In 2005 I co-founded The Puppet Slam Network with Heather Henson and the support of her production company, Ibex Puppetry. As Puppet Slam Network’s coordinator for just over a decade until 2016, my work focused on cataloguing, connecting, supporting, and generating awareness for evenings of short-form puppetry for adults. The Puppet Slam Network fostered connections in the growing field of independently produced puppet cabarets, so that puppet artists could know where they could perform, venues could find puppet artists, and audiences could enjoy an intimate, tactile, and compelling form of entertainment.
The Puppet Slam network began as a series of conversations with Henson in 2005 during a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida where we discussed evenings of puppetry for adults she was quietly supporting. We brainstormed on designing ways to interconnect these programs so that there could be more of a national and international touring circuit for short-form puppetry artists.
Puppet Slam Network Website
In early 2006 I designed and launched out puppetslam.com. On the website, you could search for a slam profiles alphabetically by name, city, or state, or by region. During the run of the Puppet Slam Network, I followed upwards of 80 recurrent slams that extended beyond the United States in Canada (Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary, Montreal, Picton, and Regina), and as far as Copenhagen, Nürnberg, London, and Melbourne. A slam profile included a short description of the slam, curator contact information, recent performers, and venue details for the benefit of other curators, traveling performers, and audience members. There were interviews with slam performers and curators, puppet slam history, and advice for people wanting to create a puppet slam.
Starting in 2010, I created a calendar with detailed information on puppet slams happening each month, along with a “look ahead” section that sometimes included upwards of 100 events in the coming year.
While curating puppetslam.com, I consulted on slam grants. In the end, I distributed 237 grants totaling $475,000 and made the process more transparent, democratic, and open to anyone who hosted puppet slams. The Puppet Slam Network served over 70 puppet slams .
In the presentation, The New American Vaudeville: The Puppet Slam Network, I contextualized underground world of contemporary short-form puppet and object theater for adult audiences in intimate settings.
Underground puppet slams have been popping up everywhere. They feature contemporary short-form puppet and object theater for adult audiences, often late at night in small venues, nightclubs, and art spaces. Puppet Slams exist at the nexus of vaudeville, burlesque, and performance art through the intersection of experimental theater, art, music, and dance as a viable alternative to the culturally homogenous digital mass media.
When was the very first puppet slam? Surely there must have been Paleolithic Slams or something like them with cave people projecting shadows onto their walls by torchlight to communicate the location of food. (Read More)
I published a series of 24 interviews with puppet slam artists and curators for the Puppet Slam Network. Subjects included Nick Hubbard (Seattle), Tommy Cannon and Nancy Smith (Phoenix), Res (Toronto), Dylan Shelton (Cincinnati), Christine Papalexis (Los Angeles), Blainor McGough (Portland, ME), Vanessa Gilbert (Providence), Evan O’Television (Boston), Alexander Winfield (London), Kat Pleviak and Jessica Simon (Chicago), Debrah Hunt (San Juan), Enda O. Breadon (Honolulu), Lana Schwarcz (Melbourne), Alissa Hunnicut (Brooklyn), Geppetta (Philadelphia), Carole D’Agostino, Honey Goodenough, and Cathy Shaw (NYC), Roxie Myhrum (Brookline), Valeska Populoh (Baltimore), Beau Brown (Atlanta), and Valerie Meiss (Asheville). (Read them all here)
I ran a series of informational blog posts on the Puppet Slam Network website that addressed topics related to organizing evenings of short-form puppetry and object theatre for adults. Topics included: the significance of puppet slams, puppet slam history, the future of slams, sources of inspiration, working with a fiscal recipient, learning from fabulous failures, advice on hosting and performing in slams, self promotion, and how to get the most out of the Puppet Slam Network. (Read them all here)
- The Puppetry Journal – In 2012, The Puppetry Journal ran a substantive magazine cover story on the world of puppet slams, featuring my work as Puppet Slam co-founder and my interviews with puppet slam artists.
- Puppetry International – Puppetry International interviewed me on my work as a curator of short-form adult puppetry and in my role as Puppet Slam Network co-founder in the “The North American Puppet Slam Scene in 2010”.
- Portland Press Herald – In 2013, The Portland Press Herald (newspaper) covered the work of the Puppet Slam Network as part of a larger story on Blainor McGough, curator of King Friday’s Dungeon in Portland, Maine.
- CJOB, Winnipeg – In 2010, Dan Walechuck appeared on CJOB (Winnipeg radio) to discuss about The Puppet Slam Network and the Winnipeg Puppet Slam, (which he was the curator of).
- Film Snobbery – In 2010, I appeared on Film Snobbery, a film making web series hosted by Nic Baisley to discuss the puppetry’s renaissance and my work with the Puppet Slam Network
- Feast of Fools – In 2006, I was a guest on Feast of Fools #395 – Life on Marsian, a Chicago-based LGBTQ comedy podcast where I spoke about a variety of topics, including my work with the Puppet Slam Network.
- Spoiler Alert – In 2006, I appeared on BSR 88.1 FM, Providence, for the radio show Spoiler Alert, where I interviewed film produce and Puppet Slam Network co-founder, Heather Henson.
Ibex Puppetry is an entertainment company dedicated to promoting the fine art of puppetry in all of its mediums. Founded in 2000 and receiving multiple UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionette) awards, Ibex Puppetry supports puppet art in the mediums of film, stage, gallery exhibits, workshops and artist presentations. The Heather Henson Foundation has continued to support individual puppet slams beyond the run of the Puppet Slam Network and Ibex Puppetry.
In addition to working at the Puppet Slam Network, while at Ibex Puppetry, I also worked on a number of other company projects, including the Orlando Puppet Festival, Handmade Puppet Dreams, Panther and Crane, and interactive film screenings.