“Puppet and Spirit: Living Gods, Demonic Snakes, Robotic Buddhas, and Migrant Relics” Forum on 3/25 at 7:30 p.m.

For its second online installment of the 2021 Spring Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will host “Puppet and Spirit: Living Gods, Demonic Snakes, Robotic Buddhas, and Migrant Relics” with puppetry studies scholars Claudia Orenstein, Tim Cusack, Ana Martinez, and Deepsikha Chatterjee on March 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET, one half hour later than the usual forum start time. This forum will take place on Facebook Live (facebook.com/BallardInstitute/) and will be available afterwards on Facebook and the Ballard Institute YouTube Channel (youtube.com/channel/UC3VSthEDnYS6ZjOwzT1DnTg). 

Join these four distinguished scholars as they explore the diverse relationships that exist between the spiritual world and performing objects, in both traditional forms of puppetry and contemporary artistic expressions. This forum is co-sponsored by the UConn Asian American Cultural Center, Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center, and El Instituto.

Why and how do we turn to the material world to connect with spiritual and supernatural dimensions of experience? How are performing objects used in ritual activities or other performative acts that touch on our deepest beliefs and questions about the nature of human existence? What religious and ontological perspectives frame these endeavors in both religious and non religious contexts? Our Forum participants will address these issues in terms of their own research into: the objects migrants have left behind on the southern U.S. border; the ritual use of oversize animal puppets in Assam, India; humanoid android characters in the HBO series Westworld; and other ways that puppets are considered powerful spiritual entities with a consciousness.

Claudia Orenstein, Theater Professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, has spent nearly two decades writing on contemporary and traditional puppetry in the US and Asia. Recent publications: co-edited volumes Women and Puppetry: Critical and Historical Investigations and The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance. She worked as dramaturg on Tom Lee and kuruma ningyō master, Nishikawa Koryū V’s Shank’s Mare, is Board Member of UNIMA-USA and Associate Editor of Asian Theatre Journal. Current book projects: Thinking Through the Puppet: Essays on Puppet Dramaturgy and a two-volume co-edited anthology with Tim Cusack, Puppet and Spirit: Ritual, Religion, and Performing Objects.

Tim Cusack is an adjunct lecturer in the Hunter College Theatre Department, where he teaches basic acting techniques. He was a founding artistic director of the downtown indie company Theatre Askew, which was twice nominated for the GLAAD Media Award in the Outstanding Off-Off Broadway Production category. He was the assistant editor on both the Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance and Women and Puppetry. His essay analyzing Susan Sontag’s celebrity persona through the lens of queer performativity was published in the anthology Susan Sontag and the Camp Aesthetic: Advancing New Perspectives. He has a BFA from NYU/TSOA and an MA from Hunter/CUNY. 

Dr. Ana Martínez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas State University. Her book Performance in the Zócalo: Constructing History, Race, and Identity in Mexico’s Central Square from the Colonial Era to the Present (University of Michigan Press, 2020) addresses the ways in which the material center of the Mexican capital, the Zócalo, manifests and contests its symbolic power through performance practices. Dr. Martínez’s fields of specialization are theatre practices in Mexico, Latinx drama, and performance design. Her current research and upcoming article focuses on migrancy’s material traces in performance. She holds a degree in Theatre Studies from the City University of New York Graduate Center, and MA in Scenography from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, and an Architecture degree from Universidad Anahuac in Mexico City.  

Deepsikha Chatterjee teaches at Hunter College CUNY. She has a Bachelors in Fashion Design from India, her MFA from Florida State University, and is now pursuing her PhD from CUNY Graduate Center. Her costume designs received the Best Costume Design award at United Solo 2014 and 2017. Her designs have been seen at various New York venues, and she has worked in many regional theaters. She has published about costumes of Indian film and dance and has presented at USITT, Costume Society of America and the Rubin Museum of Art. She serves as Dance Director for Indo-American Arts Council’s Erasing Borders Dance Festival.

For more information and to learn about other online programming, email bimp@uconn.edu.