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

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Presented by the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, sponsored by UNIMA-USA:

Ellen Van Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium: Book Talks

Friday, January 19: at 5 pm
Author Colette Searls
: A Galaxy of Things: The Power of Puppets and Masks in Star Wars and Beyond
A Galaxy of Things explores the ways in which all puppets, masks, makeup-prosthetic figures are “material characters,” using iconic Star Wars characters like Yoda and R2-D2 to illustrate what makes them so compelling.

Tuesday, January 23: at 5 pm
Author Dr. Paulette Richards:
Object Performance in the Black Atlantic
Given that slaveholders prohibited the creation of African-style performing objects, is there a traceable connection between traditional African puppets, masks, and performing objects, and contemporary African American puppetry? This study approaches the question by looking at the whole performance complex surrounding African performing objects and examines the material culture of object performance.

Friday, January 26: at 4:30 pm
Author Dr. Claudia Orenstein: Reading the Puppet Stage: Reflections on the Dramaturgy of Performing Objects

Drawing on the author’s two decades of seeing, writing on, and teaching about puppetry from a critical perspective, this book offers a collection of insights into how we watch, understand, and appreciate puppetry.

Moderated by Dassia N. Posner

Saturday, January 27: at 4:30 pm
Authors Dr. Claudia Orenstein & Tim Cusack:
Puppet and Spirit: Ritual, Religion, and Performing Objects
The relationship between human consciousness and the material world raises ontological questions about the nature of reality itself. In The Puppet and Spirit asks “What is the ontological nature of a supposed spirit perceived as acting through objects?”


More about the Symposium:

The Ellen Van Volkenburg Puppetry Symposium brings together practicing Festival artists with scholars to consider the intersection of puppetry with other disciplines and ideas. Before 1912, the year the Little Theater of Chicago was founded in the historic Fine Arts Building, the term “puppeteer” did not even exist. Little Theater director Ellen Van Volkenburg needed a program credit for the actors she had trained to manipulate marionettes while speaking the text of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and she coined the word “puppeteer.” That marked the dawn of the movement that has brought us to the rich art form now practiced around the world.

This year’s Symposium will feature Festival Artists on four different artist panels discussing the materiality of the puppet in both theory and practice. It also features book talks by puppet scholars of four new U.S. publications released this year. Mexican-American writer, artist and philosopher, Manuel DeLanda calls for a new materialism noting that by splitting the supposedly indivisible atom, modern physics has demolished the tangible solidity on which Aristotle defined the “real.” Taking “material images of humans, animals, or spirits that are created, displayed, or manipulated in narrative or dramatic performance,” as performing objects in anthropologist and folklorist Frank Proschan’s terms, the theme of the Symposium series will move from materialism to material performance, to material characters, to the actual material of the puppet asking, what is it made of and how is it made while looking at what the design and the materials enable object performance to express about material existence.

Event Details

Friday, January 19 at 5:00 pm
Tuesday, January 23 at 5:00 pm
Friday, January 26 at 4:30 pm
Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 pm

Location: Fine Arts Building Little Studio, 7th Floor, 410 S. Michigan Ave.

Cost: FREE 

Running Time: 60 mins

ADA Accessible? Yes

Sponsored by UNIMA-USA