I have been part of the National Puppetry Conference at Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut since 2005 – most recently in 2017 as an artist-in-residence. The conference encourages puppet artists to create through the visual and kinetic form of the puppet, to push beyond personal boundaries, and develop new works.
For the 2017 Conference, I was an artist-in-residence with Model Killer: Giant Crimes and Tiny-Cover-Ups. During this residency, I worked closely with Sharon Challenger in the Jim and Jane Henson Rehearsal Hall. The residency culminated in performances of the first scene, Model Victims. Funding for this residency was made possible through the Walt Disney Company, the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and individual contributions through Fractured Atlas. While at the conference, I also worked with Lisa Lichenfels on soft sculpture techniques.
Model Killer: Giant Crimes & Tiny Cover-Ups is a morbid comedy centered on a disgruntled dollhouse maker turned investigator. Vivian Nutt builds dioramas of unsolved murders, only for it to be revealed that she is in fact, a serial killer. How is our perception of gender colored through the lens of aggression? Can injecting the idealized settings of dollhouses with the macabre, expose the fraud of domestic tranquility? Are Vivian’s attempts to construct a world that fits her model of justice by eliminating problematic people out-of-scale with their transgressions? These are a few of the questions I am taking a stab at as I invite the viewer to reconsider female serial killers, the historically feminine craft of miniatures, and murder as entertainment.. Read More
In 2016, I worked on the script for Model Killer: Giant Crimes and Tiny Cover-Ups as part of the writing strand with mentor, Martin Kettling. At the culmination of the conference, there was a private reading. My time at the O’Neill was made possible by the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center Alumni Fund. I went on to work on Model Killer as the artist-in-residence in 2017 with performances of the first scene, Model Victims.
In 2015, I started an outline for Model Killer: Giant Crimes & Tiny Cover-Ups during the pre-conference writing strand with Roger Danforth and Steven Massicotte. During the main conference, I was mentored by Ronnie Burkett on writing for The Feeder, and I also collected my ideas for an essay, Why Puppetry? Musings of A Solo Puppet Artist, which was printed in HowlRound.
The Feeder explores the unintended consequences of a complicated relationship when the surviving partner of a gainer and feeder couple is on the run after accidentally feeding his spouse to death. There were two performances at the conference. After the conference, I performed The Feeder Echo Theatre in Portland.
But back to that pesky question: Why puppetry? And why now in the midst of mass extinction and social injustice? Why is puppetry relevant when there are battles over wedding cakes and whether Black lives really matter to everyone? Can cardboard and papier-mâché really save this fucked up world? Read More
As a thank you to the Los Angles Guild of Puppetry and Connecticut Guild of Puppetry. who made funding in 2015 possible, I kept a video diary with interviews of artists at the conference that you can see here.
At the 2013 Conference, I worked with Jim Rose in the Marionette Construction Strand. While there, I also developed Ashes to Ashes, Rust to Rust a scene from Object of Her Affection. My time at the conference was made possible with assistance from The Alumni Travel Fund and the Terry & Taylor Fator Fund
In Object of Her Affection, a woman in search of romantic companionship develops intimate relationships with inanimate objects. This unconventional love story explores the universal development and loss of relationships. Object of Her Affection follows the emotional journey of protagonist, Andrea Lowe, after she has mysteriously fallen from a building. In her last moments, she reflects on her meaningful relationships starting with her first love, a baby’s blanket. As an adolescent, she loses her virginity to a bad-boy hunting rifle, and subsequently becomes infatuated with the Berlin Wall. As Andrea evolves, so do her desires. In adulthood, she forms doomed relationships with monumental structures: a high-profile statue, tragic twin skyscrapers, and a bridge who cheats. She finally finds solace in Roy, a crumbling tenement who ultimately fails her. See More
In 2012 I worked with Ronnie Burkett on my writing and the script for Object of Her Affection. While at the Conference, I also presented The New American Vaudeville: the Puppet Slam Network. At the culmination of the conference, I read an excerpt from Object of Her Affection. My time at the conference was made possible by the Terry Fator Fund.
The New American Vaudeville: The Puppet Slam Network, was an artist presentation in which, I contextualized underground world of contemporary short-form puppet and object theater for adult audiences in intimate settings through my position as co-founder and coordinator of the Puppet Slam Network which ran from 2005 to 2016.
