In June 2010, I was the recipient of the Connecticut Guild of Puppetry Scholarship to participate in the the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. While at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center I worked on Dawn of the Apocalypse in which I portrayed an anthropomorphized oil spill, I performed puppets in Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, (a puppet film directed by Tim Lagasse and Martin Robinson), Fudgie’s Death at Blue Gene’s Pub, and Paul McGuiness’ table-top puppetry piece on split focus. While there I also hosted a puppet slam summit with Puppet Slam Network curators from around the country.
Reflections from my journal:
On Saturday morning, Liz Hara and I began long our car adventure to Waterford where dreams are made and we were set to take part in Tim Lagasse and Marty Robinson’s Video Anarchy workshop. This year we would be working on a music video for the Carpenter’s Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, delightfully sung by the children of the Langley Schools (You can hear more from them on iTunes). Liz and I practiced our lip sink all the way in the car. As soon as we arrived, we felt like we were at home. Timmy had his entire vision story boarded and ready to go. We would be creating a school pageant with an army of pink children hand puppets Timmy stitched up. The eighteen participants in our group got right to work building sets and costumes. Although the shoot and editing was supposed to take the entire week, we finished in two days! So we decided to make a second music video, which was more of a greatest hits homage to the children of the Langley School. It was a great opportunity for me to practice monitor work with a large ensemble and its always inspiring to be part of a well planned out production.
During the rest of the week I had a chance to drop in some of the workshops, including movement with Alice Böhm and playwriting with Robert Smythe, which were especially helpful. Robert’s late night chats in the workroom were an added plus . I only wish there had been more hours in the day.
While there, I also had a chance to perform Growing Up Linda – Fudgie’s Death at the Pub. Because it is a workshop environment, I wanted to try something new, so I performed the piece without the use of video amplification to see if it was still readable to the audience. Although it was not as cinematic as I had originally envisioned, it showed me that it was possible to perform the piece solo and in a low-tech situation for a small number of people. I think it is important to be flexible regardless of your resources or what the venue has to offer and that its always a good exercise to figure out how to tell your story within whatever the limitations are. Fred Thompson was especially accommodating in allowing me to hijack a corner of the workroom, transforming it into a make shift make up table and costuming area.
Also during the week Heather Henson and I hosted a mini-Puppet Slam Summit as part of a discussion on what people are doing in the world. It was amazing to have such a large number representatives from different slams happening around the country. Slam organizers in attendance included Honey Goodenough from Puppet Pandemic in New York, Connor Hopkins from Trouble Puppet Slam in Austin, Katie McClenahan from Beady Little Eyes Puppet Slam in Portland, Valeska Populoh from Puppet Shows at Black Cherry in Baltimore, and Roxie Myhrum from Puppet Showplace Puppet Slam. Many in the discussion had also performed at other puppet slams, and cabarets throughout the country. There were a lot of ideas and it was great to put our heads together and think outside of the box on ways to expand the Puppet Slam Network and coordinate on touring shows from one slam to the next. There were lots of opportunities for networking throughout and beyond the run of the conference.
One of my goals at this year’s conference was to make myself available to perform in other peoples’ pieces. For one of the Participant Projects, I assisted Paul McGinnis with Split Focus Puppetry along with Katie McClenahan, Heather Henson, Kyle Igneczi, Morgan Lane Tanner, April Jernigan Warren, and Conrad Schott. We performed a very simple scene, in which a mother and child enter a general store, purchase an item from the shopkeeper, and exit. First we performed the scene in silence with three tabletop puppets. Next we performed the same scene, while creating a One Word Story (an improv game where each performer takes turns saying one word at a time to create a story based on a suggestion from the audience). The third time we performed the scene with a One Word Story, and while dancing to improvised music performed by Brad Kemp. In rehearsing the piece, I felt like I was entering a very meditative place in my brain, similar to when I was rehearsing Fudgie, alternating between, pop ups, lines, sound cues, voices, and movements, only this time it was improvised language and choreography and scripted movements. The ability to split focus on different categories of tasks simultaneously is like developing a muscle in the brain of a puppeteer that develops after practicing it for a while.
Another goal of mine was to work on my own Participant Project. I wanted to be fearless and start something new, whether it was perfect or not, and although it was a challenge to make something fast and furious, I think I accomplished that goal. At the time, pictures of oiled up coastal creatures from the BP oil spill began turning up and weighed heavily on my mind. I proposed a half-baked song idea about it at the Circle Pitch and was lucky enough to be paired up with Melissa Dunphy from Philadelphia (via Australia). Melissa shared a love for techno music and we both play cello (only the one she brought was electric!). She recently composed The Gonzolez Cantata, based on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and brought with her a war chest of musical instruments, gadgets and digital devices. I have always wanted to work with pitch shift, but never knew how, and that was something that Melissa just happened to have in her bag of tricks.
After Video Anarchy, and rehearsals, I worked on a puppet modeled after an image of oil spill bird that I grabbed from the Internet. After talking to Dave Reagan, I decided to make the puppet out of a repurposed umbrella and garbage bag material (which was free, cheap, and just so happens to be made out out of the byproducts from oil drilling). Past conference attendee, Carol D’Agostino happened to be visiting the workroom late one evening when I was struggling to make a matching dress out of garbage bags. She is so fast at draping and was able to create a flowing dress in a little over an hour. It was the kind of Project Runway moment I had been dreaming of. Heather helped out by creating an oil rig headdress and second-eyeing my choreography. I experimented with Melissa projecting my voice in harmony with the auto-tune pitch. We performed on Saturday morning and to tens of audience members in the Dina Merrill Theater.
