2023 Festival Archive: Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium

The Ellen Van Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium

January 21 and 28, 2023

Studebaker Theater and streaming on Howlround

Presented by The School of the Art Institute Performance Dept. and Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival


Scholarship and Resources

Festival Events

About the Symposium

January 21 and 28, 2023
Studebaker Theater and Streaming via Howlround
410 S. Michigan Ave.

The Ellen Van Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium brings together practicing festival artists with scholars to consider the intersection of puppetry with other disciplines and ideas. Before 1912, the year the Little Theater of Chicago was founded in the historic Fine Arts Building, the term “puppeteer” did not even exist. Little Theater director Ellen Van Volkenburg needed a program credit for the actors she had trained to manipulate marionettes while speaking the text of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and she coined the word “puppeteer.” That marked the dawn of the movement that has brought us to the rich art form now practiced around the world. In Van Volkenburg’s honor, the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival presents four discussions featuring festival artists and key topics from the works presented in the Festival.

Watch full symposium on Howlround.

Boundless Bodies

Saturday, January 21, 2023

In Hindu cosmology, the rhythmic energy of Shiva’s Tandava dance is the source of all movement in the universe, propelling the cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution. The purpose of the dance is to release humans from illusion. Since the puppet body can be an extension of the puppeteer’s body or a separate object that forces us to negotiate with matter that is distinct from our human bodies, object performances can readily explore how human consciousness might transcend the boundaries of our own bodies and how can we find transcendence through immanence on the path to self-knowledge.

Moderated by Dr. Paulette Richards with panelists Ishmael Falke (Invisible Lands), Elise Vigneron (Anywhere), and Camille Trouvé (R.A.G.E.).

Grand Narratives and Petits Récits

Saturday, January 21, 2023

François Lyotard criticized modernist meta-narratives such as Progress and Enlightenment as totalizing stories justifying the hegemonic order. He and other post-structuralist thinkers like Foucault called instead for petits récits or localized narratives that could transmit the full diversity of human experience. The shows represented in this panel challenge the grand narratives of western civilization by adapting classic stories in ways that mute the discourse of traditional patriarchs. Post humanist theory takes this shift in focus one step further by challenging the notion that human subjectivity is the only possible narrative agent. Thus we can view object performance as an experimental methodology for apprehending the agency of human and non-human others.

Moderated by Dr. Paulette Richards with panelists Yngvild Aspeli (Moby Dick), Sarah Fornace (Frankenstein), Michael Brown (Invitation to a Beheading) and Theodora Skipitares (Grand Panorama).

Watch full symposium on Howlround.

Watch full symposium on Howlround.

Maya: the Uses of Illusion

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Hindu cosmology regards the material world as Maya – illusion. The soul’s journey to enlightenment is a process of awakening from the illusion that our impermanent material existence is separate from the divine consciousness. Maya therefore also encompasses the wondrous creativity of the gods who brought forth and maintain the material world. Western theories such as Graham Harman’s Object Oriented Ontology, similarly conclude that while humans are not the only agents in the universe, we can only enter into the reality of the material world outside our own consciousness through metaphor. Thus Harman turns to aesthetics rather than science for new tools of knowledge creation. Puppets, masks, and performing objects can be powerful implements in this endeavor because they function as three-dimensional metaphors that explode Cartesian dualisms such as Self and Other by enabling us to apprehend material objects as subjects in their own right. The shows represented in this panel use performing objects to un-mask the grandiose obsessions of the human ego and make space for the enchantment of vibrant matter in our perception of reality.

Moderated by Dr. Paulette Richards with panelists Eduardo Felix (Macunaima Gourmet), Janni Younge (Hamlet), and Jonathan Meyer (as though your body were right).

Building New Worlds: Emerging Voices

Saturday, January 28, 2023

The School of the Art Institute Performance Dept. and Chicago Puppet Fest present: Emerging Voices. Moderated by Dr. Dassia N. Posner with panelists: Felicia Cooper from the University of Connecticut, Camille Casemier from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Claudia Kinahan from Northwestern University. The emerging artists present their most recent works with Living Treasure of Puppetry, Bruce Chessé serving as the respondent.

Watch full symposium on Howlround.

Further Reading