On July 16th, I had the opportunity to go to my first major puppetry festival: the "Puppeteers of America's National Puppetry Festival" held at Concordia University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I was awardedthe "MIKE & FRANCES OZNOWICZ MEMORIAL YOUNG ADULT SCHOLARSHIP" in early January to attend the event.
The festival is a week long celebration of the art of puppetry. An opportunity to connect with many other fellow puppeteers, learn from various instructors with experience in all backgrounds of puppetry, see shows from around the world, and sharing the art of puppetry with fellow festival go-ers.
While there, I was able to take many workshops/classes including: Silicone Techniques with Tom McLaughlin, Shadow Puppetry Intensive with Sea Beast Puppet Company, Needle Felting with Pam Corcoran, 3D Television Puppetry with Steve Widerman and more.
I also performed throughout the festival, in my own performances during the National Potpourri, Shadow Puppetry Intensive workshop and lent my hands to others including: Mark Keeler, Thom Stanley, Thomas Boguszewski and more.
The shows were thrilling! Some of the shows I saw were: "National Puppet Slam 2017", "The National Potpourri", "The SeaBeast Puppet Company Shadow Puppet Intensive Workshop slam", "Reel Puppetry Film Festival", "The Ugly Duckling - Teatro de las Estaciones", "The Story of Crowboy - In the Heart of Beast Theatre, "Ubu the King - Rough House", "Lollipops for Breakfast - The Gottabees, "Ashes - Plexus Polaire, Norway-France", "Cardboard Explosion - Puppet Showplace Theatre", "Punch and Judy - Parasol Puppets", "Punch and Judy - Mousetrap Puppets", "Molly and the Magic Boot, Open Eye Figure Theatre", "Hansel and Gretel - National Marionette Theatre", "Tides - Company Gare Centrale", and the "Fringe".
The Puppetry Store was also at the festival, ran throughout the Festival by Gordon Smuder, Stacey Gordon, and more. The store featured everything you could ever want in puppetry including simple hand puppets, complicated marionettes, puppet books/journals, puppeteer performance gear, t-shirts, Muppets merch and so much more.
Each day began with breakfast, followed by early morning workshops. After the workshops, we would break for lunch then shows would begin in the early evening running through the night time. In between everyone is generally networking/catching up to talk about professional dollie wiggling. After the shows, it was NECESSARY to get sleep in order to function/stay awake for shows throughout the festival. (I recommend Monster Energy drink....I needed a lot for how exhausted I was near the end of the festival).
On the final closing day, the Puppeteers of America held a festival day for the public. Shows including "Punch and Judy", "Molly and the Magic Boot", and walk-about puppeteers were everywhere greeting and entertaining the public. There was also a puppet parade, where all the puppeteers could join in and walk around the college campus to encourage, and inspire the art of puppetry for the public.
I'm so grateful to the Puppeteers of America for this incredible opportunity to expand and learn more about my art form. I made wonderful connections with so many, learnt from valuable resources and plan on giving back all I learned to the puppetry community in the future.