Chicago Puppet Fest 2022: Reviewer Bios

Ana Diaz Barriga

Ana Díaz Barriga is a puppetry practitioner, scholar, and a doctoral candidate in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama at Northwestern University. She is the recipient of a Cognitive Science Advanced Research Fellowship. Ana has an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice from the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and is a cofounder of Beyond the Wall, for which she built giant puppets at the US/Mexico border. Her research incorporates theater and cognitive science methods, using the audience’s unaware responses during the performance alongside their subjective reports to uncover the strategies puppeteers use to create the experience of spectatorship. 

Jess Bass

Jess Bass uses play as both a process and aesthetic to create mimetic installations and performances. Her work has been exhibited at Spring/Break Art Show NY, Detroit Art Week, Terrain Biennial, SITE Gallery, Hyde Park Art Center, and Comfort Station; and featured in The New York Times, Hyperallergic, ArtNews, PASTE, Fader and MTV. Bass holds an MFA in Sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Marissa Fenley

Marissa Fenley is a Harper-Schmidt Fellow Collegiate Assistant Professor in the Committee on Theatre and Performance Studies (TAPS) program at the University of Chicago, where she earned her PhD in 2022. Her current book project began from a rather simple observation: Puppets, with varying degrees of success, replicate people. As a predominantly anthropomorphic project, American puppetry in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries borrows from various conceptions of what a person is in order to convincingly reproduce or renegotiate these dynamics through artificial, mechanized means. Marissa is also a puppeteer, and her artistic work explores how puppetry assigns degrees of agency to objectified bodies and is especially interested in producing work that investigates power dynamics and their historical sedimentation.

Alissa Mello

Alissa Mello is a theater artist and scholar embarking on a new adventure at the University of Exeter as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellow. Her publications include the forthcoming Race, Gender and Disability in Puppetry and Material Performance, co-edited with Paulette Richards and Laura Purcell-Gates and Women and Puppetry: Critical and Historical Investigations (recipient of the 2022 UNIMA-USA Nancy Staub Award and finalist for ATHE’s 2020 Excellence in Editing Award) with Claudia Orenstein and Cariad Astles. She was a founding member of Inkfish, and performed and choreographed with Theodora Skipitares, Anna Kiraly, Jane Catherine Shaw and Ishara Puppet Theater. From 2019 – 2022 she was the Managing Director at Sandglass Center for Puppetry and Theater Research. Beginning in 2023 she will be the editor of UNIMA-USA’s biannual journal Puppetry International.

Paulette Richards

Atlanta-based teaching artist and independent researcher, Paulette Richards survived a ten month stint in Senegal as a 2013/ 2014 Fulbright Scholar without contracting any tropical diseases, but sometime during her service as an artist in residence at the Institut français de Saint Louis, the puppet bug bit her hard.  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.  Her book, Object Performance in the Black Atlantic is forthcoming from Routledge in 2023.

Skye Strauss

Skye Strauss received her doctoral degree from the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama program at Northwestern University in 2022. She will join Baylor University as a lecturer from 2022-2023.  Her scholarship on puppetry, scenography, and devising – including her dissertation “Materiality Matters: On the Power of ‘Things’ in Collective Creation” – is tied to her artistic practice as a puppeteer and costumer. She was delighted to speak at the Volkenberg Puppetry Symposium during the 2022 Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival and her publications include “The Workings of A Wild Mind” in TD&T and a chapter in Theatre Artisans and Their Craft.

Jacqueline Wade

Jacqueline Wade Holds MFAs in Film from the City College of New York and in Integrated Media from Hunter City University.  Her puppet film “Osage,” was shown as part of the film festival for DOC NYC in 2021.  Wade’s goal is to create works of art as an activist artist that deal with the human condition, race, and social justice issues so she designed and sculpted an 18ft puppet representing Mumia Abu Jamal that has appeared in numerous demonstrations.  She has also designed and sculpted a 2Oft Mother Earth puppet for the Veterans for Peace event in New York City in 2O22.

Kezia Waters

Kezia Waters is a director from what they like to call the “Deep South.” They’re an MFA Studio Art Performance candidate at School of The Art Institute of Chicago and they also hold an MFA in Acting from Ohio University. Time Traveling is not only a subject matter in most of their work but a method of creation/ a praxis/ a pedagogy. They push against, overlap and reject syncopation often. Growing up in The Black Pentecostal Church tradition. They think of their work as trying to find that which is holy, whole, holistic and/ or holds within Black and Queer functionality.  They do this through spiritual surrealism and traditional folkloric techniques and have created/ fostered techniques based on Mythology archetypes, ADOS rituals, Underground Queer performance culture and visual aesthetics combined with Trance polyrhythms.