Around the world, across the centuries, puppets have transcended cultures as one of the most expressive, adaptable art forms—its origins can be traced back to Egypt, about 4000 years ago. From Saturday, June 22–Tuesday, August 17, 2013, the campus-wide festival Puppets Take Strathmore (North Bethesda, Maryland) observes contemporary puppet culture through performance, workshops and an art exhibition, proving that puppets don’t only serve as children’s entertainment, but also as powerful tools for storytelling and for communicating ideas to people of all ages. From award-winning Broadway shows like War Horse and Disney’s The Lion King to astonishing new stagings of opera and dance, puppets have transformed the arts in America. Puppets Take Strathmore invites artists and experts such as Cashore Marionettes, Blue Sky Puppet Theatre, Nana Projects and the preeminent Blair Thomas & Company to share the stage with their creations and explore this amazing medium. For additional information and tickets, call (301) 581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.
In Hard Headed Heart (D.C. Premiere), a trio of interconnected solo vignettes, Chicago-based puppet artist Blair Thomas creates new art where puppetry and performance art collide. The performance, featuring music performed live by Chelsey Green and The Green Project, is based on the words of Federico García Lorca, Wallace Stevens, and the blues classic “St. James Infirmary.” Thomas is “a controlled maelstrom, at once scene-shifter, shape-shifter, storyteller, and one-man band…” (ChicagoMag.com). A sellout in Chicago, this is Hard Headed Heart’s D.C. premiere. Best for ages 14 and up; this show is intended for adults. Sunday, August 4, 2013, 1 & 4 p.m. City Dance Studio 405 Theater at Strathmore (Music Center at Strathmore), Tickets $15
In Blair’s workshop, The Puppet Tells the Story, participants create their very own puppet show, complete with handmade rod puppets and scripted skit. Best for ages 8-12. Kids dive in with paper, cardboard, sticks, ink markers and lots of hot glue to create their two dimensional performance masterpieces. Saturday, August 3, 2013, 10 a.m. –noon, Mansion at Strathmore, Tickets $25.
Strathmore patrons can extend their experience by visiting the Puppets Take Strathmore microsite, featuring a history of puppets around the world as well as education and performance guides.
The festival kicks off with No Strings Attached, a fine art exhibition featuring an eye–popping collection of photography, representative sculpture, masks and multi-dimensional puppets of every size, color, culture and description. No Strings Attached examines the role of fine arts in the creation of puppets, and the reverse, puppetry’s influence on visual art. The exhibition highlights puppets large and small to showcase the genre’s depth, from Don Becker’s palm-sized marionettes to the larger-than-life, interactive mutant puppet-creatures of international touring group, Big Nazo. Heather Henson’s IBEX entertainment company is providing the puppet short Yamasong with puppets from the film, as well as shorts from the film Handmade Puppet Dreams, Volume IV. Other highlights of the exhibition include the stop-motion short film Cicada Queen; 14 vintage puppets from the Ballard Museum of Puppetry including Punch and Judy puppets from the early 1900s and marionette replicas of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers from the 1930s; puppets caught in action through the photography of Richard Termine and the still life dioramas of Elyse Harrison, vignettes that combine to form a full narrative; and Philip Huber-designed (Being John Malkovich, Oz the Great and Powerful) puppets from the Broadway production, Busker Alley. Fourteen artists and organizations are represented in the exhibition.
Performances from Cashore Marionettes, Blue Sky Puppet Theatre, Nana Projects and Blair Thomas & Company illustrate the dynamism and sophistication of puppetry as an art form. Emma Jaster, Katherine Fahey, Pointless Theatre Co., Sarah Olmsted Thomas and Alex Vernon, Colette Searls and many more artists will be featured in the Puppet Slam and outdoor concert puppet performances. A trio of rich education experiences will see participants creating their own puppet shows, learning about puppets as a storytelling tool and the representation of puppetry in contemporary American theater. The festival culminates with an academic panel discussion and puppet slam featuring some of the best local artists performing short, new works, and the Washington premiere of Blair Thomas & Company’s critically acclaimed Hard Headed Heart.
For additional information or to purchase tickets, visit www.strathmore.org or call (301) 581-5100.
Blair’s popular show The Selfish Giant, based on the Oscar Wilde fairy tale, will play at the Acorn Theater in Three Oaks, Michigan, Saturday, July 6, at 1:00 pm. The performance appears as part of the Three Oaks Theater Festival. TimeOut Chicago had this to say about The Selfish Giant:
“Blair’s magnificent puppetry breathes some fresh air into the well-known tale of a giant whose refusal to allow children to play in his garden results in an eternal winter. His craftsmanship and ability to manipulate his creations allow the large-scale giant to convey emotion. Even the smaller marionette children, birds and bees appear full of life when the children sneak back into the garden and bring spring along with them. And Smith’s ability to render the entire play in song adds a folksy, fun sensibility to the story that is appreciated as much—perhaps even more—by the grown-ups in the audience.”
Admission: $15.00 (children under 4 are free).
Age restrictions: All Ages.
