While contemplating�the role of puppetry in today’s society, Scott T. Cummings gives his account of the first ever Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival:
The shows in Chicago ranged�from the kind of traditional, family-friendly work often seen at schools, libraries and public fairs to edgy, experimental performances more common to galleries, lofts and tiny black-box theatres. Veteran Dave Herzog presented cute, colorful, well-crafted trick marionettes that can juggle, blow up a balloon, swing on a trapeze, or instantly transform from a magician into a fairy. His circus figures contrasted with the mesmerizing Le Petit Cirque of Laurent Bigot from France, who uses a table-top toy circus reminiscent of Alexander Calder, rigged with 16 tiny microphones to perform a concert of odd, cleverly generated sounds. New York�s Chinese Theatre Works (inspired by the pioneering work of Kansas-born Pauline Benton, who brought Chinese shadow puppetry to the West in the 1920s) performed a traditional Chinese shadow-puppet play in the halls of the Field Museum. Contrast this with the innovative shadow theatre of Chicago�s own Manual Cinema�or Canadian artist-illustrator Daniel Barrow, both of whom use multiple overhead projectors (in very different ways) to create manual animation in real time.
The variety of work programmed by Thomas points to a question that is fascinating artists, audiences, and academics: What constitutes a puppet, exactly? What, in other words, is its nature and essence? How does it help us to explore and understand the larger world of what cultural anthropologist and folklorist Frank Proschan dubbed �performing objects��puppets, masks, ritual and fetish objects, and other material things endowed with agency through display, manipulation, storytelling, or performance?
Click HERE to view the full article on the American Theatre website.