Join us for the next Festival: January 15-26, 2025

Chicago Puppet Lab Alumni

2022-23

August Boyne (he/him) + Jacky Kelsey (they/she)

August Boyne is a multi-faceted musician and educator.  Since graduating from UIC with a degree in music performance, he’s grown a deep passion for unorthodox storytelling.  In 2018 he directed and composed his first original stage production at the St. Louis Fringe Festival, a sci-fi ballet entitled “Perennial Growth”.  Chicago Puppet Lab will be August’s second time producing original work for the stage and first time seriously exploring puppetry, both of which he’s over the moon about :^).

Jacky Kelsey is a soft sculptor informed by a background in drawing and puppetry. They maintain a strong belief that art is an essential outlet for play, and that play is a necessity for all. Based in Chicago, they have experience as a seamstress, upholsterer, costume maker, and puppeteer. These niche skills inform their sculptural work, which deals with themes of body, comfort, neurodivergency, and queer identity.

IG: @linesbyjacky

Rachel Singer (she/her)

Rachel recently graduated from Wilbur Wright College and is beginning a career as an occupational therapy assistant. She enjoys integrating the arts and wellness to create meaningful experiences. In her fieldwork placement at the Midwest Brain Injury Clubhouse she collaborated with individuals with brain injuries to devise a theatrical production with puppetry called Why the Sky is Far Away: A Nigerian Folktale. Over the last decade, Rachel has taught dance combined with social and emotional learning in the Chicago Public Schools. Currently, she is teaching dance, yoga, and movement classes for people with disabilities. She is passionate about puppetry and began exploring her interest in puppetry at Redmoon Theater in 2007. Her puppetry work and dance practices are rooted in breath, body awareness, communication and interconnection. Jewish mysticism and rituals have a strong influence on her visual artwork. Rachel grew up in Colorado and was raised to see Judaism through the lens of nature. Each Shabbat she walked to synagogue on a trail next to a creek while her mom told her stories of nature, Torah, and family.

IG and FB: @practiceofimagination

Sion Silva (he/they)

Sion Silva is an emerging multi-media fine artist whose work primarily focuses on a personalized mythology based on the history and philosophies of religion and Cronenburgian aesthetics. To further elaborate; most of their work involves a series of short stories all taking place within the same universe, depicting a primordial earth and the origins of life. Outside of this they work as a free lance fabricator delving in sculpture, puppet making and concept design. Their recent work has involved fabrication for Chicago Puppet Chicago Festival, Rough Houses: ‘HOUSE OF THE EXQUISITE CORPSE 2022’ and performances at ‘Nasty, Brutish, & Short’.

IG: @sionslament

Jaerin Son (she/her) + Kevin Michael Wesson (he/they)

Jaerin Son is a puppet artist, play director, and set designer originally from Korea. Her work includes plays, performance with movements, and dances. Her work often involves surreal images to depict a vivid reality of the real world rather than a rendition of illusion. Back in Korea, Son directed her own performance works such as This is Not Shakespeare, Taste of Memories, and Dreadful Time. She designed stages for the World Cyber Games Festival in China, Odyssey (directed by Youngho Gwon) in Korea, Vancouver (Ma-Yi Theater) in Chicago. She is currently working as a puppet and scenic designer and Popup book puppetry instructor at the Chicago Puppet Studio, and in 2022, was nominated as one of the 2022 fellowship artists from Links Hall.

IG: @jaerin_puppet

Kevin Michael Wesson (he/they) is a 28-year-old puppeteer/playwright based in Chicago. Originally from Tampa, FL, he received a B.A. in theatre arts from the University of South Florida. He’s had his work read, performed, and transmitted from NYC to Alaska, but his recent puppetry credits include: Where We Go Together or The Flashlight Play (Tour), House of the Exquisite Corpse (Chicago), CAMPOUT: A Night Out In The Woods (NYC), Dr. Seuss Experience (Chicago), as well as the publication of his puppet play, Follow Her, in the infamous direct action publication Earth First! Journal. His works have received mention in American Theatre Magazine, No Proscenium, & nomination for the National Puppet Slam. Currently, he is an artistic associate of the Chicago-based puppet theatre company, Rough House Theater, a founding ensemble member of the performance art company, Stop Motion Plant, and an ensemble member of the physical theatre company, Theater Unspeakable.

Ig: @xMungyx

Rocio Cabrera (she/her)

Rocio “Chio” Cabrera is a director, puppeteer, puppet designer, prop designer, and marketer from the West Side of Chicago. She is a Mexican-American artist seeking to share new and traditional Hispanic stories through puppetry. She is interested in clashes with bureaucracy, exposing history, and exploring Truths. In her current work she explores the cultural influences and relationships between Spain, Mexico, Pre-Hispanic Indigenous Peoples, and the United States. Chio has worked with Strawdog Theatre, Rough House Theater, the Chicago International Puppet Festival and Opera-matic.

IG: @chiocabreracoz

Gretchen Hasse (she/her)

Gretchen is a Chicago-based storyteller working in comics, video, animation, murals, and installation. She co-founded Agitator Artists’ Co-operative in 2017, and since then curation has also been a crucial part of her practice.

