Author: Wicks, Emily

“Milo the Magnificent” by Alex & Olmsted on 3/27 at 4 p.m. ET

As part of its 2021 Spring virtual programming, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut is pleased to present Milo the Magnificent by the Maryland-based company Alex & Olmsted on March 27, 2021 at 4 p.m. ET via Zoom.

Milo the Magnificent is a highly engaging puppet show about an aspiring magician. This wordless comedy, the winner of a Jim Henson Foundation Grant, is inspired by turn of the century vaudeville entertainers, is as highly physical as it is charming. Using stunningly innovative puppetry, Milo presents a variety of magic tricks which don’t always go as planned. Great for all ages! This performance lasts approximately 40 minutes and will include time for questions and answers with Alex & Olmsted after the show. 

In a review for the New York Times, Laurel Graeber wrote, “Milo is a bit of a cardboard character, but you can’t blame him for that. He’s a puppet: specifically, a huge cutout fellow, whose arms, hands and feet belong to one of his creators, and whose changing facial expressions are recorded on flippable circular cards. The duo Alex & Olmsted—Alex Vernon and Sarah Olmsted Thomas—invented his world, which includes other puppets made of cleverly repurposed materials. Milo […] aspires to be an illusionist, and while his tricks and experiments rarely work out as planned, children will still find them magical.” 

Alex and Olmsted (Alex Vernon and Sarah Olmsted Thomas) is an internationally acclaimed puppet theater company. In recent years, they have toured abroad at the Festival of Wonder in Denmark, the Puppet Festival Chuncheon in South Korea, the Festival de Casteliers in Montréal, and The Festival of Animated Objects in Calgary. In the United States, they have played Symphony Space in New York City, the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, and Black Cherry Puppet Theater in Baltimore, among others. Alex and Olmsted was recently awarded the 2020 State Independent Artist Award for Performing Arts from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), the highest honor for performing artists in the State of Maryland and an award that is only given once in the lifetime of an artist or group. Their puppet show, Milo the Magnificent, was awarded a 2017 Jim Henson Foundation Grant, a Greenbelt Community Foundation Grant, and received an excellent mention in the New York Times. They were awarded a second Jim Henson Foundation Grant to further develop their outer space show, Marooned! A Space Comedy. Alex & Olmsted is a resident company at Baltimore Theatre Project. Vernon and Thomas are also proud company members of Happenstance Theater with whom they have created 10 productions since 2012.

Ticket price: $10/household. Tickets can be purchased online at bimp.ticketleap.com/milo-the-magnificent-virtual/. A surcharge will be added to online purchases. Attendees should purchase one ticket per household. While we ask for a minimum payment of $10/household, we greatly appreciate any additional support! A Zoom link will be emailed to households one hour before the performance. 

For more information about these performances or if you require an accommodation to attend this event, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860-486-8580 or bimp@uconn.edu.

“ISH” by Felicia Cooper, March 19-21

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and the UConn Puppet Arts Program present ISH, an MFA performance by UConn Puppet Arts graduate student Felicia Cooper, co-sponsored by the Mansfield Downtown Partnership. This 45-minute, family-friendly puppet show will be performed outdoors on March 19, 20, and 21 at 7 p.m. in Betsy Paterson Square in Downtown Storrs. These outdoors shows will be socially distanced and follow State of Connecticut COVID-19 safety protocols. The performance will also be streamed on March 21 at 7 p.m. on Ballard Institute’s Facebook Live (facebook.com/BallardInstitute/) in celebration of World Puppetry Day.
This show is a whale of a time and a (very) loose homage to New England’s own Moby-Dick, if Ishmael was a hyper-curious eleven-year-old girl and the whale was a little friendlier! With the help of her stuck submarine, Ish explores her perspective in isolated circumstances, a maker’s approach, and our relationship to the ocean. Join us underwater for shadow puppets, object performance, and three-dimensional cantastoria as we search for a whale from right where we are.
Suitable for kids 6-11, ISH uses shadow puppets from an overhead projector, object performance in a suitcase, and original music from Juliana Carr. Calling on traditional performance techniques updated with new technology, this kick in the pants to Melville will spark curiosity in kids and parents alike. ISH uses technology as performance and performance as technology. This story is filled with creative problem solving and shifting perspectives. We want to encourage kids to use their imagination, take a step back, and try on new ideas! This show is supported by the Marks Family Endowment in Fine Arts, Connecticut Sea Grant, and the UConn Women’s League. 
Felicia Cooper is a third-year MFA candidate studying Puppet Arts at the University of Connecticut, with a BA in Theater from Point Park University. At UConn she moderated the Ballard Institute’s forum on Women in Puppetry, organized the inaugural Women in Making Forum with the Learning Community Innovation Zone, and presented research at the 2019 National Puppetry Festival. She has performed with Bread and Puppet Theater, Puppet Bucket Productions, and at the Eugene O’Neill National Puppetry Conference. She has held artistic residencies with the New Hazlett Theater, PearlArts, folkLAB, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Creative ReUse, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, and Propel Schools. She loves giving tours and workshops and sharing her exuberance for puppetry in all its forms.
Admission is free, but due to COVID-19 safety precautions, seating reservations must be made in advance by visiting bimp.ticketleap.com/ish-by-felicia-cooper/. This event is being offered in accordance with State of Connecticut reopening guidelines, including the Phase III sector rules for outdoor events. For safety, six feet of space will be required between seated family groups and masks are required for all attendees, staff, and volunteers ages two and up. There will be limited, socially-distanced seating available based on family or quarantine units. Chairs will be made available, but groups are encouraged to bring blankets. Hand sanitizer will be available at the entrance and exit of the seating area. Please note that public restrooms are not available. To learn more about the Ballard Institute’s COVID-19 protocols and to reserve seats visit: bimp.ticketleap.com/ish-by-felicia-cooper/
For more information, or if you require an accommodation to attend this event, please contact Ballard Institute staff at 860.486.8580 or bimp@uconn.edu.

