Founded in 2000, The Awesome Puppet Company reanimates the ancient world's myths, metaphors and imagery in a creative medium, unique to this company: puppets. But you won't just see puppets in a cut out box whacking each other with bats, this company think outside the box and creates masterpieces of all shapes and sizes with whatever materials they have.
1) What will you be doing during your time at the Leonardo? Why should people come see you?
“The Awesome Puppet Company will be running a series of workshops and drop-in activities that draw inspiration from the many examples of rock art around Utah. The plan is to design, make and present an array of paper puppets, masks and creatures that will explore, interpret and perform some of the secret stories suggested by these enigmatic and ancient diagrams. The interactive nature of the residency will provide an opportunity to engage with puppetry and puppet-craft on a variety of different levels and no previous puppet-craft or theatre experience is necessary. We’ll also be enlisting the help of local actors Jay Perry and Nick O’Donnell, who’ve been seen in productions in Pioneer Theatre, Salt Lake Acting Company and Plan-B Theatre Company. Their extensive experience in theatre-craft, drama, use of voice, work with children and so forth will bring a dimension of engagement that will significantly enhance the experience for the participants.”
2) What inspired you to use puppets as a means for sharing your values with the world?
“The extreme sense of freedom and playfulness that the medium allows is the key. Puppetry is an ancient and atavistic form of creative expression, yet it also embraces and reflects the modern and the contemporary. It has never relinquished its folk-art roots or its democratic and independent spirit and, for that reason, it is also an extremely powerful medium that can challenge assumptions and pre-conceptions. It can also be an extremely effective tool for affecting real change, for instance in education, communication, and therapeutic contexts. We draw a lot of our inspiration from the rituals, myths, and imagery of the ancient world... as well as those of the scientific and ‘digital age’.”
3) What do you believe are the most important values for people to share? How do you display that in what you do?
“The willingness to communicate, build bridges, and to have the courage of one’s convictions grounded in compassion and respect for fellow human beings, other life forms and resources, as well as commitment to the positive, transformative quality of one's own creative imagination (a frequently neglected resource!). As artists we try to embody this critical reflexivity through creative expression, by embracing the positive, and by not baulking at the difficult, the awkward or the uncomfortable. Hopefully, some of this awareness is captured and transmitted through the ‘edgy’ aesthetic of the puppet creatures we make.”
4) Out of everything that you've produced, what has been your best puppet/production? Why?
“The Awesome Project is a work in progress and thus an on-going form of exploration. Nevertheless, we’ve spent the last couple of years focusing on the therapeutic side of things and have been researching and evolving a form of ‘personal narrative performance’ as a way of addressing trauma issues. It is always an awe-inspiring and deeply moving experience to witness how someone else connects with and experiences some form of transformation when they engage with the medium, whether they be an audience, a one-off workshop participant, or a therapy group. If you can call that process a production, then that is our best work.”
5) How can people find out more about you after your residency is complete?
“Our website: awesome-puppets.com and the 'contact' link.”
“The Lab” is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Leonardo is located at 209 E. 500 South in Salt Lake City.
Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for youth (6-17), and free for children five and under. Check their theleonardo.org for more info about artists and family discounts.