Theater Program aims at fostering on-going international artist relationships and professional enrichment through theatre practice.
There was a good deal of blood, sweat and tears which extended months before the residency-workshop – writing, building and rehearsing LINDA with an initial workshop run at CalArts in early May. I spent the summer editing down the show with guidance from my mentor, Janie Geiser and helpful feedback from the CalArts community and attendees of the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. I trimmed the run time from 80 minutes to just under an hour keeping what was most essential to the story.
I worked closely with a production manager (who became my left hand) to see exactly what could fit into a crate (shipped weeks in advance) and suitcases, all within weight and international fire code. We made tough choices, cutting scenes and puppets, and deciding whether or not to remake some. A couple of the set pieces were even recreated on the fly after we arrived. I learned a great deal about thinking on my feet, looking at the big picture, managing an entire team, with hands on experience with timelines, budgeting, marketing, fundraising, making compromises and how to best capitalize on peoplesʼ strengths and work within their limitations (including my own).
I departed with a talented team of 15 dedicated performers, designers and managers August 4th, 2008 on an overnight flight and it wasnʼt soon after we arrived in Edinburgh that we hit the ground running. We met with Scottish students who staffed and managed Venue 13 (a community center turned make shift black box performance space every year during the Fringe) with shows that performed around the clock every hour in rep throughout the week. We had a limited number of tech hours, but between our team and the Welsh students we managed to set up the entire show in under half an hour (including installing and striking a cyc, dance floor, lights, and a mountain of puppets, pop-ups and performing objects). I was amazed each time that this was even possible and within just a couple of days, we opened for previews.
I networked with students from the RWAMD and theatre artists from around the world (including U.S. puppeteers like Lake Simons who just happened to be doing laundry in the hostel where I was staying at the exact same time). I saw some eye-opening shows – my favorite was a hilariously inspiring anti-Disney themed puppet musical from Australia. I got real life practice in what it takes to make a long form puppet piece transportable for touring, including the development of the necessary self- producing, marketing and fund-raising skills.
I learned the importance of good P.R. and what that looks like at a Fringe Festival . The actors would reenact excerpts on the Royal Mile daily, while the designers barked at passers-by, and plastered the city with posters. I have taken the valuable insights I have learned during this program into the planning stages of my next production, Bride of Wildenstein – The Musical, which will be a one-person touring production with an eye on planning and budgeting for a multi- year, multi-city tour.
Having the opportunity to create and tour my first full-length puppet-actor hybrid show to Edinburgh Fringe Festival went beyond my wildest dreams and what I could have learned in the classroom. I am eternally grateful to UNIMA for its Foreign Assistance Scholarship, which helped enormously with the expenses of attending the Edinburgh Fringe. If I can do anything to help UNIMA in the future do not hesitate to ask.
Since 1982, UNIMA-USA has issued funding to over 40 individuals to pursue puppetry enrichment opportunities abroad, including:
2012- Nick Hubbard, Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany
2011- Erik Finck for Puppets in Prague
2010- Lisi Stoessel, Jankai Ranpura, Puppets in Prague
2008- Marsian DeLellis – Cal Arts program in Edinburgh
2007- Yvette Edery – Prague
2006- Yvette Edery – Academy, Stuttgart
2004- Emily DeColla – Academy, Stuttgart
2003- Sarah Frechette – Academy, Stuttgart
2003- Dmitri Carter – China
2003- Serra Hirsch – Charleville
2001- Vivian Appler – Dell’Arte Course, Bali
2001- Emily Wilson – Charleville
1997- Victoria McCreary – Central School of Speech and Drama, London
1997- Cathy McCullogh – Charleville
1997- Julie Morrison – Summer Academy, Stutttgart
1996- Wendy Passmore, Beth Peterson – Charleville
1995- Brigit Burnes – Charleville
1994- Bill Stout – Charleville
1993- Blair Thomas – Charleville
1991- Aaron Bowie, Preston Foerder, Mindy Donner – Charleville
1990- Rolande Duprey, Dirk Hays, Brigit Burnes, Suzy Ferris – Charleville
1989- Susan Bettmann, Patti Smith – Charlville
1988- Terry Snyder, Tony Palumbo – Charleville
1987 Michael Nelson – Charleville
1986- Barbara Nidzgorski – Charleville
1985- Preston Foerder, Andrew Periale, Frances Silenzi – Charleville
1984- John & Carol Farrell, Will Cabell, Barbara Pollitt – Charleville
1983- Susan Clark, Daniel Tamulonis – Charleville
1982- Sarah Germain, Debra Kaufman, Paul Mesner, Shirley Roman – Charleville