PUPPETS & POETS
One of our collective’s goals is to blend seemingly disparate art forms to create something more expressive and effective in connecting with audiences. When we began making “puppet poems” in 2009, we were struck by how much poetry and puppetry have in common, such as emotional density, lyrical intensity and compaction. We created “Puppets & Poets” (P&P) to continue our explorations of these art forms, and to create opportunities for others to do so as well. P&P is a workshop and festival mixing puppetry and poetry, two of the world’s oldest and most diversely practiced art forms.
We produced two festivals in Brooklyn in 2012 (at Brooklyn Arts Exchange in February and The Bushwick Starr in December) that included over a dozen experiments, collaborations and hybrid performances blending these and other arts, with over 60 artists participating. With the highest per capita artist population in the USA, Brooklyn is home to a thriving arts community, yet opportunities for artists (particularly poets) to collaborate across genres remain rare. Western culture often perpetuates the image of the artist as isolated genius, suggesting that those without this title have no business creating art. We challenge this ideology by bringing together diverse artists (including novice and experienced puppeteers, poets, dancers, actors, musicians and visual artists), as well as local youth, to create together. In one 2011 P&P workshop, kids, guided by artists, created toy theaters based on famous winter poems.
More than 50 diverse artists attended our 2012 P&P workshops, a boot camp of sorts, in which participants collaborated to complete a series of puppetry/poetry challenges. Artists who met at our workshops then spent a month collaborating to create works for the festivals. Other pieces, such as “Las Vegas’ Defense” and “Spectral Findings,” were presented as excerpts of larger works-in-progress. Our 2012 festivals included two ticketed programs for mature audiences and a free “all ages” program. Performances included poetic forms such as dramatic lyric, chant, sonnet, mad song and rap, as well as myriad puppetry forms, like shadow, found object, toy theater and bunraku, and related forms like mask and object theater. The variety of performances was thrilling, illuminating the breadth and complexity of poetry and puppetry, two means of expression much broader, more complex and intertwined than mainstream American culture often portrays.
Our goal is continue P&P as a lively forum for creation, collaboration and community building across artistic disciplines and other borders.