Mayor Declares: Pittsburgh Day of Puppetry

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Photo by Larry Rippel

At just around 11:30 AM on Wednesday, March 21st, Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto declared the day Pittsburgh Day of Puppetry. The festive buildup of puppeteers in the Grand Lobby of the City-County building was a surprise to many strolling the thoroughfare on business. A delegation of marionettes, hand puppets, and giant wearable puppets (and their puppeteers) danced, jittered and made small talk as they anticipated the Mayor’s arrival. Mayor Peduto praised the efforts of the Puppetry Guild of Pittsburgh in making Pittsburgh a more vibrant and creative place. Dave English followed with some comments from the Guild and a gift for the Mayor, a hand crafted set of puppets representing members of Pittsburgh City Council (Created by Pittsburgh artist Kirsten Ervin). Stay tuned for a recap of all Pittsburgh Day of Puppetry events.

Puppet Day in the ‘Burgh’ – March 21st!

Mayor Peduto proclaims Pittsburgh Day of Puppetry on March 21 as the Puppetry Guild of Pittsburgh celebrates World Day of Puppetry

March 9, 2018–It’s not every day that Mayor Peduto proclaims that it’s Puppet Day in Pittsburgh, in fact, it’s only one day: Wednesday, March 21. For the first time the City of Pittsburgh will celebrate World Day of Puppetry with an official proclamation and plenty of puppet events sponsored by the Puppetry Guild of Pittsburgh.

“You’ll see puppets in city hall.

You’ll see puppets up on Polish Hill.

Puppets on the North side, South Side, West End.

Puppets in Lawrenceville.

It’s a day to raise puppets all over Pittsburgh.

Puppet paupers and puppet kings.

From the puppets who patch our potholes-

To Puppets who pull the strings!”

                                –  Dave English, President, Puppetry Guild of Pittsburgh

Guild members have all kinds of events planned to celebrate the day. Our celebration begins with an official proclamation from Mayor Peduto at 11:00 am where the Giant Puppet Dance Club from Falk Lab School will perform. Here is a list of some of the events:

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Shadow Puppetry by Felicia Cooper

Do you have a little one? Puppetry Day activities will be happening at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum. Big Mouth Puppets with Light Bright Beautiful Puppetry will take place from 10:30 am to 11:30 am (details here). Guild Member Felicia Cooper will perform her show Porto Domo in the Make Shop at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum at 2 pm. **She will also perform an outdoor show at Friendship Park at 5:30 pm. FRIENDSHIP PARK SHOW CANCELLED DUE TO SNOW STORM!**

Ready to get fit puppet-style? California Cyclepath, a fitness studio located in Brighton Heights, will host a puppet-themed spin class featuring the giant puppets made by studio regular Cheryl Capezzuti.

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Image courtesy of Alison Babusci of Light Bright Beautiful Puppetry.

Interested in Shadows? The Sharpsburg Community Library will host shadow puppet demonstrations in the library lobby and a drop-in hands-on puppetmaking activity for all ages at 6:00 pm featuring guild member and Library STEAM program coordinator Alison Babusci.

Living a little north of the city? Drums and More, a music store in Natrona Heights, will exhibit a pirate puppet made by Guild member Darlene Fedele Thompson.

Want to make your OWN celebration of World Puppetry Day? Using just a library card YOU can check a giant puppet out of the Braddock Carnegie Library and go celebrate as you see fit. Don’t forget to tag your puppet fun with #puppets4pgh.

There will also be a number of puppetry experiences happening at local schools. Guild Member Siggi Erlingsson will be performing his show “Alphabet X Peditions” at St. Thomas Moor School and Guild Member Gwen Bowman will be teaching about a variety of Eastern Puppetry traditions at Propel Montour.

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Image courtesy of Davey T Steinman

The Grand Finale to Pittsburgh Day of Puppetry will be a puppet happy hour at Brillobox.  This event will open with puppet fun and games hosted by guild members Dave English and Tom Sarver, with music by Unfinished Symphonies. Warm-up shenanigans will be followed by a featured presentation by Davey T Steinman. Steinman is a theater artist, puppeteer, and educator working at the crossroads of art, technology, and performance. For Pittsburgh Puppetry Day, he will share a unique solo puppetry performance and behind-the-scenes presentation featuring his recent shadow puppetry and video projection work as co-founder of Paradox Teatro. The performance will draw upon the repertoire of puppetry work “Migraciones” created recently while on tour in Europe and Mexico. After the performance segment, the public will be invited to participate in a hands-on demo of the suitcase shadow theater, and have a Q&A conversation with the artist. This 21 and over event is free and open to the public in the Brillobox upstairs space (6:30 pm – 9:00 pm). The Brillobox is located at 4104 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15224.

What is World Day of Puppetry? Here is a little information from our national organization, Puppeteers of America: Puppetry in America is older than the country itself, but until the beginning of the 20th century, puppet shows were rare. Puppeteers kept their art a closely guarded secret, certainly not shared with the public. In the first half of the 20th century, some puppeteers (most notably Tony Sarg) helped to lift the veil of secrecy, sharing information about their work, which led to the formation of the Puppeteers of America in 1937. In an effort to strengthen recognition of puppetry as a global art form and to align activities with UNIMA-USA, Puppeteers of America has officially merged the National Day of Puppetry with the World Day of Puppetry, each March 21. Today, almost three quarters of a century onward, puppets hold a place in the public’s heart that is rivaled by few other arts. They appear on stage, in movies, on television, and now, on the Internet. The Puppeteers of America is proud to present this National Day of Puppetry taking place all over North America and brought to you by the local Puppeteers of America guild in your area.

