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The University of Connecticut (UConn) is a public research university in the U.S. state of Connecticut. UConn was founded in 1881 and is a Land Grant and Sea Grant college & member of the Space Grant Consortium. The university serves more than 30,000 students on its six campuses, including more than 8,000 graduate students in multiple programs.

Online Fall Puppet Forum: “Engineering in Puppetry” with Basil Twist, Ed Weingart, and Jason Lee on 12/3

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The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present a free online Engineering in Puppetry Puppet Forum on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. ET via Facebook Live (facebook.com/BallardInstitute). The forum will feature world-renowned puppeteer Basil Twist, Interim Department Chair of the UConn Department of Dramatic Arts Ed Weingart, and UConn Department of Mechanical Engineering Professor Jason Lee. This event is co-sponsored by the UConn School of Engineering and the Krenicki Arts and Engineering Institute, a program of UConn’s Schools of Fine Arts and Engineering.

Engineering in Puppetry will examine the nature of engineering principles and practices as they appear in different forms of puppetry, including attention to Basil Twist’s 2015 production of Sisters’ Follies, to which Ed Weingart contributed rigging and flying direction. Puppetry and engineering are both intimately connected with the performance dynamics of materials and objects. How and in what manner does puppetry reflect and perform the principles of engineering? How does engineering reflect the performance interests and possibilities of puppetry? Presentations by Twist and Weingart discuss and examine the nature of engineering in puppetry from the perspectives of a puppeteer and a technical director; Professor Lee will add to the discussion from his perspective as a mechanical engineer. 

Basil Twist is a third-generation puppeteer and native of San Francisco. The sole American to graduate from the École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mezieres, France, Basil’s showmanship was spotlighted in New York by The Jim Henson International Festival of Puppetry with his award-winning The Araneidae Show. This recognition, coupled with the ground-breaking and multiple award-winning Symphonie Fantastique, revealed Twist as a singular artist of unlimited imagination. He has conceived and directed two successful operas, Ottorini Respighi’s La Bella Dormente Nel Bosco and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, for the Houston Grand Opera. Broadway credits include puppetry design for Charlie and The Chocolate Factory; Oh, Hello!; The Addams Family; and puppetry direction for the beloved Pee-Wee Herman Show. Twist is a frequent collaborator with Lee Breuer/Mabou Mines. His work has received an Obie, Drama Desk Awards, UNIMA Awards, Bessie Awards, a New York Innovative Theatre Award, and a Henry Hewes Award. He has been honored with a MacArthur, Guggenheim and USA Artists Fellowships, as well as a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. 

Edward Weingart is an Associate Professor of Technical Direction at the University of Connecticut where he is currently serving as the Interim Department Head for the Department of Dramatic Arts. He also works as the Director of Special Projects for Creative Conners and works in the US and abroad as a Flying Director for the performer flying company Vertigo. He is an ETCP certified Rigger (Theater) and a CM certified hoist technician. New York credits include flying direction for Basil Twist’s Sister’s Follies and automation system design for Jorden Wolfson’s Colored Sculpture which premiered at the David Zwirner Gallery and has since toured to France, the Netherlands, and London. He has also worked as the head rigger and automation supervisor for the Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show in Calgary, Alberta Canada. In addition to specific shows he has also designed several stock automation products at Creative Conners which are used in theaters across the country and abroad. Ed holds a BFA in Design/Technical Theater and an MFA in Technical Direction from UConn.

Jason Lee is an Assistant Professor-in-Residence at UConn’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, where he teaches a variety of mechanical engineering courses. Two of the courses he focuses on are First Year and Senior Design project-based courses. In these courses he teaches basic prototype design, project management, and design testing principles which are crucial in any application. His past research projects focused on materials and heat transfer for manufacturing and aerospace applications. He is also interested in the application of engineering in sports performance, whose design principles mirror those of puppetry.   

The Engineering in Puppetry forum will be streamed live on the Ballard Institute’s Facebook page  (facebook.com/BallardInstitute) on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. ET and will be available afterwards on both the Ballard Institute’s Facebook page and YouTube channel (youtube.com/channel/UC3VSthEDnYS6ZjOwzT1DnTg). 

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