“Still Life With Chickens:” New Samoan Play Confronts Loneliness Through Comedy

Samoan playwright David Fa’auliuli Mamea’s Still Life With Chickens won the 2017 Adam Award for Best New Zealand Play and now, its stylish premiere production is touring the country. It concerns Mama, an elderly Samoan woman who befriends a stray chicken. While the premise seems slight, and the production is light and humorous, the script digs deeply into an issue not often explored in New Zealand theatre, loneliness among the elderly. Loneliness has become a major health issue internationally, with British Prime Minister Theresa May appointing a Minster for Loneliness in January 2018 in response to a report that...

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London’s Fatberg Is Getting Its Own Musical

London’s fatberg–the giant mass of congealed fat and disposed items like nappies and sanitary towels–is getting its own musical. The infamous heap of waste–which was discovered in the sewers under Whitechapel and weighs an estimated 130 tons–will be the subject of a comedy horror called Flushing Fatbergs! The mass will even be animated The musical is being produced by playwright Tilly Lunken and actress Kate Sketchley, and aims to explore our relationship with waste. In this world, humans live in the sewers and use the fatberg as a source of energy–but it also threatens their entire existence. Lunken, 29, told...

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“Yemaya–The Queen Of Seas” At The Wrocław Puppet Theatre

“A long, long time ago…or maybe not so long ago…in fact, quite recently, there was a boy named Omar”–this is how Jolanta Góralczyk (as the National Conscience) opens Yemaya–Królowa Mórz [Yemaya–The Queen Of Seas], the Wrocław Puppet Theatre production about the refugee crisis aimed at audiences six years old and above. Throughout the next hour, children will build a relationship with Omar (the phenomenal Agata Kucińska) and experience a colorful adventure. Many of their parents and minders (and the current author) will struggle to hold their tears as they see a father (Igor Kujawski) waiting on a shore for...

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Changing The Landscape Of Puppetry Theatre In Poland: Jakub Krofta And The Wrocław Puppet Theatre

Jakub Krofta is currently the Artistic Director of the Wrocław Puppet Theatre (Wrocławski Teatr Lalek/WTL). Krofta like some other Czech puppetry practitioners working in Poland was invited to Poland by the Lalka Theatre in Warsaw. He came in 2006 to stage Josef Kainar’s Goldilocks (Zlatovláska) as an already experienced director. His career began in 1993, when, as a student of the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (DAMU), he directed the Spoon River Anthology (Spoonriverská Antologie) for the Dejvice Theatre in Prague. The production was based on the collection of poems by E. L. Masters, under the...

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Czech Puppetry Practitioners in Poland; or, a Parable on the Importance of Internationalisation in Theatre Training

‘In theatre the national differences, instead of dividing, are now connecting,’ says Polish theatre critic Hanna Usarewicz at the end of her article on the significant presence of Czech and Slovak theatre practitioners on Polish stages (Usarewicz 2012). In contrast to the complex political relations between the Polish and Czech peoples, in both current and historical contexts, Polish–Czech cultural exchange has recently been flourishing. In her article, Usarewicz talks about the Slovak scenographer Eva Farkašová (who worked with Piotr Tomaszuk and his Wierszalin Theatre) and the director Ondrej Spišák (a frequent collaborator of Tadeusz Słobodzianek), the Czech-Slovak theatre team...

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“Ada/Ava”: Silent Film In The 21st Century

ArtsEmerson is dedicated to bringing compelling and experimental theatre from all parts of the world to Boston. On January 10, Manual Cinema, a company that devises works that cross the line between cinema and theatre brought Ada/Ava to ArtsEmerson’s Paramount Theatre.  First produced in 2013, Ada/Ava is the second full-length production by this young Chicago collective of five. Since then they have added three more productions and become known in the US and abroad. Although Manual Cinema has its roots in shadow puppetry, they take pride in their films which are created anew at each performance in full sight of the audience. Onstage...

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How a Bunch of Americans Preserved a Dying Chinese Tradition

The art of shadow puppetry spent much of the 20th century in decline in China, but over in the US, it managed to live on. Traditional Chinese shadow puppetry is one of the country’s most spectacular folk arts. Behind a large screen, backlit so that it’s translucently illuminated, handmade donkey-hide puppets dance across the stage, acting out a wide range of stories from China’s formidable canon of classics. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the rise of movies and television, and later the attacks on traditional folk arts during the Cultural Revolution, have sent the popularity of shadow...

