Nov 21, 2015

Coffeehouse Chronicles #129: Contemporary Puppet Theater

Curated by Michal Gamily

Moderated by Cheryl Henson

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Participating artists include:

| Ralph Lee | Roman Paska | Amy Trompetter|

This event will examine contemporary puppet theatre from the 1970s to present.


Lake Simons

Federico Restrepo, a scene from “Undefined  Fraction”

Performed by Federico Restrepo, Ale Fips and Jose Rivera. Voice over by Denis Greber. Music by Tareke Ortiz.

Jane Catherine Shaw and Theresa Lundgen, excerpt from Theodora Skipitares’ production of Ionesco’s “The Chairs”

“Bitter Fruits & Combat Boots: a Hip Hopera” with ZeroProphet

“Bario Bard”, Spanish Harlem

Amy Trompetter, Redwing Blackbird Puppet Theater

Cheryl Henson is the President of The Jim Henson Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors of The Jim Henson Company.  From 1992 – 2000, Cheryl executive produced the award winning biennial Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater.  These five festivals presented 136 different productions from 31 countries in 24 theaters throughout New York City including the five theaters at The Public. The Festival won both the Drama Desk and the OBIE Award, received prestigious coverage and is widely acknowledged as having changed the perception of contemporary American puppet theater today.  Cheryl has been the President of The Jim Henson Foundation since 1992.  The Foundation awards grants to artists creating new works of excellence in contemporary American puppet theater.  To date The Foundation has awarded over 750 grants to more than 300 artists.

Ralph Lee is Artistic Director of the Mettawee River Theatre Company, which, for forty years, has annually produced original theatre works incorporating masks and puppetry, live music and text, drawn primarily from myths and folk stories of the world’s many cultures. The plays are presented primarily in rural communities in upstate New York and New England. His chief artistic collaborator in this enterprise is his wife, Casey Compton. Mr. Lee has created masks, puppets and props for theatre and dance far and wide, including the Living Theatre, the Metropolitan Opera, Erick Hawkins Dance Company, Shari Lewis and Saturday Night Live (he created the Land Shark). He was a member of the Open Theatre, Joseph Chaikin Director, for five years. In 1974 Ralph Lee co-founded the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade with Theater for the New City; he directed the Parade for its first 12 years. He has been an artist-in-residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine since 1985. He was instrumental in the creation of the Mayan theatre company, Sna J’tz Ibajom, in Chiapas, Mexico, and worked there annually from 1989 – 2000. He has been on the faculty of NYU since 1987 and was the Jim Henson Artist-in-Residence at UMD in 2007-08. Awards and fellowships include a Fulbright, two Obie Awards, a DTW Bessie Award, two American Theatre Wing Design Awards, a New York State Governor’s Arts Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Roman Paska is a writer, director, filmmaker and puppeteer. His original theater productions, under two successive company names, Theater for the Birds and Dead Puppet, include The End of the World, God Mother Radio, Dead Puppet Talk, Echo in Camera and Schoolboy Play, commissioned and presented by Linz ’09 European Capital of Culture and the National Theatre of Portugal. He directed August Strindberg’s Dreamplay with puppets for its centennial at the Stockholm Stadsteater, and was for several years director of the Institut International de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mézières, France. His magical-realist documentary, Rehearsal for a Sicilian Tragedy, with John Turturro, premiered at the Venice Film Festival and Lincoln Center, New York. His writings have been published in Zone, Puck, Alternatives Théâtrales (for whom he  guest-edited two issues), the ITI World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre, and The Language of the Puppet. He has taught at Columbia, NYU, Cornell, the Yale School of Drama, and the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.

Federico Restrepo was born in Bogotá, Colombia. Since 1985 he has developed a puppetry style which incorporates design and dance. He is the founder and artistic director of Dance/Puppet Theatre Company, Loco7. His goal as a director has been to design the set and puppets as an extension of the dancer’s body. The spectacle is an ever changing environment, transforming and moving through out the space. His subject matter is very much, the soul of Colombia mixed with his experiences of living in New York City. His intense love and passion for the history of the Americas and his journeys in New York are a constant source for all his work. Loco7 has premiered, designed, performed and directed fifteen original pieces at La MaMa in New York City, with subsequent tours through out the world.

Jane Catherine Shaw has been creating works for puppet theatre for over 25 years. As co- founder of the Voice 4 Vision Puppet Festival, she co-produced and co-curated 4 main stage productions, 2 children’s shows, children’s puppet workshops, a puppet gallery and a puppet slam for the eleven year run of the festival at Theatre For The New City. Shaw designed, built, rigged and directed the puppetry sequences in Lee Breuers’ Doll House. She was co-puppetry director and master puppeteer for Mabou Mines’ Peter and Wendy, and for sequences in Ecco Porco. She works frequently with Theodora Skipitares, and has worked with Janie Geiser, Stephen Kaplan, Ellen Stewart,  Terry O’Reilly & Amy Trompetter here in NYC. She was a resident artist at the Center For Puppetry Arts in Atlanta Georgia for 6 years, and produced and curated its XPT and FPT — a lab for experimental works for puppetry–for 2 years. Currently she works with the La MaMa Kids committee to plan children’s programming at La MaMa, and has been a teaching artist with the Brooklyn Arts Council for five years. She holds an MFA in Directing and is a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab.

Lake Simons is an artist specializing in devising theatre productions that utilize movement and puppetry. She has created over a dozen original productions as well as collaborated as a puppet designer and director. Lake served as a puppetry associate for both the Broadway production of War Horse and its national tour. Over the last sixteen years Lake has been a guest director at the Hip Pocket Theatre in Ft. Worth, Texas. Lake was nominated for a 2014 Doris Duke Impact Award and has been awarded six Jim Henson Foundation Grants. She holds theatre degrees from University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France.

Theodora Skipitares is an award-winning multi-media artist and theater director based in New York. Trained as a sculptor and theater designer, she began creating personal solo performances in the late 1970’s which revolved around the use of handmade objects that were worn on her body. Gradually, she moved away from autobiography, and began to examine social and historical themes. She introduced small 3-dimensional representations of herself into these performances, which she understood (later) to be puppets, She has created 25 works featuring as many as 300 puppet figures, original music, video and documentary texts. She is a resident director at La MaMa. Her work has been exhibited widely in the U.S., Europe and Asia, most recently at the Whitney Museum. Ms. Skipitares has worked frequently in India as a Fulbright Fellow, as well as in Vietnam, Cambodia and Korea. She is Associate Professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.

Amy Trompetter designs, directs and performs puppet shows. Her roots are in the Bread and Puppet Theater in 1960’s NYC.  Recent work includes: Opera & Giant Puppets: Amy Trompetter’s Barber of Seville full scale buffa opera at St. Ann’s Warehouse ’03, St. Polten, Austria, Festspielhaus ’07, and a recent exhibit at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, Storrs, CT, ’14.  She has led communities in making large outdoor pageants and small indoor mask theater in Italy, France, Nicaragua, Mexico, Japan, Botswana, Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Burma.  Amy was a professor of World Theater at Antioch, Bates and Barnard College, Columbia University, and the Bard Prison Initiative. She is founder of a puppet workshop and performing space, Redwing Blackbird Theater, in Rosendale, NY.

Coffeehouse Chronicles


Coffeehouse Chronicles is an educational performance series exploring the history of Off-Off-Broadway. Part artist-portrait, part history lesson, and part community forum, Coffeehouse Chronicles take an intimate look at the development of downtown theatre, from the 1960s’ “Coffeehouse Theatres” through today.

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