“Puppetry in Therapy” with Matthew Bernier and Sandra Chafouleas on 2/18 at 7 p.m.

For its first online installment of the 2021 Spring Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut will host “Puppetry in Therapy” with noted therapist and puppeteer Matthew Bernier and psychologist and UConn professor Dr. Sandra Chafouleas on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. ET. 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 Bernier and Chafouleas in a revealing discussion about puppetry’s long-standing role in therapeutic practices. What is therapeutic puppetry, and who practices it? What kinds of puppets and puppetry are used in therapeutic puppetry? Who can benefit from puppetry therapy, both within and outside clinical contexts? This puppet forum will explore a little-known but fascinating aspect of contemporary puppetry that benefits thousands around the world. This forum is co-sponsored by the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. 

Dr. Sandra M. Chafouleas is a licensed psychologist and works as a Distinguished Professor in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. She directs the UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH), and authors a Psychology Today blog on promoting student well-being. Her work focuses on assisting schools in implementation of evidence-informed policies and practices that support the whole child, with specific expertise in strategies to strengthen mental health and emotional well-being. Dr. Chafouleas is a fellow in both the American Psychological Association and Association for Psychological Science. Prior to becoming a university trainer, Dr. Chafouleas worked as a school psychologist and administrator in a variety of settings supporting the needs of children with behavior disorders.

Matthew G. Bernier, MCAT, ATR-BC is a registered and board-certified art therapist, artist, puppeteer, and Associate Professor in the Graduate Art Therapy and Counseling Program at Eastern Virginia Medical School, where he has taught since 1990.  He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in theater arts.  He has a master’s degree in creative arts in therapy from Hahnemann University (now Drexel) and is pursuing a PhD in expressive arts therapy and social change at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. His expertise is in the areas of psychological development theories, therapeutic art processes, the Expressive Therapies Continuum, creativity/symbolism/metaphor, art psychotherapy theoretical approaches, and therapeutic puppetry.  He teaches internationally and is co-editor of Puppetry in Education and Therapy: Unlocking Doors to the Mind and Heart.

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

Call for Papers: Representing Alterity through Puppetry and Performing Objects

Online symposium, April 9-10, 2021

Organized by Matthew Isaac Cohen, Jungmin Song, and John Bell 

Sponsored by the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and the Puppets Arts Program of the University of Connecticut

