In June 2013, I was the recipient of the Alumni Travel Fund to attend the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT as part of the National Puppetry Conference. At the conference, I worked with Jim Kroupa on mechanisms, Jim Rose on marionette construction, and on my participant piece, Ashes to Ashes, Rust to Rust, an excerpt from Object of Her Affection with Sharon Challenger.
The Alumni Travel Fund was made possible by Puppet Pandemic, a showcase of works that explores the infectious nature of puppets in which proceeds go to the National Puppetry Conference. I had previously performed Stuffed and Mounted, an excerpt from Bride of Wildenstein at Puppet Pandemic in 2009.
For my participant piece, I developed Ashes to Ashes, Rust to Rust, an excerpt form Object of Her Affection, in which a woman who desires intimate relationships with inanimate objects discovers that the bridge she has come to love has been cheating on her.
Object of Her Affection is a solo puppetry and object performance art piece centered on a woman, who in her search for true love develops intimate relationships with inanimate objects. In this unconventional love story, puppets and performing objects are a primary through-line, as I explore the synesthetic relationship between objects and personalities.
After the conference, I performed Object of Her Affection in Los Angeles at REDCAT for the 2014 New Original Works Festival and Automata as part of a workshop/residency with excerpts at Bootleg Theater (Los Angeles), REDCAT, and the Muckenthaler Cultural Center (Fullerton, CA).
With Jim Rose, I developed on a marionette version of Andrea Lowe, the protagonist from Object of Her Affection.
More about Jim Rose from the O’Neill Website:
Jim Rose, son of Rufus and Margo Rose, first performed with marionettes in 1943 in the Rose production of Rip Van Winkle. He has performed with his own hand puppets since 1947, when he saw Burr Tillstrom’s Puppeteers of America Festival performance of Kukla and Ollie in St. George and the Dragon. Jim worked with his parents and with Martin and Olga Stevens on several film and TV productions including the WGN-TV Peabody Award-winning The Blue Fairy, and the Stevens-Rose film The Toymaker. He graduated from Antioch College in 1956. While a student there, he appeared in over 40 plays of which 14 were by William Shakespeare. At the Yale School of Drama where he received his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1963, he created puppets for a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and for adaptations of two of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Mr. Rose taught Drama, Art and English in high schools in Chicago and in Connecticut from 1956 until 1960. He taught for two years in the Theater Department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and for 19 years at Antioch College. He has also led numerous workshops at Puppeteers of America Festivals and has taught in the Rose Marionette Workshop at the National Puppetry Conference, held at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut. Since 1982, Mr. Rose has presented his traditional puppets in annual 18th century fairs in The Fair at New Boston near Springfield, Ohio, at The Faire at the Forks in Chatham, Ontario, at the Trail of History in McHenry County, Illinois, and at George Washington’s Mount Vernon in Virginia.
During the pre-conference, I worked with Jim Kroupa on mechanisms for puppets.
More about Jim Kroupa from the O’Neill 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.