More than a dozen Chicago presenting organizations have joined together to ignite the spirit of the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, a citywide event which spans 10 days, from January 14 through January 25, and features artists from abroad, across the nation, and unique work born here in Chicago—fresh from the soil!
The Festival features public performance across the city, a symposium sponsored by the University of Chicago and hosted at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Volkenberg Puppetry Symposium is presented by the University of Chicago’s Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry in partnership with the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The Gray Center is a laboratory where artists and scholars experiment with forms of collaboration and, as such, seeks to provoke unexpected conversations and catalyze unpredictable collaborations in hich artists and scholars disrupt each other’s ways of knowing. In that spirit, this event brings together artists and scholars from diverse fields to investigate the meaning, vitality and relevance of contemporary puppetry. At once cutting to the heart of puppetry and seeking its broadest significance, participants will address questions such as: How do we attach identity to a face? How do we perceive realness and fakeness? Where do we find meaning in materiality? Conceived and organized by Blair Thomas (Artistic Director, Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival), Leslie Danzig (Curator,Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry), and Sarah Fornace (Co-Artistic Director, Manual Cinema), this day-long event will be of interest to artists and thinkers from any discipline with an interest in the creative pursuit of inquiry and the tension between ideas and practice.
In addition, the Festival features workshops leading up to and during the Festival. Workshops for families are free and held around the city, with the aim of encouraging families to explore the power of puppetry to tell stories and exapnd creativity. Workshops for artists and performers are geared to theater creators and will build on performance- and object-based skills, while exploring the power of animating objects. Workshops for teachers are based on the idea that puppetry provides multiple avenues for language development and small-group collaboration. Workshops explore these themes, as well as provide practical tips on incorporating puppetry into the classroom.
The Festival will also feature a Puppetry Slam on the last day of the event. The International Puppet Slam is an opportunity for puppeteers presenting at the other Festival venues to try out riskier, short-form work for an audience, and is a part of Nasty, Brutish & Short Presents…curated by Links Hall Artistic Associates Mike Oleon and Taylor Bibat. This fest within the fest expands on Nasty, Brutish & Short (NBS), the wildly popular quarterly cabaret of contemporary puppetry, supporting new works by some of Chicago’s most innovative puppeteers since 2011 at Links Hall.
The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival was founded to establish Chicago as a prominent center for the art of puppetry. This biennial Festival will present the highest quality local, national, and international puppet shows in venues across the city. Invited artists will lead workshops, public presentations and talks as an integral part of the Festival offerings.