On June 2009, I was the recipient of the Emerging Artist Scholarship at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT as part of the National Puppetry Conference. As an emerging artist, I developed Bride of Wildenstein – The Musical in which an aging socialite grows fur and claws to recapture the attention of her philandering game hunter husband. There were two performances at the culmination of the conference.
Described as “demented, touching, and inherently strange” by Flavorpill, Bride of Wildenstein is a weird and tragic love story that examines the making of a monstrosity through one woman’s personal struggle with the loss of her sense of self. As her marriage dissolves, she begins to reinvent herself through drastic measures – surgical procedures to become more feline, which only heighten her sense of estrangement. The heroine’s story is loosely inspired by tabloid accounts of the real-life “cat woman”, Jocelyn Wildenstein.
For Bride of Wildenstein, I worked closely with mentor, Derron Wood (of Flock Theater), who went on to direct the production in Orlando at Avalon Island and the Cameo Theater. More about Derron Wood from the National Puppetry Conference Website:
Derron Wood is a graduate of Connecticut College, he has also trained with the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and attended the Leningrad State Institute of Music, Theatre and Cinematography in Leningrad as part of the National Theater Institute’s Russian program. From 1986 to 1989 he studied Shakespeare under Morris Carnovsky at Connecticut College and the National Theater Institute. During the past twenty years he has directed numerous productions in and around New England, including shows at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival and Off-Broadway. An early production, Home Street Home, at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Cyclorama Theatre focused Derron’s attention on the unique ability of puppet theatre to document experience, and communicate with the audience. As he said at the time, “We use puppets and merge personalities into another world to create different conflicts and characters.” As he continued to work with actors and puppets in various theatrical vehicles he became more and more committed to the use of all types of puppets as a means of communicating with the audience. Exploring the boundaries between actors and puppets — finding that magic moment of communication between actor and audience — communicating classic complexities of the human condition in ways a contemporary audience can understand — and ultimately to enhance understanding – is the goal of Derrons’ work with Flock Theatre.
Derron is the Director for the Chorus of Westerly’s 12th Night celebration, reviewed as one of the greatest 12th Night celebrations in the world. This unique production integrates 100 stage performers with the 200 member chorus of Westerly, mixing in Giant Puppets, professional Opera singers, with Professional Actors to create a truly unique form of theatre. As the principal director of Flock Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Arboretum festival he has directed Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest. His use of puppets in The Tempest enhanced the audiences’ enjoyment through highlighting the fun and humor often lost in modern Shakespearean productions. It also allowed the audience to participate in the magic of Ariel in a wholly new way. Derron has been a Connecticut’s Master Teaching Artist since 1995, awarded by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts.
During the pre-conference, I worked with Jim Kroupa building mechanisms for puppetry.
More about Jim Kroupa from the National Puppetry Confernece Website:
[Jim Kroupa] is a puppeteer, director, and master puppet builder – Jim’s puppeteering skills brought him to the attention of Jim Henson, who engaged him to perform on Sesame Street, Little Muppet Monsters, the Muppet Meeting films, and assorted Muppet specials. Jim has also puppeteered extensively on Between the Lions, Bear and the Big Blue House, Book of Pooh, Johnny and the Sprites for the Disney channel, No Strings International, and the new PBS series Time Machine Guitar. His talents as a performer/puppet coordinator have brought to life an impressive list of commercials, such as the Wise Potato Chip owl, Ken-L-Ration Smorgasburger dog food, Post Crispy Critters cereal, Christmas spots for Bloomingdales, Hess Oil, Pepsi, and he now once again animates the bear for Snuggle Fabric Softener. As a partner in 3/Design Studio, Jim designs and builds puppets and specializes in creating mechanisms and special effects for such commercials as the invisible man for Mirinda, angel wings for Coronet’s Angel Soft Bath Tissue, and effects for features such as Little Monsters and Woody Allen’s Alice. He recently rebuilt many of the mechanisms and characters for Disney’s Muppets. As 3/Design’s principal performer/puppet director, Jim performs many of the characters, and was Batly on Eureeka’s Castle.
The mission of the O’Neill’s National Puppetry Conference is to encourage puppet artists to create and communicate through the visual and kinetic form of the puppet, to push beyond their personal boundaries, and develop new works for puppet theater. Participants collaborate with renowned guest directors, puppet artists, and playwrights to develop innovative productions conceived by guest artists, as well as presentations initiated by the Conference participants.
For eight days each summer, puppet artists have the opportunity to explore various performance styles through rehearsals and workshops on writing, music, marionettes, and more. Puppet artists also have the option to gather before the main conference for three days of intensive workshops. The main conference culminates with two public performances, featuring new works which explore the extraordinary range and power of the puppet.