The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will present the grand opening of its new exhibition Hecho en Puerto Rico: Four Generations of Puerto Rican Puppetry, curated by Dr. Manuel Morán and Deborah Hunt, on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, with a virtual tour led by the curators on Ballard Institute Facebook Live that day at 5 p.m. ET. The exhibition will be on display through May 8, 2021 at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, located at 1 Royce Circle, Storrs, CT 06268. This exhibition is co-sponsored by the UConn Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC) and El Instituto: Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies.
Hecho en Puerto Rico invites the spectator to discover over fifty years of puppet productivity, by four distinct generations of builders and performers in and from Puerto Rico. Although puppetry first appeared on the island of Puerto Rico in the 19th century, this exhibit is divided into four periods of creation from the 1960s to current times, demonstrating a shift in focus from purely educational content, to culturally and politically relevant themes, to a focus on adult audiences, and now into the current generation of emerging puppeteers. A young but thriving puppet movement, despite economic and political turmoil as well as natural disasters, Puerto Rican puppetry continues to evolve and grow.
The exhibition highlights the work of such puppeteers and companies as Agua, Sol y Sereno; Brenda Plumey; Daniel y sus Muñecos; Deborah Hunt; Edward Cardenales; El Mundo de los Muñecos; José López; Luis Villafañe; Mario Donate; Mary Anne Hopgood; Papel Machete; Poncili Creación; Pura Belpré; Santin y sus Muñecos; Teatro SEA and Manuel Morán; Tere Marichal; Vueltabajo Teatro; and Y No Había Luz.
Deborah Hunt has lived and worked as a mask maker, mask and object theatre performance artist since 1973, creating and presenting original theatre works, performances and festivals or encounters in the South Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. Born and raised in Aotearoa New Zealand, she has been based in Borikén/Puerto Rico since 1990, where she founded Maskhunt Motions, a nomadic laboratory for experimental object theatre work. Hunt teaches mask work and puppetry in communities worldwide, in a practice exploring puppetry in public and private spaces. Her work ranges in scale from the miniature to creating giant puppets that transform into peepshows. She has created encounters and festivals to promote puppetry for adult audiences and published mask and puppetry manuals in Spanish and English. She is interested in performing in unconventional places and to very intimate audiences. Hunt characterizes her work as “theatre of the useless.”
Dr. Manuel Morán (www.manuelmoran.com) was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and studied at the University of Puerto Rico and New York University, where he earned a doctorate degree in Educational Theater. He is the Founder, CEO and Artistic Director of Society of the Educational Arts, Inc. (www.teatrosea.org). A writer, director, and producer for theater, television, and film, he is also an actor, singer and composer, and created the International Puppet Fringe Festival of NYC in 2018. He is a former Vice-President (2012-2021) of UNIMA (Union Internationale de la Marionnette). His three-part documentary film Títeres en el Caribe Hispano/Puppetry in the Caribbean premiered at the Havana Film Festival in Cuba in 2016 and has been screened in festivals around the world. Dr. Morán’s theater and literary work has been published in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the United States, including his books Migrant Theater for Children: A Caribbean in New York (2016), and Mantequilla/Butter; Adventures and Tribulations of a Puerto Rican Boy (2017). He is currently starring in the web series El Avión The Airplane (www.elaviontheairplane.com), and is the proud dad of Manuel Gabriel, with whom he lives in New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In conjunction with the exhibition opening and as part of 2021 Fall Puppet Performance Series, the Ballard Institute will present a virtual performance of The Pura Belpré Project by Teatro SEA via Zoom on Saturday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. ET. To learn more and make a reservation, visit bimp.ticketleap.com. The Ballard Institute will also host Dr. Manuel Morán, Deborah Hunt, Pedro Adorno, and Tere Marichal for a 2021 Online Fall Puppet Forum titled “Contemporary Puppetry in Puerto Rico” on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. ET to discuss the situation of Puerto Rican puppetry today and its possibilities for the future.
Due to restrictions and safety precautions related to COVID-19, the museum will reopen on Nov. 19 on Wednesday through Saturday only, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., by reservation. Only one group of up to six visitors from a family or quarantine unit will be allowed in the museum at a time during each time slot. Face masks are required at all times when visiting the museum for ages two and up. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the museum and staff clean high-touch surfaces once per hour. To learn more about the Ballard Institute’s COVID-19 protocols and to reserve a time slot, visit: bimp.uconn.edu/visit/reservations/. Visitors may also reserve a time slot by calling 860.486.8580.