Staging the Non-Human Character: Animal, Alien, or Architecture (Symposium / Streaming)

Saturday, January 22, 2022, I discussed the creation and development of Object of Her Affection at a symposium, Staging the Non-Human Character; Animal, Alien, or Architecture with Maria Camia, Nick Lehane, Basil Twist, and moderator, Dr. Paulette Richards. The symposium, part of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival streamed at on HowlRound.

wearable architecture from Object of Her Affection, photo Steve Gunther

The Ellen Van Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium brings together practicing Festival artists with scholars to consider the intersection of puppetry with other disciplines and ideas. Before 1912, the year the Little Theater of Chicago was founded in the historic Fine Arts Building, the term “puppeteer” did not even exist. Little Theater director Ellen Van Volkenburg needed a program credit for the actors she had trained to manipulate marionettes while speaking the text of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and she coined the word “puppeteer.” That marked the dawn of the movement that has brought us to the rich art form now practiced around the world. In Van Volkenburg’s honor, the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival presents four discussions featuring festival artists and key topics from the works presented in the Festival.

The Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium is co-curated by Dr. Paulette Richards and Chicago Puppet Festival Artistic Director Blair Thomas. Discussions are open to the public. No reservations required.


8 a.m. PST (San Francisco, UTC -8)
10 a.m. CST (Chicago, UTC -6)
11 a.m. EST (New York, UTC -5)


Watch Live


Dr. Paulette Richards,
puppet artist and
independent researcher


Maria Camia, creator, New Mony!
Nick Lehane, creator, Chimpanzee
Marsian De Lellis, creator, Object of Her Affection
Basil Twist, creator, Dogugaeshi


Maria Camia (MARICAMA) is a Filipino American visual theater artist who creates spiritual theater, visual art and fashion with the intention to globally inspire healing and play. She has performed original work for the Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival, Dixon Place, La Mama, Concrete Temple Theater, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, The Object Movement Residency, The Henson Company, The Puppet Slam Network, Coney Island USA, Great Small Works, Jalopy Theater, and The International Puppet Fringe Festival.

Nick Lehane is a Brooklyn based puppet artist and theater maker. His puppet play Chimpanzee premiered at HERE Arts Center through Basil Twist’s Dream Music Puppetry Program, with the support of The Jim Henson Foundation and Cheryl Henson. It has since been presented at the World Puppet Theater Festival in Charleville-Mézières, by Casteliers at Théâtre Aux Écuries in Montreal, and by The London International Mime Festival at The Barbican Centre.

Marsian De Lellis is a Los Angeles-based interdisciplinary artist who combines sculpture, objects, installation, performance and handmade spectacles to memorialize obsessional lives. Their work celebrates stories of unconventional people whose private manias become public fodder for tabloids and reality television. Their work has been supported by The Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Center Theatre Group, The Jim Henson Foundation, The Center for Cultural Innovation, The Durfee Foundation, and UNIMA-USA.  

Master puppeteer Basil Twist, recipient of the Rome Prize, hailed for his work on Broadway’s The Addams Family and The Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker, unfolds an intimate, abstract, contemporary journey of images and emotions in Dogugaeshi. The piece is influenced by the rarefied tradition of Japanese dogugaeshi stage mechanism technique and his own encounters with the remaining rural caretakers of this once popular art form. Winner of the 2005 Bessie Award and an UNIMA Award for Excellence in Puppetry, Dogugaeshi features original shamisen compositions created by authorized master musician Yumiko Tanaka and performed live by the highly accomplished, distinguished virtuoso of Japanese koto and shamisen in both traditional and contemporary music: Yoko Reikano Kimura. 


Paulette Richards is a puppet artist and independent researcher. She holds a Ph.D. in French Civilization from the University of Virginia and has taught at Georgetown University, Tulane University, and Georgia Tech. Richards has taught animatronic puppetry workshops at the Friends School of Atlanta, Decatur Makers, the Dekalb County Public Library, the Center for Puppetry Arts, and the Puppeteers of America 2017 National Festival. She co-curated the Living Objects: African American Puppetry exhibit that ran at the University of Connecticut’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry from October 2O18 to April 2O19. She is currently curating an exhibit of African American puppetry at the Center for Puppetry Arts and her book, Object Performance in the Black Atlantic is forthcoming from Routledge.



HowlRound is a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide that amplifies progressive, disruptive ideas about the art form and facilitates connection between diverse practitioners.

Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is the preeminent event dedicated to the art form in the U.S. The Festival spans 11 days and dozens of Chicago venues, sharing 100+ puppetry activities for 14,000+ guests. Since its launch in 2015, the Festival has highlighted artists from nations such as Iran, Korea, and Chile as well as from Europe, Chicago and across the U.S. with the goal of promoting peace, equality, and justice on a global scale.

SAIC School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Logo, Education, Scholarship 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

For more than 150 years, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been a leader in educating the world’s most influential artists, designers​, and scholars. Located in downtown Chicago with a fine arts graduate program ranked number two in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, SAIC provides an interdisciplinary approach to art and design as well as world-class resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago museum, on-campus galleries​, and state-of-the-art facilities.