Gretchen’s documentary videos for social justice campaigns have educated policy makers, informed the general public, and inspired new activists. Her narrative videos have screened nationally and internationally. She publishes her ongoing graphic novel, Freaks’ Progress, in monthly installments online and in print through Activator magazine out of Springfield, Illinois. In 2021, she published the first two volumes of Agitator Comics!, an open-theme compilation.

Gretchen received her MFA in Film, Video and New Media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the summer of 2022 she completed a two month residency at Buinho Fab Lab in Messejana, Portugal, where she focused on fabrication and robotics. She is the recipient of a 2021 Make A Wave nomination-based grant from 3Arts in Chicago; a 2022 VIDA: Women in Literary Arts Fellowship for Writing Residency at Sundress Academy for the Arts in Knoxville, Tennessee; and a 2022 Esteemed Artist Grant from Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). She teaches drawing and writing at Saint Xavier University in Chicago.

IG: @gbhasse

Jacqueline Wade (she/her)

Jacqueline Wade is a native of Philadelphia who has recently moved to Chicago. Jacqueline Wade’s goal is to create works of art as an activist artist that deal with the human condition, race, and social justice issues. She wants to make positive changes and actions through her work. She wants to empower others. Jacqueline comes from an extensive theater background of acting, directing, playwriting, puppetry, teaching, producing, and film work. She combines theater with documentary and narrative filmmaking, animation along with interactive media and puppetry. Jacqueline is a graduate of Temple University Theater Department, has attended Circle in the Square Two Year Certificate Actor’s Training Program in New York City, holds an MFA Degree from the City College of New York and an MFA from Hunter. Jacqueline Wade has performed in many plays at various regional theaters throughout the country, including Milwaukee Repertory, Wilma Theater, Williamstown Theater Festival, LaMaMa E.T.C., Classical Theater of Harlem, and many other theaters. She has also written 20 plays, including “Black Panther Women,” and directed over 35 plays and performance art pieces. Jacqueline’s 18ft Mumia puppet has gone on marches and demonstrations for Mumia Abu-Jamal, and her Giant 20 ft Mother Earth Puppet that has been used for Veterans for Peace. She has published and lectured widely. She is a member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. She was a semifinalist for Fulbright 2021.

Claude Fethiere is an educator and a lifelong lover of film and storytelling. He recently completed his first short film, Mr. Bulloch: Chicago’s Donut King, a documentary about Mr. Buritt Bulloch and his business, Old Fashioned Donuts Incorporated, which has continued to thrive for 50 years; overcoming, decades of economic challenges in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood. As a co-hort in Chicago International Puppet Festival -Chicago Puppet Lab program Claude is beginning his puppetry journey by adapting the book “Joe Joe’s First Flight”. The book of a young hero pursuing his dream to fly is not only close to Claude’s heart because of its theme, but because it was also written by his lovely wife Natasha Tarpley, the celebrated author of I Love My Hair, and The Me I Choose to Be. Claude is continuing to develop other projects to expand the range of stories about the Black Diaspora.

2021-22

The Chi Clowns (Agnotti Cowie, Carmen Kingsley, Char Lee, and Sharaina Latrice Turnage)

Agnotti Cowie (they/she) is a Chicago native that is passionate about the intersection of social justice, community dialogue, and performing arts. They facilitate workshops employing a variety of pedagogical techniques such as InterPlay, Theatre of the Oppressed, and Devising.  Since 2013, she has been hired by InterPlay to produce and facilitate events around the world as well as recently becoming their Development Director. She is also freelancing for a number of theatre companies and schools, as a teaching artist, performer, and facilitator offering workshops in drama, puppetry, storytelling, musical theater, and movement.

IG: @agnotti

Carmen Kingsley (she/her) fell in love with the circus while she was studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Her love affair began with aerials (trapeze and silks climbing) and quickly snowballed into clowning, handstands and dance.  From 2013-2014 she participated in a full time circus training program, at Aloft Circus Arts, where she majored in trapeze and minored in clowning.  The intense training regime made her want to understand her body even better so she became a Pilates instructor. Now Carmen teaches aerial classes, handstands and Pilates. She believes that circus is for everyone and aspires to foster a sense of community in her classes. She has performed duo trapeze, duo acrobatics, clowning and lyra over the last number of years in Chicago.  

IG: @circuscarmen

Char Lee (she/they) is a writer, non-profit arts manager and cat mom. When she is not stuck in traffic or watering plants she can be found  about seeking liberation. 

IG: @liberate_voz

Sharaina Latrice Turnage (she/her)  is from the sensational Southside of Chicago. Recent shadow puppetry work can be seen in the latest Candyman 2021 movie (Manuel Cinema). Other puppetry credits (Mementos Mori, The End of Tv, and No Blue Memories (Manual Cinema), and The Silence in Harrow House (Rough House Theater). Sharaina has researched and performed theater historical done by slaves called “Du” theater in Suriname, South America and was amongst one of the first actors to perform “Du” theater in the United States. Sharaina received her B.A. at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Sharaina thanks her chosen family for the constant support. “The greatest pleasure in life is DOING what people say you CANNOT do.”

