Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
1 Royce Circle, Mansfield, CT
The level of preparation for performance in a particular
space is often a reflection of the level of respect a performer has for the
venue. There are no small venues only small performances.
The puppeteer is part of the performance.
I would even go so far as to say that the
puppeteer is part of the puppet. The
physical and emotional disposition of the performer is as important as that of
the puppet. Placement of feet and angle of head are as significant as the placement
of the hands. To ignore this is to
If you are manipulating a marionette you must, of course,
think about how the sweep of the arms will affect the movement and expression
of the marionette. But how one is
centered, how one is balanced on the feet (maybe the balls of the feet) and the
epaulement of the shoulders, all play into the final stage picture.
This is all the more important if the puppeteers are visible
to the audience.
Sometimes a puppeteer is inside the puppet and the center of
gravity of the puppet is not the same as the puppet itself. And certainly if the puppet is not warn by
the puppeteer then the there are 3 centers of gravity to consider.
They are the center of gravity of:
· the puppeteer
the combined figure of the puppeteer and the
puppet when considered as a unit.
It doesn’t matter if the puppeteer is wearing traditional
black, or baggy overalls and mismatched socks.
What matters is that once the performance begins the performer must be
aware that everything counts, there are no time outs, and that everything is
part of the performance.
Whatever you choose to do or say is okay, but everything you
do is saying something.
The Ballard Puppet Institute was busy on 11 July 2015.
There was an opening of a new exhibit curated by Anna Fitzgerald:
"The Work That Follows: 50 Years of UConn
As part of the Saturday
Afternoon Puppet Show series there were two performances of "The Nature of Nature" by
Anna Fitzgerald and Gavin Cummins. In
the evening there was a more adult oriented UConn Alumni Puppet Slam.
At the Slam:
Fitzgerald presented a humorous meditation on the game of rock paper scissors. She used those items as performing objects
and provided the voices. She is also curator
of the performances at the slam, of the large retrospective exhibit, and was
the creator of the longer performance that was presented twice earlier in the
day. WOW ! Anna Fitzgerald has stamina,
creativity, and knowledge of both the history and current trends in her
field. I bet she was tired at the end of
Karen Huizingh manipulated her
creature with humor and skill in a “Now you see monkey now you don’t”
marionette show. The small stuffed
animal up stage left was difficult to see for those who were not in the front
row. The piece has great potential.
Sarah Nolen presented a video that
she created at the O’Neill Center reminiscent of a Busby Bekeley dance number. It was beautifully lit and staged for the camera.
Hua Hua Zhang offered us a view of “Mothers Love” that was gently humorous and
touching. She worked her body as much as
her puppet. She was dressed in black and
every movement of her body and every part
of her body was interacting with the hand puppets in her piece. Hua Hua Zhang gave us an object-lesson in how
a performer must pay attention to the most minute detail. She is aware of and every part
of her body from the tip of her toe to the top of her head.
Rush’s Wondertoast wore a cape made of a Wonderbread wrapper with red and blue
dots. Her script was well written and
was exactly right for the piece. With
assistance from Sarah Nolen (who has a liltingly ironic Texas drawl) she kept
us attentive to the plot and the movements of her performing objects.
Marie Keevins video of a girl with a problem of liverwurst in grade school had
a not-for-school-kids flavor to her piece.
Napolitano closed the show with some very nice cut outs and shadows and language
that would have parents pulling their children from the room if it were done in
a different venue.
This was the first puppet slam in the new space and is an
auspicious beginning of a long line of slams to come. Funding for this event is
made possible in part by the Puppet Slam Network. The exhibit in the museum will be open
through November first 2015.