Friday, June 28, 2013

Monster Mondays are Moving In

Summer 2013 Adult Class

By: Joanna McDonough, Deitch Leadership Intern 

We have all heard it, that familiar falsetto voice that can usually be heard talking to a pet goldfish, or a man named Mr. Noodles, or Mr. Noodle's brother, coincidentally also named Mr. Noodles. Some of us were even lucky enough to take part in many giggles with this furry red friend in childhood, when he exclaimed "That tickles!" every time he was hugged. Yes, I am talking about Elmo my favorite Muppet character from Sesame Street and yes, my Tickle Me Elmo still has batteries in it.

Hello! My name is Joanna. I am 18 years old and an intern at the Puppet Showplace Theatre in Brookline, and I am proud to say that like many of you, I love Elmo. Interestingly enough however, until today I did not know anything about the mechanics behind the puppet that resides on Sesame Street.

It is sad to think that despite my knowledge of every song composed by him, I had no idea who the puppeteers who made Elmo come alive were, or who even created the character. As it turns out, the character was created in the 1970s and first performed by Caroll Spinney and Jerry Nelson then later by Kevin Clash. These puppeteers were responsible for Elmo's portrayal, providing his audience with the lifelike movements of the puppet's arms and legs.

How do they do it, you ask?

The techniques used by artists and performers such as Kevin Clash to create believable puppet characters may seem out of reach to master, but there is good news for aspiring performers and Muppet fans alike.

The Puppet Showplace Theatre is bringing back a class due to popular demand called Furry Monsters 101 which will be starting up in July.


'Furry Monsters 101' spring class 2012 show off Little Creature monsters

 What happens in the class?   

The class, taught by Jonathan Little of Little's Creatures, will focus on the proper manipulation of Muppet-style hand and rod puppets featured on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Avenue Q. Jonathan will teach the class how to make these puppet characters appear as living, breathing beings with their own thoughts, desires, and motivations; some of the basics he will include are breathing, lip-synch, focus, and body positioning.

The sessions for Furry Monsters 101 run July 15 - Aug 5 on Monday nights from 6:30 to 9:00 pm. The registration price by July 1st is $150 and after July 1st it will be  $175.
And don't forget PST members save 10% on registration! CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Even though it is only my third day here at the Puppet Showplace Theatre, I can already tell that the programs this organization has planned for the summer will be great ways to beat the heat and enjoy the arts, for both children and adults. I hope to see you this summer in the theatre!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Int'l Toy Theater Fest at Puppet Showplace: Meet the Artists!


June 28 & 29- View Full Performance Schedule

Let's Meet the Artists!!!

Artists from Great Small Works...

"Living Newspaper" by Great Small Works
Great Small Works was founded in 1995 by a collective of six artists, all veterans of Bread and Puppet Theater, who explore traditional popular theater and puppet forms to reflect contemporary life. Great Small Works performs in theaters, schools, parks, libraries, museums, prisons, street corners, and other public spaces, producing work on many scales, from gigantic outdoor spectacles with scores of volunteers, to miniature shows in living rooms. In curated festivals, cabarets and Soirees, Great Small Works collaborates with artists from varied traditions, provides performance opportunities for artists in diverse genres, and engages the participation of young artists in the process of finding their own voices. In community-based pageants and parades, the company works with groups of students, activists and artists to address issues of common concern. On any scale Great Small Works productions seek to renew, cultivate and strengthen the spirits of their audiences, promoting theater as a model for participating in democracy.
Great Small Works talks toy theater
Great Small Works received a Village Voice Obie Award (1997) and two UNIMA/USA Citations for Excellence (1997 and 2008); a New York Foundation for the Arts Community Assets Grant (1998), and the Puppeteers of America’s Jim Henson Award for innovation in puppetry (2005). Its members are John Bell, Trudi Cohen, Stephen Kaplin, Jenny Romaine, Roberto Rossi and Mark Sussman. (More Info)

Artists from Facto Teatro....

Facto Teatro, "Don Chico con Alas"

Facto Teatro was formed in Mexico City in 2007 by Alejandro Benítez (actor and puppeteer) and Mauricio Martínez (actor and pedagogue). Facto Teatro seeks to create an interactive form of theater that will enable the audience to engage in its productions. The theater incorporates new forms of artistic discourse with a critical objective, allowing the public to enter into a form of entertainment free from prejudices and established formulas.