Box office: 269-756-3879.
Address: 107 Generations Dr., Three Oaks, MI
Venue phone: 269-756-3879.
Following an evening of electric performances by Blair Thomas & Co., eighth blackbird, and Lucky Plush Productions, nearly 300 guests celebrated the launch of Creative Partners at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago on Thursday, April 25. A collective that provides professional fundraising to three nationally recognized arts organizations, Creative Partners provides Chicago favorites Blair Thomas, eighth blackbird and Lucky Plush responsive fundraising and administration that allows the companies to focus on what they do best: creating worldclass theater, music, and dance.
The event featured performances by Blair Thomas, accompanied by a live string quartet, in The Blackbird, Lucky Plush in a selection from Cinderbox 2.0, and eighth blackbird performing music by Derek Bermel, David Lang and Tom Johnson. Presented in breathless backtoback format, the performances sent the message that the companies share not only a dedicated development team, but also broad artistic sensibilities all are doing work that is genrebending,playful, and technically rigorous.
“The evening was a fantastic showcase for the artistic mastery and creative playfulness these three companies express in their disciplines and it demonstrated clearly why they make such perfect collaborators,” said Charles Twichell of Prince Charitable Trusts. During the event, video segments featured Artistic Director of Lucky Plush Julia Rhoads, Managing Director of eighth blackbird Jen Richards, and Artistic Director of Blair Thomas and Company Blair Thomas in conversation about the history and intent of the collective. “For small and midsize organizations, it’s the only really sustainable way to grow and to take some of the administrative burden off of the artists,” Richards said.
Initially conceived by Rhoads, Creative Partners was strategically developed in collaboration with Thomas and Richards to define the financial structure and terms, short and longterm goals,board involvement, oversight, and succession. “It doesn’t work for us to create an administrative structure that we have to fundraise for to support the administrative structure,” Thomas said.
Creative Partners already benefits from the support of the MacArthur Foundation and the Prince Charitable Trusts, and Director of Development Dana Horst’s position is underwritten for at least two years. For supporters, sponsors and foundations, that means that monies earned by Creative Partners directly funds art, not administrative overhead. Horst offered remarks at the event, along with representatives of the member organizations’ boards: Eva Silverman of Blair Thomas & Co., Sara Solotaroff Mirkin of eighth blackbird, and Elaine Adams of Lucky Plush Productions. Notable attendees included Peter Handler of the Driehaus Foundation, Andrew Michell and Kristen Romans of the Arts & Business Council, Dirk Lohan of Lohan Anderson architecture, and Robert Gallucci of the MacArthur Foundation in addition to prominent supporters and fans of each company.
For listeners, the event proved that the Creative Partners project benefits from the artistic vision that the participating companies share as Richards put it, “Anyone who would enjoy what eighth blackbird does with music is also going to be thrilled by what Blair does with theater, and totally excited by what Julia does with dance.” Far from competing with one another in the realm of genrebending performance art, members of the Creative Partners team are providing supporters and fans with a onestop shop when it comes to giving to the Chicago performing arts scene.
“I wondered whether Creative Partners was some kind of unworkable chimera or was actually just audacious enough to succeed,” Twitchell said. “In the end, we were convinced that it could succeed, and further, that it must to be tried, not just for the sake of these three outstanding companies, but for the arts field more broadly which urgently needs new models of sustainable administration.
Tiny Tempest Farm hosts its annual organic vegetable and herb plant sale for two days this May. In addition, this year will feature two public performances of the family oriented puppet show The Selfish Giant by Blair Thomas & Co.
Owners Sheri Doyel and Blair Thomas, along with their twin sons, moved to Mohawk Road three years ago intending to share Sheri’s home-grown organic goods and Blair’s nationally regarded unique theater and puppetry with the community around Geneva Lake. This May, folks who garden and grow their own food will get a kick-start with the seedlings, and young and old can see the show in the family’s rustic dairy barn, transformed into a performance
space for the two-day event.
Suggested donation for The Selfish Giant is $5.00 for adults and children. Limited seating. Reservations recommended. Email [email protected] or call 262-374-4903.
Friday May 17 and Saturday May 18: Plant Sale each day 10:00am-6:00pm, Performance The Selfish Giant at 5:00pm (Friday); 2:00pm (Saturday). Tiny Tempest Farm is at W4355 Mohawk Road, Lake Geneva, WI 53147
Recently presented at the Milwaukee Art Museum, The Selfish Giant was created by two theater icons— puppeteer Blair Thomas and singer-songwriter Michael Smith. Running time: 35 minutes.
Based on the tale by Oscar Wilde, the original puppets and music tell the story of a grumpy old giant who forbids the children in his village from playing in his beautiful garden. After the children are locked out, the trees and flowers refuse to grow and the garden plunges into an eternal winter. Then one morning, the children sneak back into the garden, bringing with them the joyous rebirth of spring.
This production was originally commissioned by the Chicago Children’s Theater and the world premiere was presented by the Chicago Children’s Theater in January 2008.
No shows booked at the moment.