UConn Puppetry Programs Make a Strong Showing at World Puppet Congress and Festival in China

UConn’s famed puppetry programs are once more having a global impact, this time in Chengdu, China at the 21st UNIMA (Union International de la Marionnette) Congress and World Puppetry Festival.

Four of the Eight Immortals by Bart Roccoberton at Chengdu’s National Shadow Puppetry Museum.

— Eight rod puppets designed and built by Puppet Arts Program director Bart Roccoberton are on display in the Puppet Shadow Theatre exhibition of the National Shadow Puppetry Museum in Chengdu.  The puppets represent the legendary Eight Immortals, revered in Taoist beliefs dating back to the Han Dynasty.  Professor Roccoberton built them especially for the National Shadow Puppetry Museum, and they will become part of that institution’s permanent collection.

— Current students and alumni of the Puppet Arts Program, led by Bart Roccoberton, are performing Butterfly Dreams, a mask and life-size puppet spectacle created in 2001 by Hua Hua Zhang, David Regan and Professor Roccoberton, which uses dreams as a vehicle to explore humanity and its multiple levels of meaning and purpose.  The production is inspired by a tale from Taoist philosophy about a sage, Zhuang Zi, who after dreaming he had become a butterfly, awakes to wonder if he is a man dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he is a man.

— UConn Puppet Arts alumnus Stephen Kaplin, the Co-Artistic Director of Chinese Theatre Works, is performing Songs from the Yellow Earth, a collaboration with the world-renowned Bread and Puppet Theater, and the first shadow theater production directed by the theater’s founder, Peter Schumann.  The show incorporates literary and operatic ruminations on war and peace drawn from classic Chinese opera and poems referring to Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a unified China.

Dr. John Bell with Iranian UNIMA members Dr. Hamidreza Ardelan and Poupak Azimpour Tabrizi.

— Ballard Institute Director John Bell is representing the U.S. branch of UNIMA as a counselor in that organization’s world Congress, participating in congress sessions and as a member of the UNIMA Publication and Communication Commission, currently charged with creating the English-language World Encyclopedia of Puppetry Arts, an on-line global resource.