The company's first work, Panteón de fiesta (Fiesta Graveyard), was commissioned by The Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County for the 1st International Festival of Toy Theater of the Music Center of Los Angeles in June 2008. This commission was supported also by a grant from The Jim Henson Foundation. Since then, the company has performed at Teatro La Puntual, Barcelona, Spain (2009); Papiertheatertreffen, Preetz, Germany (2010, 2011); Teatr Grotesca, Krakow and Centrum Lowicka, Poland (2010); Great Small Works’ International Toy Theater Festival, Brooklyn, NY (2008, 2010); Rencontres Intenationales de Theatres de Papier, Pays d’Epernay, France (2011); and many festivals and theaters throughout Mexico.

Antonio Cerezo studied Dramatic Literature and Theatre at the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature of the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) and in New York City. Since 1992 he has worked professionally as an actor, choreographer and director in Mexico City, the United States and Europe. He spent 7 years in New York City performing at La MaMa etc, Lincoln Center, Mabou Mines, The Ohio Theater and St Ann’s Warehouse. He currently lives and works in Germany where he has performed at Berliner Festspiele, Volksbühne and in Theaterhaus Jena. Don Chico con alas is his first collaboration with Facto Teatro. (More Info)

Mauricio Martínez, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Facto Teatro, studied Dramatic Literature and Theatre at the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature of the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM). He has specialized in the manipulation of puppets for television, poetry, sound engineering and theater pedagogy, and has participated as an actor, director, adapter and sound engineer in over fifteen theatrical productions. In the field of education he works as a professor of theater, literature, movement and arts education in several schools in Mexico City. He has collaborated with the Ministry of Education as head of the Secondary School Theatre Program, which is part of the reform of secondary education by training teachers in theater across the country.

Alejandro Benítez, Co-founder and Managing Director of Facto Teatro, is an actor, puppeteer and drummer. He studied Dramatic Literature and Theatre at the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature of the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM). He took the improvisation workshop with the Latin American League of Improvisation and the training course with the renowned director and acting teacher Ludwik Margules. He has worked as an actor and studio musician and as a puppeteer has performed in theaters, television (the Latin American version of Sesame Street) and TV internet.

Let's Meet our Artists-Barbara Steinitz and Björn Kollin from Germany...

“Schnurzpiepegal” (Like Master, Like Dog) 
by Barbara Steinetz and Björn Kollin

Barbara Steinitz studied communication-design and illustration in Saarbrücken/Germany and Barcelona/Spain. After getting her diploma in 2004 she completed a voluntary service in Granada/Nicaragua; teaching workshops in arts and crafts for adults and children at the cultural institution Casa de los Tres Mundos, she started to explore and include puppet-theater within her work as an illustrator. In Nicaragua she got to know the author Gioconda Belli, for whom she illustrated her first book ("Die Blume und der Baum", Peter Hammer Editorial, Wuppertal 2006). After writing and illustrating her own picture book “Schnurzpiepegal” (Bajazzo Verlag Zürich, 2009) she created a paper theatre show out of this book in collaboration with the musician Björn Kollin. In the last three years they have been been touring with this show in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Mexico, presenting it in schools, libraries and theatre festivals. She received the Austrian Children’s Book Award, the Troisdorfer Picture Book Award and a nomination for the German Children’s Book Award. She lives in Berlin and works as a freelance illustrator, author and puppeteer. 

Björn Kollin 1998-2000 apprenticeship as a wood sculptor in Flensburg; 2000-2002 studies of audiovisual arts in Saarbrücken with professor Christina Kubisch, 2002-2004 studies of sculpture at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin with professor Tony Cragg, 2004-2005 master class student of professor Tony Cragg. Since 2005 freelancing composer, musician and artist, lives and works in Berlin.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Coming soon! The Great Small Works’ International Toy Theater Festival on Tour

Guest blogger: Holly Hartman, PST Volunteer Media Consultant

Holly Hartman
I first attended a show at the Puppet Showplace Theatre several years ago, when my then-six-year-old niece was visiting Boston. I was dazzled, both by the skill of the puppeteer—the enthralling Sarah Lamstein—and the candid absorption of young audience members. They beamed at the arrival of a friendly kitten puppet, shrieked at onstage silliness, and cringed when a tiny Beelzebub rose up from behind the curtain. Afterward, a few children stayed to “meet” one of the puppets; they held its small hands and spoke to it as if to a new friend, apparently oblivious to the presence of Lamstein.