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Interpreting “The Mahabharata” With Puppets

Anurupa Roy’s contemporary retelling of the epic uses a melange of cultural influences to focus on 14 characters. Located on the banks of the winding river Meuse that flows northwards from France, the two historically distinct communes that make up the French town of Charleville Mézières were once connected only by a suspension bridge. Now conjoined, they share a common cultural identity. In late September, the town celebrated the 19th edition of its international puppetry festival—the Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes, arguably the largest gathering of puppeteers from all five continents, which attracts an audience in excess of...

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Ping Chong + Company Presents “ALAXSXA | ALASKA”

Ping Chong + Company’s show ALAXSXA | ALASKA subverts an overused Western storyline of people as the central power over everything to instead usher in the throes of our vast and unpredictable universe. The result is a fascinating 85 minutes of a non -Book of Genesis view of the world. The ancient people of Alaxsxa (uh-LUK-shuh), including the Yup’ik tribe, continue to live in what is now called Alaska. Due to the ill effects of foreign intervention, they have faced terrible struggles to retain their indigenous cultural practices. When left to manage their own affairs, these native communities, survive...

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Puppet BloK: A Series Of Ground-Breaking New Works

Dixon Place is known for their commitment to supporting the creative process as well as hosting new works series, and Puppet BloK is no different. In 2006, curator Leslie Strongwater began Puppet BloK, a works-in-progress series of groundbreaking new works of puppetry and other innovative forms of storytelling. There are several puppetry showcases scattering the greater New York City area, but what sets Puppet BloK apart is that the series is carefully curated by CB Goodman, an artist that specializes in devising theatre that incorporates disparate materials and object manipulation, blurring the lines between truth, lies, and theatricality. CB is one of four...

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“Laser Beak Man” Busts The Fourth Wall And Blows Minds With Superheroic Puppetry

Laser Beak Man, the madcap superhero creation of artist Tim Sharp, who has autism, flew into La Boite’s Roundhouse theatre Wednesday night, to the rapture and delight of the Brisbane Festival audience. Charged with the not insignificant task of keeping Power City alight, our hero Laser Beak Man must face off his estranged childhood friend and arch nemesis Mr. Peter Bartman and so retrieve, from Peter’s clammy hands, the underground crystals that supercharge both Laser Beak Man and the city itself. Thank god, there is much to learn about people, relationships, and coming together in every good superhero’s personal trajectory, such...

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Experimental Arrangement In The “In Between”

Every two years, four cities in Franconia host an international puppet theater festival. A look at the festival program 2017 shows: the concept of “puppets” and “theater” is very broad. For ten years now the International Puppet Theatre Festival in Erlangen, Nuremberg, Fürth, and Schwabach, which takes place every two years and is one of the most important theatre scene meetings in Europe, has borne the subtitle: “Puppets. Objects. Images.” This makes it clear that “puppet theatre” here is understood in a very broad sense, both with respect to “puppets” and with respect to the understanding of “theatre”. Accordingly, the...

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Russian Puppetry

It is natural for humans to animate and anthropomorphize anything they touch. Puppetry is a special case in that it breathes life into what are essentially inanimate objects. Every puppet protagonist has its own unique character and lives its own life. People love them and talk to them. Even the puppeteers themselves struggle to explain the magic between them and their alter egos. Who pulls the strings (quite literally)? Are the puppeteers the actual puppets? Where does the puppeteer end and the puppet begin? Puppet theater actors say that puppets should not be treated as objects. A puppet is something...

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“Hand to God” at Circa Theatre

If there is such a thing as typical Circa Theatre fare, Hand to God is certainly not it, yet the typical Circa opening night audience is wide-eyed and beaming in its wake: they love it! The word according to Tyrone – the puppet who delivers the prologue – is that the trouble started when we stopped being carefree individuals and took to living in communities (sorry Maggie Thatcher: there is such a thing as ‘society’); when we invented ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – and ‘the Devil’, who could be blamed for the bad stuff a person did so they still...

