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“Paul Vincent Davis and the Art of Puppet Theater” and “Shakespeare and Puppetry,” February 29-June 7, 2020

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A vibrant, colorful, and thought-provoking exhibition of work by one of the United States’s most dynamic 20th-century puppeteers, Paul Vincent Davis and the Art of Puppet Theater celebrates the career of the long-time Artist in Residence at Boston’s Puppet Showplace Theater, in celebration of and in homage to Davis’s 85th year. Paul Vincent Davis’s award-winning productions have ranged from the joyous fun of fairy tales, folklore, and clown circus to works by Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, and Samuel Beckett. Focused primarily on the design, construction, and performance of hand puppets, Paul Vincent Davis has always sought to expand America’s sometimes “limited vision of this amazing art form,” as he put it in his book Exploring the Art of Puppet Theater. In every aspect of his work, from his early years with Carol Fijan’s National Theatre of Puppet Arts in New York City, to his creation of the Repertory Puppet Theatre at the Puppet Showplace, Davis has consistently explored what it means to approach puppetry in the same manner that we approach dance, music, or visual art. Paul Vincent Davis and the Art of Puppet Theater will present puppets, props, and stages from such spectacles as Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp, Rumpelstiltskin, Here Come the Clowns, and Bingo the Circus Dog, as well as Richard III, and Shakes versus Shav.

Curated by performance artist, and writer Dr. Jungmin Song, Shakespeare and Puppetry presents exciting and thought-provoking examples of the many ways puppets and objects have been used to interpret the works of the greatest playwright of the English language. Ranging from the giant cardboard cutouts of Bread and Puppet Theater’s Out of Joint Hamlet, to Forced Entertainment’s everyday-object performance of Macbeth, the exhibition introduces new perspectives about how dramatic characters are fashioned, and how “things” can be cast in dramas. Shakespeare and Puppetry also includes work by Tiny Ninja Theatre, Jon Ludwig, Hogarth Puppets, Little Angel Theatre, Fred Curchack, Great Small Works, and Larry Reed. Through its juxtaposition of modern and contemporary puppet and object interpretations of Macbeth, Hamlet, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the exhibition invites viewers to contemplate the materiality of character and the physical embodiment of roles, to question our preconceptions of character, and ask what it means for an object to perform onstage.

Dr. Jungmin Song completed a practice-as-research PhD titled Animating Everyday Objects in Performance at the University of Roehampton in 2014. Her writings have appeared in Performance Research, Artpress 2, Asian Theatre Journal, and Contemporary Theatre Review. In 2017 she edited a special issue of Puppet Notebook on Shakespeare and puppets and was a researcher in residence at the Institut International de la Marionnette (IIM) in Charleville-Mézières, France to lay the ground for a book on Shakespeare and puppetry. As a puppet maker she has participated in numerous projects, including the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Little Angel Theatre’s co-production of Venus and Adonis (2004).  She has taught in the fields of theatre and fine arts at the University of Roehampton, University of Connecticut, and the University of Kent. 

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