Since then I’ve also discovered PST's offerings for adult audiences, which have included some of the most memorable and ingenious theater productions I’ve seen anywhere. A troupe from Bavaria, Saltamontes Puppet Arts, enacted a mysterious tale with bunraku-style animal figures; Vermont’s Modern Times Theater used cardboard cutouts in a droll retelling of a political fable by Herman Hesse; recently, a marionette puppet slam blew my mind with wood and string. I have noticed that in the presence of puppetry arts I can be as awed and credulous as any six-year-old.

Right now I’m particularly excited about a traveling show that will be landing at PST at the end of this month: The Great Small Works’ International Toy Theater Festival.

Get Ready for Toy Theater…

One of the many things I’ve learned at PST is that there’s currently an international revival of “toy theaters” (aka “paper theaters” or “model theaters”). These mass-produced Victorian miniatures, complete with paper scenery and characters, were a popular form of home entertainment in nineteenth-century Europe. A wondrous variety of contemporary theater artists have contributed to their revival. “Toy theater festivals happen all over the world,” says PST artistic director Roxanna Myhrum, “consistently amazing audiences with the power of performance-in-miniature.”

"Living Newspaper" by Great Small Works
After a residence at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn (how’s that for a credential?!), the traveling part of this year’s festival will make a stop at PST, on June 28 and 29. Both nights will feature a cabaret-style production by three acclaimed theater companies. I'm really looking forward to seeing their work in the intimate space of PST.

Facto Teatro, "Don Chico con Alas"
Facto Teatro (Mexico City) will perform “Don Chico con Alas” (Don Chico with Wings), based on a surrealistic story by Mexican author Eraclio Zepeda. Barbara Steinitz and Björn Kollin (Berlin) will use live music—and a suitcase for a stage—in“Schnurzpiepegal” (Like Master, Like Dog), a humorous meditation on urban life and human-pet dynamics. Great Small Works (New York, but founded by veterans from Vermont’s Bread and Puppet Theater) will bring together words and images from modern-day media in “Living Newspaper,” a new work that addresses the issue of American gun violence.

…and a Family Matinee

“Schnurzpiepegal” (Like Master, Like Dog) by Barbara Steinetz and Björn Kollin
Never fear: kids will have the chance to get in on the toy theater fun, too. On Saturday, June 29, PST will host two daytime shows of “Schnurzpiepegal” (Like Master, Like Dog), each followed by a free workshop, where artists Barbara Steinetz and Björn Kollin will help children create their own toy theater puppets.

Just the Facts!

Evening cabaret on Friday, June 28, and Saturday, June 29, at 8 p.m. (Recommended for adults and teens 13+.) Tickets: $15 General Admission/$13 Members. Cash bar.


Family matinee on Saturday, June 29, at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. (Recommended for ages 3 & up.) Tickets: $12 General Admission/$8 Members. Followed by a free puppet-making workshop; PST will provide materials.


Monday, June 3, 2013

PST Recognizes Norah Dooley, Co-Founder of massmouth, inc for Leadership in the Arts

Reflections on a Creative Leadership Award

by Guest Blogger: Norah Dooley, Co-Founder of massmouth, inc.

This Tuesday, June 4th, 2013  I am honored to receive a Creative Leadership Award at Puppet Showplace Theatre at the Garden Party Gala, celebrating the occasion of their 39th birthday. 

When we first approached Puppet Showplace, in 2010, with the idea of a collaboration, massmouth was just over one year old. We had long known and respected Puppet Showplace Theatre as a venue that supported the art form of puppetry which, much like storytelling, it is an art form with ancient roots that evokes rather than replaces imagination. We also knew that Puppet Showplace Theatre were successful. They had a history that showed grit and commitment that we could admire and aspire to; they had survived as artists and had maintained a continuously operating theater right in the heart of Greater Boston for over 3 decades.

Three years ago, we were whippersnappers, who had just finished our first season of story slams and believed we had a some social capital to share. And if leadership is boldly asking for what one needs, whether  appropriate or not, then I have earned some part of this honor -  although Cheeky Monkey Award would be a name better fitted to my style. We were beggars at the Puppet Theatre gate and  very seriously in need of inexpensive or free office space because our operations had outgrown bedroom/living room arrangement. I suggested a collaboration based on our needs. Ultimately and not surprisingly, the first date between massmouth and Puppet Showplace Theatre did not lead to a relationship.

