Chicago Puppet Lab

Announcing the First Cohort of Chicago Puppet Lab Artists!

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival has launched a new program, The Chicago Puppet Lab, a developmental lab for Chicago artists creating new, original puppet theater work. Co-Directors Blair Thomas and Tom Lee mentor a small cohort of artists/artist groups over an 8-month period culminating in a public presentation of works-in-progress. When the application process reopens in summer, updates will be shared here. Scroll down for more information.

We are pleased to announce the very first cohort of artists who applied and were accepted into this new initiative:

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