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

Chicago Puppet Lab Application

Applications for the Next Puppet Lab Cohort—Now Open! ​

Complete your application to join the 2024-2025 cohort. See application details below!

Program Description

The Chicago Puppet Lab is a puppet theater incubator and residency program that supports artists in bringing to life new works of puppet theater. The Chicago Puppet Lab has 3 major goals:  

  • Incubating more works of inspiring, boundary-breaking puppetry in Chicago
  • Expanding equity in the field of puppetry and,
  • Encouraging interdisciplinary experimentation in puppet theater.
The program accepts 8 artists or artist groups for a 8-month, in person laboratory process led by Puppet Lab Co-Directors: Tom Lee and Grace Needlman. Lab artists participate in weekly meetings where artists share, discuss, meet deadlines, and learn from one-another’s work as well as from expert guest artists. Together all contribute to the advancement of the cohort’s work. The program culminates with a mini-festival of live works-in-progress ~15-20 minutes in length in Chicago. The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival provides participants with video and photo documentation of their work, technical support, stage management, and marketing support for the final showing, and each project receives a stipend of $1000.

Equity and Inclusion Commitment

The Chicago Puppet Lab is committed to addressing inequities in the field by working to increase BIPOC, queer, and disabled artists with expanded access to resources, training, and opportunities. American puppetry has suffered from and perpetuated systemic racism, and we are continually working to deepen our understanding and take meaningful action. Our aim is for this program to reflect Chicago’s diversity and advance The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival’s diversity, equity and inclusion priorities.

Who Should Apply?

Chicago-based artists or artist groups who are not enrolled as full-time students. Established artists; BIPOC, queer, and disabled artists; and artists working in puppetry or in other forms, such as dance, drag, comics, video, sculpture, game-design, robotics, music, and more are encouraged to apply with projects in any stage of development. Artists do not need to have experience in puppet theater or puppetry, but must show in their application how puppetry, puppet-manipulation or object-manipulation (i.e. moving an object through space in live performance) is an essential component of the proposed project. Chicago Puppet Lab is a collaborative environment where artists create work. Artists interested in supporting one-another’s work through conversation and critique should apply.

Eligible Projects

This program is intended for the development of works of live puppetry to be shown in a theater. Artists may apply with projects in any stage of development. Puppetry is inherently interdisciplinary, and we are especially excited to support projects that push the boundaries of puppetry. Proposed projects can include pre-recorded elements, but should be primarily live performances. Artists are encouraged to apply with original scripts or devised projects rather than restaging existing scripts. Proposed works should be designed for the stage rather than community-based, promenade, spectacle, or classroom settings.

Commitment from Artists

Accepted artists commit to attending weekly sessions of the Lab in Chicago and presenting their work in progress as part of a final showing open to the public.

Weekly sessions will take place in-person at the Fine Arts Building (410 S Michigan Ave, Suite 433) in downtown Chicago on Monday evenings from 6pm-9pm. Select sessions may be held virtually or at other locations around the city.

Works-In-Progress showings will take place on May 29 – June 1, 2025 in Chicago, venue and times TBD. Artists and any collaborators (puppeteers, musicians, etc.) should expect to participate in technical rehearsals and meetings in advance of the showings.

Health and Safety

Activities will be in person in Chicago, barring future public-health restrictions. Local mandates at the time of activities will be followed. Virtual connection will be used as needed to respond to health and safety.

Important Dates for 2024-25

Application opens: May 30, 2024

Application deadline: MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2024 AT MIDNIGHT CST

Fall sessions: Monday evenings, October 21 – December 16, 2024

Festival: January 15 – 26, 2025

Spring sessions: Mondays February 10  – May 5, 2025

Works-in-Progress Rehearsal: May 12 – May 19, 2025

Works-in-Progress Tech: May 19 – 23, 2025

Works-in-Progress Showings: May 29 – June 1, 2025

Selection Criteria and Process

Proposals are reviewed by a selection committee composed of leaders in the field of puppetry from outside of Chicago, in addition to the co-directors. The committee looks for projects that show a unique artistic voice, urgent subject-matter, formal experimentation, and interdisciplinary collaboration. Not every project needs to be equally strong in all of these respects. The Lab is a cohort-based project, so we are looking for a mix of projects and artists who will compliment one another’s strengths.

How to Apply

Applications for the Next Puppet Lab Cohort — Now Open!

The form will ask you to fill out basic contact info, link to work samples, and upload a resume, written project proposal, and image of your proposed project. In order to submit your application, you will need: 

One PDF, including: 

  • Your resume 
  • A written project proposal (500 words, pdf or word doc)

Briefly describe the project you intend to complete during the program. Tell us if this is a new project or the development of existing work. Describe how you hope to grow as an artist by developing this project in the program. Describe the puppetry style or styles you hope to incorporate into the performance of this piece.  Live puppetry is an essential part of every application project.

  • Images of your proposed project (1 pg)

Give us a visual sense of your proposed project. You can include sketches, in-progress designs, production documentation, or images of other projects that you have completed that communicate the vision for your proposed project. We encourage you to show images that you drew, even if they’re stick figures. The strongest images are those made in the artist’s hand that show the form of the proposed puppets, rather than inspiration photos or images from outside sources.

  • Previous work samples (1pg)

Share one page of previous work that gives us a sense of your style and the skills you will bring to your Lab project. Your work sample can include writing or images. You may also include links to video or sound files. 


Contact with questions or if you have trouble submitting your application.