Chicago Puppet Fest 2023: Reviewer Bios

Ana Diaz Barriga

Ana Díaz Barriga is a puppetry practitioner and scholar, and a doctoral candidate in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama at Northwestern University. Her research investigates the sophisticated ways puppeteers guide viewers’ minds and bodies to make meaning of contemporary puppetry performance using methods from both cognitive science and theatre studies.

Marissa Fenley

Marissa Fenley is a Harper Schmidt Collegiate Assistant Professor in Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago. She is also a puppeteer. Marissa’s current book project, Puppet Theory: the Mechanical Infrastructure of Personhood, begins from a rather simple observation: puppets, with varying degrees of success, replicate people. As a predominantly anthropomorphic project, American puppetry in the 20th and 21st centuries borrows from various conceptions of what a person is in order to convincingly reproduce or renegotiate these dynamics through artificial, mechanized means. Marissa’s artistic work explores how puppetry mechanically assigns degrees of agency to objectified bodies. She especially interested in producing work that investigates power dynamics and their historical and social sedimentation.

Jesse Njus

Jesse Njus teaches graduate and undergraduate theatre history at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has previously taught at Fordham University and NYU, and she spent two years as an ACLS New Faculty Fellow at UC-Santa Barbara. Jesse specializes in medieval performance and the “Global Middle Ages,” and she has published articles in journals including Theatre JournalFifteenth-Century Studies, and Church History and in edited collections such as Food and Theatre on the World Stage edited by Dorothy Chansky and Ann White and the upcoming festschrift for Barbara Newman: Mystics, Goddesses, Lovers, and Teachers. Jesse is the assistant editor of the SETC journal Theatre Symposium and is currently co-editing The Global Middle Ages: Global Drama with Rob Barrett as part of the Cambridge series on the Global Middle Ages.

Claudia Orenstein 

Claudia Orenstein, Theatre Professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, has spent nearly two decades writing on contemporary and traditional puppetry in the US and Asia. Recent publications include Reading the Puppet Stage: Reflections on Dramaturgy and Performing Objects and the co-edited volumes Puppet and Spirit: Ritual Religion and Performing Objects, Women and Puppetry: Critical and Historical Investigations, and The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance. She worked as dramaturg on Tom Lee and kuruma ningyō master Nishikawa  Koryū V’s Shank’s Mare. She is a Board Member of UNIMA-USA, Associate Editor of Asian Theatre Journal, and Editor of the online, peer review journal, Puppetry International Research, published on the CUNY Academic Commons in collaboration with UNIMA-USA. She was the recipient of a 2021-22 Fulbright Research Fellowship for research on ritual puppetry in Japan.


Paulette Richards

Independent researcher, Dr. Paulette Richards has taught at Georgetown University, Tulane University, and Georgia Tech.  During her time as a 2013/ 2014 Fulbright Scholar in Senegal, she began to focus her multi-disciplinary interest in African Diasporan cultural studies on puppets, masks, and performing objects. Co-curator of the Living Objects:  African American Puppetry exhibit at the University of Connecticut’s Ballard Institute and Museum with Dr. John Bell, she holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.  More recently she curated a traveling exhibit on The Wonderland Puppet Theater.  Her book, Object Performance in the Black Atlantic:  The United States is available from Routledge.

Hazel Rickard 

Hazel Rickard is an independent scholar currently located in Portland, OR. She received her PhD in theater historiography from the University of Minnesota, and her MA in theater and performance studies from Washington University in St. Louis. Her research interests include puppetry, material performance, and spiritualism. 

Skye Strauss

Skye Strauss is a lecturer at Baylor University and a graduate of the Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama at Northwestern University.  Her research spans puppetry, collective creation, design and scenography to highlight the role materiality plays in the creative process across performing arts.  She is a regular ATHE and ASTR participant and her writing has been featured in the book Theatre Artisans and their Craft and in the publications TD&TPuppetry International, and PAJ. When she is not in the library or the classroom, you can find Skye making magical things or hanging upside down at the circus.