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“Mahabharata”: A War Epic in Puppetry

Anurupa Roy’s much-feted Mahabharata thrilled audience with the innovative use of puppetry in theatre, and won ‘Best Production’ honour at this year’s Mahindra Theatre Festival Awards (META). The Mahabharata has been fascinating playwrights since the days of Sanskrit playwright Bhasa, one of India’s most ancient dramatists. His six plays deal with different episodes from the Mahabharat. His three plays – Urbhangam, Madhyam Vyayoga, and Karnabharam – directed by Kavalam Narayana Panikkar reveal the universal appeal of Bhasa. Inspired by the Mahabharat, Dharamvir Bharati wrote Andha Yug which is considered as the contemporary Indian classic. Another significant play is Chakravyuh written and directed by...

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From Strings to Shadows: The 15th Ishara International Puppet Festival

The 15th Ishara International Puppet Festival 2017 held at the India Habitat Centre, Delhi, Gurgaon and Chandigarh recently was a medley of diverse and colorful puppets, characters and stories; some interesting, some engaging while others simply entertaining. Nevertheless, the kids had a great time, especially during weekends when every little one eager to be closest to the enticing vibrant puppets, ended up with their elbows on the low stage literally gaping at the performances. Controlling them was a task every day. Given a chance, they themselves would have taken the stage by storm. Starting the festival with a burst...

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Taiwanese Hand Puppet Theatre: Technology, 3D, and a Rock & Roll Band

Fantasy of the White Snake Taiwanese hand puppet theatre (also called glove puppetry) originated in the 17th century in local opera performed by puppets in Quanzhou, Mainland China, and Taiwan, and peaked in the “Pili TV Puppet Theatre”—“Yunchou Grand Gracious Knight” series, by Toshio Huang (Huang Chun-Hsiung, 1933–), the son of Taiwan’s national treasure puppet master, Huang Hai-Dai. “Pili TV Puppet Theatre” was a great hit and very popular from 1970 to 1974, but it was eventually forced to cease production because of the political situation. The group’s performances addressed many sensitive political issues and included much innuendo, alluding...

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Le Mouffetard, A Place For Puppetry In A Unique Parisian Neighborhood

If you go through any travel guide for Paris, you will definitely find rue Mouffetard among the top suggestions. It makes perfect sense: at the heart of the fifth arrondissement and the famous Quartier Latin, this place is filled with picturesque restaurants and shops. Ever since the Roman Empire (when Paris was known as Lutetia), Parisians have daily roamed through this historical site, discovering its mysteries. And Le Mouffetard, théâtre des arts de la marionnette (“theater of puppetry arts”) is perhaps one of its most well-kept secrets. Located at 73 rue Mouffetard, in a small, concealed courtyard, this theater became in...

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The Year of Remembrance and Resistance: A Look at Polish Theatre in 2016. Part I

The final Polish premiere of 2016 was Triumf Woli [The Triumph of the Will] prepared by the directorial and dramaturgical duet Monika Strzępka and Paweł Demirski for the Helena Modjeska’s National Old Theatre in Cracow. In their own words, Triumf Woli was created to counteract ‘what is happening around us’ (Gazeta Wyborcza, 21.12.2016). The production, inspired by Miloš Forman’s Man on the Moon and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, has a group of aeroplane crash survivors telling stories about great human beings who successfully fought the obstacles to resist their hopeless situations. Triumf Woli is also a good metaphor for the...

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The Union of Sicilian Puppetry and Contemporary Dance: Virgilio Sieni and Mimmo Cuticchio in Palermo

Virgilio Sieni is one of the most important Italian dancers and choreographers, and Mimmo Cuticchio is one of the most appreciated heirs of Sicilian puppet theatre (Opera dei Pupi). The result of their collaboration is a three-year project for 2016–2018: the first part, Atlante. L’umano del gesto (Atlas. The Human of Gesture), was staged in Palermo, at the Real Teatro di Santa Cecilia, on 22 December 2016. After a theatre workshop on 19–21 December 2016, their performance was aimed at discovering the secrets and the emotions of the body in multiple dimensions. Various types of “actors,” with their physical...

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