Chicago Puppet Lab Application

Welcome to The Chicago Puppet Lab!

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is excited to announce The Chicago Puppet Lab, a developmental lab for Chicago artists creating new, original puppet theater work. Co-Directors Blair Thomas and Tom Lee will mentor a small cohort of artists/artist groups over an 8-month period culminating in a mini-festival of works-in-progress.

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 a small cohort of artists or artist groups for an 8-month, in person laboratory process led by Puppet Lab Co-Directors: Blair Thomas and Tom Lee. 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 Work-in-Progress Showings ~15-20 minutes in length at a Chicago location TBD. 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 $350.

Eligible Projects

Artists may apply with projects in any stage of development. This program is intended for the development of live works for theatrical presentation. 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 laboratory and to presenting their work-in-progress within the cohort and as part of a final showing open to the public.

Weekly sessions will take place in-person at the Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago on Monday evenings from roughly 6-9pm. Exact timing for Monday evening sessions will be determined based on the needs of the cohort.

Work-in-progress showings will take place on June 3-4 & 10-11, 2022 in Chicago, venue and times TBD. Artists should expect to participate in technical rehearsals and meetings in advance of the showing and in the showing itself.

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 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 need not 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.


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.

Health and Safety

*** Vaccination for COVID-19 is a requirement for participants of the program with the exception of individual health circumstances. The weekly meetings and final showing will be in person in Chicago, barring future public-health restrictions. Virtual connection will be used as needed to respond to health and safety.

Selection Criteria and Process

Artists will be selected to participate in the puppet lab based on the strength of their proposed project. The selection committee, led by the co-directors, will evaluate each application, looking for projects that have the potential to expand contemporary puppetry through the artist’s unique voice, urgent subject-matter, formal experimentation, and/or interdisciplinary collaboration.

Important Dates

Application deadlin:e
EXTENDED: Monday, September 13, 2021

Accepted artists notified Mid-September

First session Monday October 25

Fall sessions Every Monday, October 25 – December 20

Break Dec 20, 2021 – Jan 3, 2022

Festival Jan 20-30, 2022

Spring sessions Feb 7 – May 30

Work-in-Progress Showings June 3-4 & 10-11, 2022

How to Apply

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. Here is a PDF preview of the application form.

In order to submit your application, you will need:

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 (1-2 pages, .jpg or .pdf format)

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.

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

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