In 2011, I developed Web of Mystery, in which a spider dances with it’s puppeteers before overtaking one of them, and as an assistant puppeteer on Leslie Cararra-Rudolph’s Wake Up Your Weird, in which a candy obsessed five year old must process her feelings after getting bullied out of a play date. My time at the 2011 National Puppetry Conference was made possible by the Connecticut Guild of Puppetry
I returned to Wake Up Your Weird as an assistant puppeteer to Leslie Cararrra-Rudolph in Los Angeles for performances at the Cavern Club and a workshop at the Geffen, as well as in Walnutt Creek at the Lescher Center for the Arts. I went on to work with director, Michelle Spears on Object of Her Affection.
In 2010, I created Dawn of the Apocalypse, performed Fudgie’s Death, and puppeteered in Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, and a split focus table-top puppetry piece. I also hosted a puppet slam summit with Puppet Slam Network curators from around the country. Funding was made possible by The Matt Rineveld Memorial Fund
In Dawn of The Apocalypse I performed as an anthropomorphized oil spill. Dawn of The Apocalypse was a song response to the Deepwater Horizon spill with music composed by Melissa Dunphy. An iconic image of an oil soaked bird from the Gulf of Mexico became the impetus for the lyrics and images. Melissa Dunphy composed the music and engineered the auto-tune. Carole D’Agostino fabricated the dress from garbage bags while Heather Henson worked on the oil rig hat. The garbage bag material used for the dress, the oil-soaked bird-umbrella, and the oil spill became a significant material as the plastic it is made from is derived from oil, and due to its ubiquitousness at landfills and association with trash.
I performed Fudgie’s Death, at Blue Gene’s Pub assisted by Liz Hara. Fudgie’s Death, a short segment from Growing Up Linda, is a neo-noir tale of depravity centered on the daughter of a famous ice cream mogul, who must come to terms with her troubled past.
I worked with Tim Lagasse and Martin P. Robinson on their puppet film, “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft”. The music was a rendition of the Carpenter’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” from The Langley School’s “Innocence & Despair”.
In 2009, I was an emerging artist with Bride of Wildenstein – The Musical, mentored by Derron Wood. I also worked on building mechanisms for puppets with Jim Kroupa. My time at the O’Neill was made possible with Emerging Artist Funds
Have you ever gone too far for love? In Bride of Wildenstein – The Musical, an aging socialite grows fur and claws to recapture the attention of her philandering game hunter husband. Bride of Wildenstein is a weird and tragic love story that examines the making of a monstrosity through the personal struggle of a woman loses 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. Read sample
Bride of Wildenstein was first developed at CalArts. After the conference, I received funding from The Durfee Foundation at the Velaslavasay Panorama in Los Angeles. With the support of Ibex Puppetry, I also staged full-length productions in New Orleans at the Fringe, and in Orlando at The Gallery at Avalon Island and The Cameo Theatre with excerpts in Los Angeles at REDCAT, in New York at The Tank, in Olympia at PLOP, in Atlanta at Georgia Tech, and in Phoenix at Great Arizona Puppet Theater (Phoenix).
In 2008, I worked with Martin Robinson and Tim Lagasse on The Bottle Stopper Project. In The Bottle Stopper Project, life is good in an Italian bar until there is a break in reality. I operated toy theatre style puppets (anthropomorphic hand carved Sicilian bottle stoppers) and assisted as a set decorator. The film was screened all over the world as part of the touring puppet film series, Handmade Puppet Dreams.
In 2006, I developed Rango Tango, a marionette choreography directed by Phillip Huber. During the pre-conference, I worked with Jim Kroupa on building mechanisms for puppets. Funding for my time at the O’Neill was made possible with funding the Kevin Clash Minority Fund.
After the conference I performed Rango Tango in Lowell, MA at the Revolving Museum.
In 2005, I shot and edited my short puppet film, Jackson’s Private Zoo, which focused on a reclusive pop star’s whimsical abuse of the animals in his private zoo. Produced by Tim Lagasse and Video Anarchy, Jackson’s Private Zoo featured a soundscape created with Liz Hara. Jackson’s Private Zoo has been screened in Providence at Perishable Theatre for the Fledgling Festival, in North Hollywood at the California Institute of the Abnormal Arts for the Festival of Mirth, and in Austin at Salvage Vanguard Theatre as part of the Fusebox Festival for the Not Humanly Possible program.
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.