My journey creating and producing puppetry... trials, tribulations, inspiration and contemplation.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Puppeteers of America National Festival in St. Paul, MN

The 2017 Puppeteers of America National Festival in St. Paul, Minnesota filled me with renewed spirit, seeing wonderful shows, attending inspiring workshops and meeting old friends, making new acquaintances and meeting Facebook friends for the first time.
With the talented and wonderful Nate Puppets!
This year, I was lucky enough to receive one of the scholarships which helps defray some of the costs associated with attending. If you were an unsuccessful scholarship applicant, I encourage you to apply again as there are several awarded. While this post will mainly be comprised of my follow-up essay for the scholarship, I wanted to mention the smaller things I didn't cover like meeting people you otherwise would not have met in the puppetry community, making friendships and the feeling of family that you only get from a group of people who understand you in a way that few people do. Going to a puppetry store or taking in the puppetry exhibit immerses you in your creative world further and sharing these experiences with about 400 others who are equally awed and inspired by all you see. This was my third National Festival and I continue to be inspired and filled with love. Along with all of the incredible shows, you also get to enjoy your peers work and/or participate during the evening puppet slam and potpourri offerings.

I was thrilled to be chosen as one of the recipients of the Emma Louise Warfield Memorial Scholarship in order to attend the 2017 Puppeteers of America National Festival in St. Paul, Minnesota. As someone who became a professional puppeteer in my 40s, I look forward to the opportunity the festival provides to continue my puppetry education. 

Ashes, Plexus Polaire

The opening show, Ashes, by Plexus Polaire, got things off to a wonderful start. I was immediately entranced by the artistry and technique that they employed. The projections on the scrim and background 'houses' were unique and used in a way that blended seamlessly with the piece. The puppets were peculiar and haunting in a remarkable way. My brain was a filing cabinet, taking note of all the amazing artistry I saw and how it might better shape my own work. I was especially intrigued by the comedy and insanity of Rough House's Ubu the King, the delightful technique and construction of Stinky Cheese Man by Mesner Puppet Theatre, Shoshanna Bass' moving storytelling of When I Put On Your Glove and, Gare Centrale's comedic masterpiece Tides. The pieces I watched in Reel Puppetry along with all of these live shows make me want to tell better stories, find the moments and new techniques so that I don't feel limited just using mouth/rod puppets. They were a reminder that no matter the puppet, good storytelling is what the audience responds to. Adding technical or visual flourishes is something I'm inspired to expand on as well.

The other important component to the festival is, of course, the workshops. After my first morning session, it truly feels like the festival has begun and, I feel at home. Art Gueneberger and Pix Smith were a dynamic team presenting the Dollars and Sense workshop on running a successful puppet business. Art's focus on removing limiting perceptions, engaging more positive thinking and setting and prioritizing goals, was a needed wake-up call to energize my business. Equally important was Pix's call to put in to action smart business practices such as tracking your money, letting the essence of who you are dictate your business and, using smart follow-through with clients. My workshops continued to inspire with Greg Ballora and Building a Fedatov where Greg encouraged us to work smarter in streamlining our build process. While I was familiar with much of what Rachel Jackson presented in her Marketing Demystified workshop, I still took away new ideas in reinforcing my self confidence and creating a marketing plan and making goals. Tom McLaughlin taught me a new technique with Fun with Foam and Silicone. I'm excited for the potential in applying his technique not just for puppets but, for scenery as well. My final workshop was Maker Spaces with Paul Spirito which outlined the potential to grow your circle of creative help when projects call for new techniques or just additional problem solvers and creative input. In that spirit, I feel the festival offers me this without the workshops as well. I made new friends who I know I will be calling on to help trouble-shoot my future scripts and even help design future sets. For that alone, the festival is an invaluable investment. Thank you Puppeteers of America!

Sharing the fest with my puppet brother Timmy Turner was a joy.

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