Norah Dooley Introducing Maria Tatar at our first "Grimm and Twisted" fairytale slam at PST
 - also the 200th anniversary of the Grimms
Skip ahead to this spring.  I am reading ( more precisely, skimming)  the email announcing I was being honored with this award. At first glance I thought that I was being asked to write a recommendation for Roxie Myhrum.  She was the one who helped us find a way to work together.  How perfect, I thought. Roxie is someone with vision, passion and drive. She really deserves this kind of award. I was so delighted to be able to do a small favor for Artistic Director of the Puppet Showplace Theatre that I started to read the email, just to be sure I knew when the deadline for my recommendation might be. 

This closer reading revealed a mind-blowing truth - The Creative Leadership Award was being given to me and Roxie had been my nominator. I know. It was crazy!  Immediately I was on the phone asking Maria Finison, PST Board Member, if the award could be expanded to include the other organizers and founders of massmouth who are still active in Boston. Specifically, Doria Hughes who co-hosted and planned the series at Puppet Showplace Theatre with me and Andrea Lovett, who is always actively promoting the art of storytelling.  They both are leaders in the very best in contemporary performance of traditional material. But, no dice. This is an award for one person and Puppet Showplace Theatre wanted me. They cited the other areas of my work as fitting their criteria; my picture books, workshops, curricula etc. and so, although it is awkward to be so honored, I realized that I had to man-up and take one for the team.  So I accept this award for me as a representative of the art of  storytelling. 

Last summer after a different kind of overture we shared a proposal with Puppet Showplace Theatre and created a project that worked. It had been a dream at massmouth,inc. that we would one day be able to entice a theater or another arts group to support traditional storytelling.  This was an area of storytelling that we had mastered and worked in for decades. When we saw all storytelling on the wane, we started massmouth. When we saw the new energy slams brought to the art form we came up with an idea to mimic our successful 1st person story slams only using traditional content.

Doria Hughes, storyteller fabulosa,  traditional storytellers from Greater Boston and the region and I presented a monthly series of folk & fairy tale slams events right here. Our Slamming the Tradition: Six traditional storytelling events for adults were part open slam, where tellers presented stories no longer than 7 minutes, that were fiction and in some traditional form and part featured performer. Unlike our other story slams, tellers could include props, costumes and music BUT no notes. We secured the prizes and the audience chose winners: A bag of magic beans, magic wishing stone and a small bale of hay were award each month along with a gift card, donated by the Brookline Booksmith. Our first event was written up in ArtsFuse OCT 21 2012.

Performing with Susan Miron on February 14th, 2013 at PST
Audiences and performers enjoyed the project and you can read more about specific nights here. One of the highlights of our series for me was that I was able to create a program and present a feature on Feb 14th,  2013, telling longer stories from Boccaccio's 14th century collection of tales, The Decameron. Giovanni Boccaccio, a favorite of mine. He was an Italian author and poet, and an important Renaissance humanist. Boccaccio is particularly noted for his natural, his skewering of hypocrites in high places, witty dialogue and his sympathetic female characters.

My stories ranged from naughty to lusty, and included romantic tales that came from ancient story traditions of India and the bards of the Holy Roman Empire. Susan Miron accompanied me on the harp. She drew on various ancient folk melodies and dances from Southern Italy. The music comes from authentic folk songs of Campagnia, Calabria, Puglia & Napoli as transcribed by John LaBarbera, mandolinist.

All the performers at "Love, sex and heads may roll." at PST
Thank you so much to Andrea, Doria and Stu, the co-founders of massmouth, to Paula Junn and Hannah Lapuh the staff, the Board of Directors and all the volunteers at massmouth. Thanks to all my friends and supporters especially Sheila Leavitt and Susan Miron. Thanks to all the storytellers and listeners. Thanks so much to all at Puppet Showplace Theatre. You are our artistic cousins and have treated us like family -and you all have been delightfully collegial and fun to work with besides.  And, saving the most important for last, thanks to my family for their support my art and endurance of my absences, rants and excesses as I follow a quixotic quest for a path that leads to right livelihood through work as an artist. Thank you, all.