What makes puppets so ubiquitous? They are always on hand. It is an old joke, but what's not old are Puppet Slams.
Puppet Slams began in the 1990s. The Boston Area Guild of Puppetry describes it as “An evening of short varied theatrical mini-plays that uses puppets for all or part of the drama. Each piece is performed by a different artist or artists, and the content can be wide-ranging; some are elegant or poignant, others are satiric, irreverent, or humorous, and still others can be passionate, political, or spiritual in nature…”
IBEX Puppetry, a huge supporter of the Puppetry Slams, was created by Heather Henson. She is the youngest child of Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets. HMTC is planning a Puppetry Slam with the support of the Puppet Slam Network and IBEX Puppetry.
For the Hanford Slam event, HMTC will utilize a large puppet theater that the Hanford Rotary Club sponsored. The puppet theater has six performing stations. As well, it can be modified to different sizes and is portable.
The puppet theater was built by Mark Saltzman, a member of the HMTC artistic team and owner of Kiwuppet Studios. Saltzman has served as a principle actor and dancer in Disney’s “Bear in the Big Blue House” and “Sesame Street LIVE.” Also an alumnus of the US National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O’Neil Theater Center, he is an asset to HMTC's success.
Katie McClenahan is the creator of Beady Little Eyes, a company in Portland, Oregon. She was a musical theater major that saw a unique puppet performance that convinced her to change her focus.
She said, “This was more me than the musical theater world.” She has been involved in nearly 28 puppet slams. She said, “slams are a good way to introduce to the masses puppetry.” She enjoys her contribution as a slam curator.
My puppetry background began with ventriloquism. I used a bilingual puppet named Rosarita in the classroom. There are kindergarten teachers that use a piano in the classroom. I had a puppet. It amazed me how the children responded to the Rosarita puppet. During quiet class time, I would have Rosarita in a case near my desk. The children would come and ask her to come out. Some had extensive conversations with her.
Towards the end of the year, I became concerned that the children believed she was alive. One day, I told the children that they were going to learn how a puppet works. I explained that there were levers on a stick inside the puppet to make the eyes and mouth move. The children’s faces were blank. I then removed the head and worked the levers for them to see the puppet’s eyes blink and the mouth move on the stick. When I put her head back to her body, “Rosarita” the children shouted, as if the puppet demonstration never happened.
The world of puppetry is a serious occupation with organizations, and unions. They include: Association Québécoise des Marionnettistes, UNIMA-Québec, British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild, The Conservatory of Puppetry Arts (COPA), Fellowship of Christian Puppeteers, Institut International de la Marionnette, International Ventriloquists Association, Ontario Puppetry Association, PINZ - Puppetry Info New Zealand, Puppeteers of America, THEMAA - Recontre Regionales de la Marionnette (France), Verband Deutsche Puppentheater (German puppeteers), and the largest and oldest organization UNIMA - Union Internationale de la Marionnette which was founded in Prague in 1929.
HMTC, with resources from the San Francisco Bay Area Puppeteers Guild, L.A. Guild of Puppetry, and IBEX Puppetry, will present the first Puppetry Slam in Hanford. We are looking forward to it.
Silvia Gonzalez Scherer is the Executive Artistic Director and co-founder of the Hanford Multicultural Theater Company. She is also a playwright and an actress.
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