Monday, March 10, 2014

Exhibition: Puppetry in America

Although donated last fall, it was only recently that the Jim Henson Foundation puppets went on display at the Smithsonian, in an exhibition called Puppetry in America.

Included in the exhibit are many original, older versions of the muppets from Sesame Street (now in its 45th year on TV), the Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock.

Read more about the exhibition, behind-the-scenes conservation, and more here...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shout-Out: Weekly Puppetry News!

The famous Marionette Theatre in Prague, one of the many cities hosting puppetry opportunities this year
[Photo Credit: Steve Collis, used under a Creative Commons CC-BY license]

A great round-up of puppetry-related news, events, and learning opportunities from around the world, you'll definitely want to check out Andrew Young's Weekly Puppetry News...

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Magic of Paper

Wheel Of Life from Andre&Markus on Vimeo.

Paper is one of the most versatile and beautiful mediums available to makers, able to create and reproduce entire worlds at the cut of a blade. After years of experience perfecting this craft, The Makerie Studio teamed up with Director André Gidoin to magically bring one of these worlds to life, by creating and filming a hand made paper Zoetrope.

A zoetrope is a device that produces the illusion of motion from a rapid succession of static pictures. Often referred to as the Wheel Of Life, we were inspired to tell the story of one zoetrope in particular, that one night came to life.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


"Art Spiegelman has almost single-handedly brought comic books out of the toy closet and onto the literature shelves."  - LA Weekly
Celebrated cartoonist Art Spiegelman comes to BAM with WORDLESS!, an innovative hybrid of slides, talk, and musical performance created in collaboration with acclaimed jazz composer Phillip Johnston. Spiegelman leads audiences on a personal tour of the first graphic novels—silent picture stories made by early-20th-century masters like Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, and Milt Gross—accompanied by an all-new score by Johnston, who performs with his sextet. In navigating “the battle between words and pictures,” Spiegelman smashes at the hyphen between high and low art, featuring a new work drawn specifically for this project called “Shaping Thought!”

My friend, Frances Ruth Harris, attended last night's performance, and here is her review:
He presented a history of how the graphic inspirations began. Phillip Johnston, along with other musicians, made up a band (the Phillip Johnston sextet) that accompanied Art Spiegelman's visual slides and presentation. The music was all the way live sizzle! The presentation was entitled WORDLESS! Spiegalman did a lot of talking at various points, and during the graphic moments, he did not always talk. He spent time explaining how the absence of words generates thought. It was wonderful. I also love the BAM Opera House where all this took place. I had seen a ballet there two years ago, and I was lucky enough to get a wonderful seat then so that I enjoyed the orchestra in the pit as well as the ballet on stage. Trish, I'll mail the play bill for you to enjoy. Then you can read a couple of pages on Spiegelman. This evening's show was originally commissioned by the Sydney Opera House for GRAPHIC. And, on February 12th is "Co-Mix: The Artistic Adventures of Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly." Tonight's performance was a chance for Spiegelman -- in addition to all the revealing and captivating history he shared -- to showcase his own life in terms of how others influenced who he has come to be. He did spend most of his time on the history of other graphic artists and how each influenced the other. There's no denying his pleasure -- and the audience's joy -- in his own successes. It's who he is; one can't hide a reality like that! It will be interesting to read what the Times and the Journal have to say about this evening's show.
Speigelman at the podium, shares with the audience using images &  music, and minimal narration

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Usual Suspects: Tom Haney

The latest piece by automaton maker extraordinaire, Tom Haney - "The Usual Suspects".

Tom describes the piece:
Handmade figurative, kinetic sculpture - also known as automata. 
Over 250 hours start to finish. Hand-carved bodies; heads sculpted from polymer clay; scratch-built mechanisms; handmade clothes. 8 cams and levers control all movement. Powered by a 4.8 RPM synchronous gear-motor.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Collector

Meet Richard Balzer. He collects optical toys, and much more.
How do you convince a generation that’s perfectly content to watch a cat in a shark suit ride a Roomba to be interested in antique animation toys? "The simple answer is, just show them as they were," says Balzer. "Not as static figures, but as animations." This led Balzer to hire Brian Duffy, a young Los Angeles-based animator who began helping Balzer digitize and animate Balzer’s collection of phenakistoscope and zoetrope illustrations.
See more animations on Dick's tumblr!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Doctor Who in the Small

Scene from BBC 2013 Doctor Who Christmas Special:  The Doctor contemplates alien with his sonic screwdriver

Doctor Puppet, created by
Alison Stern

With this being the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, there are many creative projects and performances being inspired by the Doctor.  This includes projects that take the doctor to the small stage, as well as to the world of stop-motion film shorts.