IG: @rainydazewarmnites

Andrew Marchetti (He/Him) has had the joy and privilege to write, perform, design, collaborate and puppeteer both on-stage and underneath with Filament Theater, Otherworld, Oracle, BoHo, The Plagiarist, Chicago Fringe, RBP, Strawdog, Northwestern University, PayPal, and now, The Major Lift. Andrew is a BFA graduate from the University of Northern Colorado.

IG: @proudfistpuppet
FB: Andrew Marchetti

Caitlin McLeod (she/her) is a costume, scenic, and puppet designer. Most recent credits include: When Harry met Rehab (Greenhouse); Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (Strawdog); Diamond’s Dream, The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show (Chicago Children’s Theatre); Stick Fly (Writers Theatre); Exquisite Corpse; The Walls of Harrow House (Rough House); Mlima’s Tale (Griffin Theatre); Shipwrecked (Oil Lamp); Whose Body ; The Man Who Was Thursday; Bunny’s Book Club (Lifeline); The River (Boho); and The Ballad of Romeo and Juliet (American Myth Center, NC). She also is a co-founder of the Chicago based costume crafts business Craftiga. She earned her MFA at Northwestern University. CaitlinMcLeodDesign.com

IG: @CaitlinMcLeodDesign
FB: Caitlin McLeod DesSoye

Kayla Pulley (She/Her/Hers) is a black Hufflepuff and graduate of Columbia College Chicago.  A Jill of all trades, Kayla has performed theater, improv, stand-up, sketch comedy and burlesque in various theaters across the US.  In addition to performing she also produces and writes her web series “The Rachelorette” which can be found on Youtube. She is a proud member of the spoken word Improv Collective PREACH!  Miss Pulley is also Co-founder of the all black female sketch comedy group Bosses N Bonnets. Kayla is an understudy for the Second City Mainstage, as well a faculty member of their Training Center. During business hours Kayla is a teaching artist for Playmakers Laboratory (formerly Barrel Of Monkeys) as well as Humor 4 Hope.

Twitter and IG: @Da_Rachelorette

Mike Oleon (he/him) is a founder and Artistic Director of Rough House, a Chicago-based puppet arts organization. He produces Nasty, Brutish & Short: A Puppet Cabaret, for which he was a curator for 6 years. Chicago credits include: House of the Exquisite Corpse, Sad Songs for Bad People, Cicada Summer, Ubu the King, Invitation to a Beheading, Harrow House, Living Room Tour (Blair Thomas & Co.) Swan Lake (Redmoon, Chicago Symphony Orchestra) The Cabinet (u/s, Redmoon). Touring: Ichthyodyssey (National Puppetry Festival), Murder Ballads (Open Eye Toy Theater After Dark Festival) Education: BA, UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television.

IG: @oldtimeyAF

Myra Kalaw (She/Her) Born & raised in the Philippines, and transplanted to Chicago at age 16, Myra Kalaw is a poet and a book & paper artist. She has lived and worked in Chicago for over 30 years, has worked with the local CIRCA Pintig Community Theater and The Bread & Puppet Theater of Vermont. The Chicago Puppet Lab will be her first ever formal theater training, and builds on the fun puppetry classes she took last summer with the Chicago International Puppet Festival.

IG: @cubivino, @myrakalaw

Verónica Rodríguez (She/ her, Puerto Rico) is a director, writer, performer, actress, and producer. She graduated in 2005 from the University of Puerto Rico with a major in Performing Arts. In 2019, She finished an MFA in Experience Design at the University of Colorado Boulder. She has trained, directed and collaborated with different theater companies in Spain, England, Italy, Puerto Rico, and USA. Her original work has been experienced in different festivals like; In/Visible Cities & Urban multimedia Festival in Gorizia, Italy, FIND Festival in Cagliari/Italy, A Night at the Museum-Denver Museum of Science & Nature, and Itinerant Performance Art Festival in New York City. Veronica has a passion for Children’s theater. Her original immersive play for children Skeleton’s Adventure with a Wacky Witchy Bruja has been staged seven times since 2010, winning No Proscenium’s Viewer’s Choice Award for Best Online Immersive Show in 2020.  In 2021, she worked as the creative director and co/writer of Boxed Experience, a multimedia theatrical escape-room. She is currently working on a commissioned performance with Swiss artist Stofer&Stofer which will open in Lucerne, Switzerland in 2022. As well as being part of the panel of jurors in MarteLive Europe Festival 2021. For more information go to www.vrgdesigns.com or LinkedIn

Paper Whisperers: Yiwen Wu (She/Hers) & Honglan Huang (She/Hers)

The Paper Whisperers was founded by two graduate students who are currently studying traditional Chinese literature and Chinese theater history. We are interested in translations and adaptations, using paper as our main storytelling medium.

IG: @PaperWhisperers