In societies around the globe, puppets and other performing objects such as masks and cantastorias are used to represent and stage the Othervarious ethnicities and races considered different from the dominant group. Such dramatizations of alterity routinely involve caricature and exaggeration. The transformative capacities of performing objects—which allow any practitioner to enact anything or anybody—grant them unique capacities to realize exotic fantasies; inscribe and reinforce racial stereotypes and ethnic misrepresentations; but also to transcend received categories and struggle against modes of oppression such as colonialism, often through parody. 
The road to the Holocaust was paved by anti-Semitic puppets, showing, for example, Jews transforming to pigs, inculcating into German children an image of the racist insult Judensau (Blumenthal 2005: 94). America’s most popular living puppeteer, ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, is famed for his demeaning José Jalapeño and Achmed the Dead Terrorist figures and other characters who spout racist remarks. Turkish karagöz is replete with caricatures of the diverse population of cosmopolitan Istanbul, with offensive portraits of haggling Jews, stupid Arabs, and others. Beyond such racist imagery, puppetry and allied forms frequently reflects a particular society’s unstated, subtle, and yet systemic and pervasive racism and bias, which is often not even recognized or acknowledged by the practitioners engaging in it (Populoh 2019). 
Practitioners have also bravely challenged systemic racism. Masks and puppets representing Vietnamese women made repeat appearances in Bread and Puppet Theater’s anti-war political spectacles in the 1960s and 1970s, providing human form to the abstractions of collateral damage. In his solo street show, Puns and Doedie–Puppets against Apartheid (1981-1986), South African puppeteer Gary Friedman satirized the racist Apartheid regime and raised awareness of the social attitudes that underpinned it.  More recently, a “fluorescence” of African-American artists have turned to puppets, masks, crankies, and other performing objects to resist objectification of the black body, counter the grotesque ways that African-Americans have been portrayed, take back their own identities, complexify dominant narratives, and address sensitive issues through humor (Bland et al. 2020). 
This academic symposium coincides with the exhibition The Other: Race, Ethnicity, and Puppetry, curated by Dr. Jungmin Song (Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, March 6-October 3, 2021) and aims to draw together scholars of puppetry, mask performance, cantastoria, and other types of performing objects globally in order to problematize representations of the Other, excavate systemic racism in performing objects, and demonstrate the capacities of puppetry and allied arts to challenge racism and xenophobia in order to fashion just, diverse, and inclusive societies. It follows up on the path-breaking 2018-2019 exhibition Living Objects: African-American Puppetry, co-curated by Paulette Richards and John Bell at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, and the accompanying festival, seminar, and online publications (https://bimp-exhibitions.org/livingobjects/). 
PRESENTATION TOPICS
We invite proposals for 15-minute presentations on topics including:
  • The representation of ethnic and racial Others in global traditions of puppet and mask theatre
  • Exoticism, Orientalism, and Othering through puppetry and performing objects 
  • The relation between racist and xenophobic discourse in society and the representation of alterity with performing objects 
  • Puppets, masks, and performing objects as a means for cross-cultural understanding, generating empathy, and communicating with Others
  • Challenging systemic racism, prejudice, and colonialism through puppets, masks, and performing objects
We intend to publish accepted papers in an online catalogue that will also include images from the The Other: Race, Ethnicity, and Puppetry
 SCHEDULE
Proposals: February 8, 2021
Notification of acceptance: February 15, 2021
Symposium: April 9-10, 2021
Revised presentations due: August 30, 2021
Publication of proceedings: November 2021
SUBMISSION GUIDELINES
Please submit your proposal as an email attachment.
Your proposal should be a Word document of no more than 350 words.
Your proposal should present original, unpublished work.
If your proposal is accepted, you will be invited to submit a first draft of your article by the deadline indicated above.
Your article should follow the “Manuscript Preparation Guidelines” for the Brecht Yearbook.
 CONTACT
All proposals, submissions, and general inquiries should be sent directly to matthew.i.cohen@uconn.edu, s_jungmin@hotmail.com, and john.bell@uconn.edu
REFERENCES
Bland,  Edna (moderator) with panelists Paulette Richards, Schroeder Cherry, and Anwar Floyd-Pruitt. The Renaissance of African American Object Performance. Online Fall Puppet Forum, Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, October 22, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ1-H0dQBXk.
Blumenthal, Eileen. Puppetry and Puppets: An Illustrated World Survey. London: Thames and Hudson, 2005.
Populoh, Valeska Maria. “Embracing Complexity in Performing the Other.” Living Objects: African American Puppetry Essays. 6 (2019).  https://opencommons.uconn.edu/ballinst_catalogues/6.

Ballard Institute Closed through January 8, 2021

The Ballard Institute is closed through January 8 and will reopen for reservations on January 9. You can make your reservations to visit in January now!

While you can’t visit us in person, you can visit our Virtual Experiences page to see current and some past exhibitions online! We also have coloring pages and workshops for you to do at home!

Happy holidays from the staff at the Ballard Institute!

UConn Puppet Arts Fall 2020 Final Presentations on 12/18 and 12/19

The UConn Puppet Arts Program and Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry will host the end-of-semester presentation of UConn Puppet Arts undergraduate and graduate class finals on Friday, December 18 and Saturday, December 19 at 7 p.m. ET. These presentations will take place on Ballard Institute Facebook Live (facebook.com/BallardInstitute/). Talkbacks led by famed puppeteer Paul Zaloom will also take place each night. These performances are recommended for mature audiences. 

On Friday December 18, final presentations, performances, and talkbacks for Directing, Online Shadow Theater, and World Puppet Theater will take place via Facebook Live. Inspired by the radio sculptures of Tom Sachs and the African Sonic theories of puppet scholar Paulette Richards, Students in the Directing class will present their “ReInvention of the Radio Play”– experiments with sound as storytelling and puppet theater. Online Shadow Theater students will present their individual creations for the shadow theater, all performed solo and remotely! Introduction to World Puppet Theater students, who have been studying theories and histories of global puppet and object performance, will present short toy theater productions they created at the end of the semester.

On Saturday, December 19, final presentations, performances, and talkbacks for Object Theater and Paper Sculpture will take place via Facebook Live. Students in the Object Theater class will share a series of object theater performances in which ordinary household objects take on life to portray extraordinary events, confronting mortality, prejudice, phobias, and injustice in their own inimitable manner. Paper Sculpture students will present brief cameos with the characters they have created utilizing Albrecht Roser’s Papier Methode. 

Paul Zaloom, a comedic puppeteer, political satirist, filmmaker, and performance artist, will join us both evenings as a Responder to the students’ work. Paul Zaloom, who lives and works in Los Angeles and tours his productions all over the world, has written, designed and performed 14 full-length solo spectacles, including Fruit of Zaloom, Zaloominations, Sick But True, Velvetville, The Mother of All Enemies and the current spectacle, White Like Me: A Honky Dory Puppet Show.

For more information, please contact Ballard Institute staff at bimp@uconn.edu.

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

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).