Stranger Days #37: Puppetainment

A human-shaped paper cut out named "CPU" standing with a white background and orange mesh over its head. To the right is a larger Guy Fawks mask (larger than the human)
2nd Annual BU Research Puppet Slam (Virtual Edition)
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Welcome to stranger days--my blog series exploring daily life, challenges in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just sharing insights or thoughts about how to make it through these days.  

Folks may know that I'm a bit of a fan of puppets. For instance, I wrote this essay for the Brattle about Labyrinth and Dark Crystal.  I also am on the board of the Puppet Showplace Theater, a wonderful puppet theatre in Brookline, MA that has been hosting productions for over 45 years. And I will never stop telling folks that if they want to see the most disturbing puppet film ever, they should watch Meet The Feebles (which I found out--at least at this moment in time is free to watch on Tubi).  

A paper tractor moving over a field of plants on a sunny day.But this weekend, I had the opportunity to watch 2nd Annual BU Research Puppet Slam (Virtual Edition) as a result of Boston University and the Puppet Showplace Theater.  The breakdown of this is the people completing major significant work (masters or dissertation) are paired with art students who make (puppet) performances out of them.  I really like this idea for many reasons.  I've seen, read, and thought about ultimately doing my own 3-Minute Dissertation (gotta finish it first, but that's another series on my blog).  I'm also a big fan of the work of Tom Nicholas and Contrapoints, who both have taken their dissertation work and made it (and many other topics) much more legible to mainstream audiences.

Now, these 8 shorts for this particular evening were a mixed bag and much of that had a lot to do with having to change formats and also have a lot less resources on hands than one might otherwise be able to utilize.  Also, puppetry is such a collaborative work that without others for vision, construction, or technical support, it can be hard to full execute.  So sometimes, it didn't come off as cleanly as possible.  But, it was still fun to watch and support both the scholars and artists trying to do something new (turn complex ideas into art) in and even newer environment (in a zoom-room).  

Two tinfoil puppets stand at a public park with buildings in the background.In general, I've appreciated watching different places adapt and pivot to bringing entertainment and learning home during this time. Obviously, some of this is out of necessity to keep going but I think with that, people are learning that there might be more options out there than what they had been doing.  

But since I have you here, I'd be remiss if I didn't do a shout out and encouragement for folks to check out some of the things that Puppet Showplace Theater is doing.  The first is that they are platforming a variety of events and activities from inhouse events to sharing content created by many of the folks that they support. These are events and activities that are for kids (if looking to find some new things to try out) as well as some items for adults.  Additionally, Puppet Showplace Theater has started a penpal program that you can get kids involved with as an opportunity for something else for them to do.  But most importantly, like many other places, they are in need of help and support. As a theater and one that does many children's events (e.g. school events), they have been hit so hard by the pandemic and could use significant help and assistance from folks.  So if you have even $5 to spare, please make a donation to them. I hate the idea that a place like this amazing and magical theatre could disappear because there are so many gift, talented, and hard-working folks trying to provide all of us with opportunities to enjoy and appreciate the art of puppetry.  

Take care. Be careful. Be care-filled.  Welcome to stranger days.

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