Research Conversation: International Perspectives on Puppetry
The Puppet Working Group is an interdisciplinary group of postgraduate practitioner-researchers in puppetry based at Royal Holloway. It was initiated by Matthew Cohen, senior lecturer in the department following a PALATINE workshop on Puppetry in Higher Education held at Royal Holloway on 28 April 2006. The group to date has hosted discussions, workshops, masterclasses, public talks, internships and film showings with the support of the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange (LCACE) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and has worked in partnership with The Puppet Centre Trust and other cultural industry bodies.
The group holds a Reading Group that convenes approximately once a term to discuss recent publications in puppet theory, and innovative work in puppets and performing objects. Members of the group also present their own work-in-progress at these sessions.
Members of the group regularly contribute to Theories and Practices of Puppetry, a full-year course that introduces Royal Holloway undergraduate students to the world of puppetry. Visitors to this class have included international puppeteers Kate Brehm and Gary Friedman. A video of a workshop on string puppetry presented by noted marionette artist Ann Perrin (nee Field) to the class can be viewed here .
A grant from LCACE allowed the group to sponsor a series of workshops in 2007-2008 at Royal Holloway by some of the leading figures of puppetry in the United Kingdom, including Gavin Glover of Faulty Optic, Finn Caldwell of Blind Summit and object animator Kazuko Hokhi. This same grant funded Puppetry in Progress, a series of public talks at the Puppet Centre Trust by Canadian puppeteer Ronnie Burkett, designer-director Julian Crouch, critic Lyn Gardner and television puppeteer and director Nigel Plaskitt, as well as the British premiere of Handmade Puppet Dreams, a puppet film anthology curated by Heather Henson. Click here for clips of the talks by Ronnie Burkett and Lyn Gardner. The grant also funded bursaries that allowed two Royal Holloway students to undertake internships with Punchman Konrad Fredericks and puppet maker Geoff Felix.
The Group also has held an AHRC grant for a masterclass with American puppet scholar-practitioner Dr John Bell, curator of the Ballard Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut. This masterclass, held at Royal Holloway in May 2009, focused on Dr Bell’s latest book, American Puppet Modernism: Essays on the Material World in Performance (2008), and was attended by postgraduate students and emerging puppet scholar-practitioners from all over the UK. A talk and workshop by Australian puppet director Sandy McKendrick on Indigenous Communities and Puppetry was co-sponsored in October 2009. And a collaboration with internationally-acclaimed model theatre artist Robert Poulter for the Creative Campus Initiative resulted in the creation of a new theatrical piece, The Rowers, invited to a paper theatre in festival in France in May 2011.
In 2010-11 the Puppet Working Group is sponsoring a talk by Robin Deacon’s restorations of the work of American performance artist Stuart Sherman’s object performance ‘spectacles’ and a workshop by acclaimed American puppet director, performer and theorist Roman Paska.
Those interested in joining the group or finding out more about Puppet Working Group activities can contact Matthew Cohen at email@example.com.
Sally's puppet from Sandy McKendrick workshop 2009