The creativity of the people behind these projects boggles the mind.  Even the official Doctor Who program itself will be featuring a Punch-and-Judy-like puppet story in this year's Christmas Special!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Burke Dollhouse

6' wide x 5' tall.  Fully functioning electrical lighting
and running water in the kitchen and bathroom...

Recently, a very special dollhouse was donated to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA).

It's special because of its size and complexity.  The rooms were outfitted over many years, and no attention to detail was spared.

One can look into each corner of a room, and discover something new upon every viewing.  The house is truly a work of miniature art.

The dollhouse was donated by Mary Livingston [Griggs] Burke, who passed away in 2012. It was built in the early 20th century, and had been added to over the decades by the original owner and her daughter. The family foundation donated the dollhouse to the MIA in 2013.

Ms. Burke, a distinguished art collector,  made known her intention to donate her Japanese art collection upon her death to the MIA.  The dollhouse may have been a fortunate after thought that the MIA inherited along with it.

Michelle Mausi, the author of
Tales of the Tchotcke Family 

One of the staff at the MIA began taking snapshots of the rooms as well as the miniature figurine characters that inhabit them, captioning each image with a fictional narrative.

The figurines became the Tchotcke family.  They had individual names, back stories, and narratives for their particular scenes.

You'll want to check the stories out here and here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens: UPDATE

The last time I posted about this project was about a year ago.  The man behind it, Steve Arnott, contacted me today and wanted me to know that an updated video demonstrating more of the digital animation, soundtrack, and narration was now available to view.  The video above is that sample.  It shows great promise, and has many fascinating and magical scenes. The narration is done by Roy Trumble, from his reading of J.M. Barrie's earlier, shorter work about Pan...

The film is making good progress. Steve did some film work in Norway last month, where they are enthusiastic about the project - part of the film may be produced there.

Arnott knows his subject well, and has written about its history and influence.

To find out more about the film's history, and what the goals of the film project are, go here.

As I find out more information, it will be posted here.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

London Puppetry Festival: October 25th to November 3rd

Going on RIGHT NOW is the Suspense 2013 London Puppetry Festival! Check out the video to see clips of the shows and workshops being offered, as well as excerpts from some of the shows and the performers who create these amazing worlds for us to enjoy...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2013 Paper Theatre Festival in Harderwijk

Held this past May, here are highlights showing some of the performers, theatres, and actual clips of performances...

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

PuppetVision: The Movie

PuppetVision: The Movie is a documentary about puppets, puppeteers and puppetry around the world.  The mastermind behind the project is Andrew Young:
We want to use fantastic interviews, combined with performance footage, rare film clips, and original puppetry sequences to create a fun, accessible documentary that takes you on a globe trotting journey to meet these incredible artists and explore the wonderful work that they do. We want to take the art of puppetry apart, show you how it works and surprise you with what you find.
This update on Andrew's blog shares even more details and photos, the latest news on the project.

PuppetVision: The Movie is being funded by donations.  Please visit the project's fundraiser site and give whatever you can - every penny is much appreciated!  And, there are incentives for various contribution amounts.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Classic Paper

Homer’s cornerstone of literature is vividly told with beautiful illustration and masterful puppetry. Cinematic projection and cunning tricks transform a suitcase full of cut-out paper puppets into an array of living characters and striking landscapes. A silent film is created before your eyes, set to a captivating live score from exceptional musicians.
If you live near Brighton, you're in luck!

The Paper Cinema will be putting on performances next week of their amazing adaption of the Odyssey.

Don't miss it!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Moby Dick on a Stick!

My friend Karen had an "obsession" discussion at her library (where she works as a librarian) recently, revolving around Melville's MOBY-DICK.

She used some of the art from Matt Kish's Moby-Dick in Pictures to create stick puppets for the program.

Karen led an informal discussion with the participants, in an attempt to answer questions about larger subjects. Questions contemplated were: What does the novel tell us about obsession? [Ahab’s obsessive desire to kill Moby Dick drives much of the novel’s story-line...] What methods does he use to get the crew on board with his personal obsession? And, what do those methods tell us about larger subjects, such as the nature of leadership, tyranny, and democracy?

The video below is a fascinating short film documenting Matt Kish's own obsession with Moby-Dick, and how that obsession compelled him to create a sketch, drawing, or painting every day for a year, that eventually became his book. His art inspired Karen so much, she used several for her project!

Inside the Whale from Southpaw Filmworks on Vimeo.