I was so happy to participate in the conference this year. It was very productive and nourishing to my soul. I had the chance to see lots of old friends and new faces, did a lot of networking, and got a lot of work done, including starting a new piece. I feel lucky that I get to stay in touch with many of the conference participants when I visit the east coast or when they have jobs here in Los Angeles or come to visit. I also get to stay in touch with a lot of O’Neill people through working as the coordinator for the Puppet Slam Network – and it looks like it’s going to be a prolific year for puppet slams. The O’Neill is not just a week in the summer in Waterford, CT. It is a place in our hearts and we take it with us wherever we go, all year long.
Matt Rineveld (1976-2010)
Dan Matthew “Matt” Rineveld, of Portage, Michigan, consumed life, taking in as much as he could. He was eager to experience what was around him, and his many gifts and interests allowed him to encounter a world as vast as the sky and as focused as a media screen. In his interactions, Matt was somewhat like a cat, in that he liked to come and go, but he was sure to be there for anyone in need.
At Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Matt came into the world as a 5-pound 12-ounce bundle of joy. He was the first of three children. Matt was a fun-loving, energetic boy who was full of life.
Matt came of age during the explosion of computers and video gaming, becoming a true media enthusiast. He always had the latest and greatest video game system, starting with Atari at age 8. He got a huge kick out of The Muppets Show and was always quick to quote a Muppet line in the respective character voice, Pepe being his favorite (“I am not a shrimp! I am a King Prawn!”). He even bowled with his work league on a team called Muppet Mania. Matt also enjoyed the time-tested media form of comic books, Sherman’s Lagoon (Sherman the Shark) being his favorite. He aspired to buy a Shark costume this year to upgrade from his purple elephant suit. Matt’s largest collection of toys was his Transformers. Sometimes, he would buy two of the same one, so he could have one to collect and one to play with.
Matt’s talents were multiple. At Portage Central High School, he was actively involved in the musical productions, marching band, school choir and his Acappella men’s group. By the time he graduated in 1995, he had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and served as a camp counselor at Lake Louise United Methodist Church Camp.
Matt’s interests were equally diverse. He lived for great music, amassing an eclectic collection of albums ranging from Tom Petty to Acappella Vocal Band to Hilary Duff. He liked to fly with his dad, who is a pilot, and said he couldn’t wait to spend more time flying together this year. He highly anticipated the Oshkosh Wisconsin Air Show each year with his family. His fondness for travel took him as far away as Ireland with his Mom and sisters and as near as Ohio for an annual visit to Cedar Point amusement park. He wanted to eat healthy but caved in to fast food and especially loved Silk Egg Nog, Soy Dream Ice Cream and pizza. Matt was recently learning to ride a Harley, so he could hit the pavement with his Dad and sister…literally.
People were drawn to his sense of humor, especially his sarcasm and quick wit. His circle of friends was big, but the greatest fan of his off-beat humor was his Grandma Doris. She really got him.
Over the years, Matt was employed at numerous establishments as a certified pharmacy technician. He also worked at Hollywood Video, Perkins restaurant, Pfizer, and most recently One West Bank where he was currently employed as a Customer Service Representative and JIT (Just in Time) Trainer.
Whether it was work or play, the common thread throughout Matt’s life was that he always wanted to make people happy. There will forever be a huge hole in our hearts. We love you, Matt!
Matt was born December 28, 1976 in Kalamazoo. He passed away suddenly on January 5, 2010 at his home in Portage. He was the very beloved son of Dan H. Rineveld and Valerie L. (Davis) Rineveld. He also leaves behind 2 sisters, Wendy Kathleen and Marie Lynne, both of Portage. Grandparents James R. and Doris Davis, and Grandmother Elizabeth M. Rineveld, many aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family members as well as a large number of friends. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather Dan W. Rineveld. Matt was currently employed at One West Bank of Kalamazoo and loved his job with people as a Customer Service Representative. He had just received a recent promotion to Trainer. He had many passions in life and was always willing to be someone’s friend. He loved movies, music, gaming, bowling, Transformer toys and The Muppets. He remained young at heart and loved Cedar Point trips and the Family Camp trips with his family each summer. He loved going to the Oshkosh (Wisconsin) Air Shows and planned his vacations around it. He was a counselor at Lake Louise Methodist church camp, a member of the Portage Central High School marching band, and was a cast member in several of his high school musicals. Matt achieved the rank of Eagle Scout with Troop #243 with his father as scoutmaster… Please visit Matt’s webpage at www.lifestorynet.com where you can sign his guest book or share a memory or photo. In Lieu of flowers, please make a donation to The Jim Henson Foundation, C/O Matt Rineveld, where a grant will be set up for students of puppetry.
The internationally-acclaimed Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is dedicated to encouraging and furthering the creative impulse which is at the heart of all theatrical expression – and the puppet arts are no exception. The mission of the National Puppetry Conference is to be a catalyst for the professional puppet artist’s growth and development through both the exploration of performance styles and skills, and the production of new works-in-progress for puppet theatre. The conference focuses on empowering puppet artists to create through the visual imagery and kinetic form of the puppet and enhancing their work through a collaborative dramaturgical process. The goal of the Conference is to encourage and create the highest quality of puppet art.