Thursday, August 18, 2011

PST World Report: Roxie at the International Puppet Festival, Jerusalem!

Dear PST Fans,

Greetings from Jerusalem! I am writing from the Train Theatre’s International Puppet Festival in the heart of Jerusalem. For 6 days straight I have been watching 7 or more puppet shows a day made by artists from all over the world. Many of the shows are without words which helps us international guests understand. Even when the shows are entirely in Hebrew, the puppeteers are such strong performers that the meaning of the stories still comes through. (Still, little by little, I am picking up words in Hebrew as I listen...)

The festival is located in both indoor and outdoor theatre venues across the Mishkenot neighborhood, just a short walk from the Old City where many holy sites (Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) are located. I am here as a guest of the Culture department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Along with other directors of International Puppet Festivals, we are here to see some of the most exciting puppet theatre that Israel has to offer.

According to the festival's Artistic Director, the "hero" of this year's festival is paper, so many of the shows use this as their primary design element. Several shows, including "Rain Bird" (depicted below) use origami or other paper folding traditions to tell their stories. Shadow and object theatre are also prominent.

I took one morning off from the festival to visit the Holon Puppet Center, located in the city of Holon near Tel Aviv. Here, I saw an amazing museum display of Israeli puppets and others from collections gathered from all over the world. Students at this school can specialize in different areas of puppetry, including building and performance, community art, education, and therapy. The theatre and classroom facilities were impressive, and I saw a group of campers thoroughly enjoying themselves in workshops, performances, and museum tours. I hope more American puppeteers have the chance to study abroad here!

Last night I left the Mishkenot neighborhood and traveled to the Mehane Yehuda market area. There, we went on a walking tour to see different performance installations, including one that took place in a synagogue. It was a wonderful way to see the city, and to appreciate the artistic and storytelling traditions that many of these puppeteers draw on for inspiration for their show.

Please stop by PST for more stories about the trip. Until then, Shalom!

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