The Puppetry Guild of Pittsburgh unites puppeteers, puppet makers and people that love puppets by supporting and celebrating the art of puppetry in the greater Pittsburgh region. This organization formed in the fall of 2015 and is working to produce more puppetry-related events in the region. The Puppetry Guild of Pittsburgh is a program of New Sun Rising and is affiliated with the national organization Puppeteers of America. Anyone who loves and supports puppetry in the region is welcome to join the guild for an annual membership fee of $15.00.

What will you do for World Puppetry Day?

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Since 2003, March 21st has been celebrated as World Puppetry Day. The day was originally selected by UNIMA (UNION INTERNATIONALE DE LA MARIONNETTE). In the United States, The National Day of Puppetry (historically celebrated by the Puppeteers of America) is now merged with World Puppetry day to create a worldwide, unifying puppetry celebration. This year the City of Pittsburgh and the Puppetry Guild of Pittsburgh are working to also declare March 21st Pittsburgh Day of Puppetry. Guild activities, including a public Puppet Happy Hour open to adults 21 and over, will soon be announced.

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Puppetry is an art form that is accessible to all. This year, consider doing something a bit different, maybe a bit weird or unexpected on March 21st. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Post a selfie, video or tweet with a puppet. Get a puppet at the store, make a puppet, or glue some google eyes on a can of tomato soup. A puppet can be anything that you animate with your hands before an audience.
  2. Help a child make a puppet or put on a puppet show. You only need some paper lunch bags, some construction paper, scissors, marker or crayons and a glue stick. Or get fancy and use your old socks. Fire up the hot glue gun and attach things.  Don’t let the kids use the hot glue!
  3. Take a puppet to a public place. Take a marionette, ventriloquist doll or hand puppet to the park, diner, food court at the mall, etc. Just practice movement and voices. Don’t ask for donations (unless you have a permit). If anyone asks what you are doing, tell them that it’s World Puppetry Day.
  4. Do some research into the history of puppetry. Wikipedia claims that puppetry has been around for 4000 years. But can we trust Wikipedia? Do some exploration to see how puppetry has evolved over time, how it is still used widely in the theater world and how traditions differ from country to country. Call your local librarian!
  5. If you go to a museum or other cultural activity, ask where the puppets are. If they don’t have a puppet activity, ask them if they will have one next year on World Puppetry Day.
  6. Try to use puppets to explore a difficult topic. Have a debate with puppets. Use the puppet to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Think about their point of view. Don’t get mad at the puppeteer. It’s the puppet who’s talking!

Moving Forward!

It’s been two years since the formation of the Puppetry Guild of Pittsburgh (PGOP). The project has been running at a steady pace. Quarterly meetings have been taking place at libraries, art studios and non-profit organizations throughout Pittsburgh. The Puppetry Slam showcase of member shows has become an annual tradition. Some exciting plans are in the works as PGOP aims to grow and to reach out to the community in new ways in 2018.  Here are a few developments:

  1. PGOP members met on Sunday November 12th for the quarterly meeting and election of new officers. A portion of the meeting was dedicated to brainstorming and vision questing.  Members expressed interest in coordinating PGOP activities at local arts and culture organizations for the National Day of Puppetry. Having a social gathering or PUPPET HAPPY HOUR before the end of 2017 was also discussed.
  2. PGOP is now a project of NEW SUN RISING. The parent organization will provide fiscal sponsorship and organizational support.
  3. CONGRATULATIONS to Darlene Fedele Thomson for completing two years as president of PGOP and for putting in the effort to get the organization started!
  4. CONGRATS to our new officers: Gwen Bowman – President, Dave English – VP, Mandee Williams – Secretary and Tom Sarver – Treasurer!
  5. The guild is pursuing a new approach to communications, with an evaluation of PR, community networking and internal communications happening in the coming months.
  6. MORE FUN, MORE PUPPETS, MORE DEMONSTRATIONS & ACTIVITIES AT GUILD MEETINGS!

You don’t have to be a professional puppeteer to join the guild.  We do not have a jury or application process for membership. Anyone who is interesting in the art of puppetry is welcome to join.

 

Tickets for Puppet Slam now available!

puppetthumb One week until the Puppetry Guild of Pittsburgh’s second annual showcase of puppetry, the Pierogi Power Puppet Slam, hosted by the Carnegie Museum of Art in Oakland!

Tickets are now available online (at this handy link) and will also be available at the door!

Don’t miss your chance to check out what is happening in the puppet world of Pittsburgh. All ages are invited to the Pierogi Power Puppet Slam, a community celebration much like a poetry slam which will feature 12 short shows using all kinds of puppets. Continue reading

“Origin Story” by Scott Hall

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by PGOP member Scott KuechenmeisterHall

People seem fascinated by origin stories. There’s a whole subgenre for superheroes. I love to read actors’ and artists’ biographies up to the point where they “make it.” After success comes, so many of these biographies start to sound more like name dropping than anything of real substance. I’ve been a puppeteer for thirty-eight years now and the most frequently asked question posed to me has always been, “How did get into doing puppets?” or some version of that.  Continue reading