"Puppet Hub" Exhibitions

In addition to opening night parties, two spectacle productions, and a film screening in the Fine Arts Building’s Studebaker Theater, the Chicago Puppet Festival will activate the 4th floor of the historic building, expanding beyond its current footprint of office, education, puppet fabrication and performance spaces, to create a “Puppet Hub” bursting with an exciting slate of site-specific events and exhibits. Check into MOTEL, a puppet show that doesn’t move, created by Dan Hurlin. Or, stop in at the Spoke & Bird Pop-Up Cafe serving coffee, tea, winter soups and baked treats in a cozy, puppet-inspired setting. Next door to the cafe, explore Vancouver, an exhibit showcasing the original storyboards, puppet characters, and miniature sets and props designed and crafted by the Chicago Puppet Studio for the made-for-film puppet theater collaboration with Ma-Yi Theater Company. In addition, The Puppet Hub will be the host site for two exhibitions, "American Puppet Theater Today: The Photography of Richard Termine" and "The Art of Basil Twist."


By Dan Hurlin

Motel consists of a half-scale cheap motel room built inside a wooden touring crate. A woman sits on the edge of a bed, staring at the floor. In addition to motel room props like packaged mini-soap and plastic cups wrapped in cellophane, the room is also littered with quotidian objects that create the suggestion of a bleak, foreboding narrative. The soundscape includes crickets, dogs barking, trucks rumbling by, backdrops to the droning sound of Nixon testifying in front of a grand jury during Watergate, or the January 6th congressional hearings, depending on the day of your visit. Art Spiel called Motel “a world-class contemporary art installation…so magical and odd…The entire experience is mesmerizing and tantalizing.”

Puppeteer and sculptor Dan Hurlin explains “a motel is a liminal space, situated inconclusively between a departure and an arrival. It is a way station between what happened before, and what happens next. Far less brutal than Trump’s vision for our Southern border, a motel is a temporary detention center of sorts (albeit a voluntary one), where the inhabitants hold up and wait with eager anticipation for the future, or a fearful dread of it.”

Dan Hurlin received a 1990 Village Voice Obie award for his solo adaptation of Nathanael West’s A Cool Million, and in 1998, he was nominated for an American Theater Wing Design award for his set design for his music theater piece The Shoulder. His suite of puppet pieces Everyday Uses for Sight: Nos. 3 & 7 (2000) earned him a 2001 New York Dance and Performance award, and his piece Hiroshima Maiden was given an Obie award for music by Robert Een and received a UNIMA-USA Citation of Excellence. Other works include Disfarmer (2009), premiered at St. Ann’s Warehouse, and Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed (2016) premiered at Bard Summerscape Festival. Currently, he is working on a new project entitled Bismark

Presented with support from Cheryl Henson.

American Puppet Theater Today: The Photography of Richard Termine

Presented by the Jim Henson Foundation

New York-based photographer Richard Termine has documented American puppet theater for over 30 years. Termine’s work captures the animated gesture of the puppet in still images. Over 100 images and objects in this exhibition, including photographs of Jim Henson at work, illustrate the dynamic range of puppet theater being created by a vibrant community of artists in the New York City area, as well as some of the excellent work presented at national puppet festivals across the United States. 

A special section, “Puppetry During the Pandemic,” celebrates resilient puppet artists who continued to create and perform new work over the past two years.

Presented with support from Cheryl Henson.

The Art of Basil Twist

As seen by Richard Termine, presented by Tandem Artist Productions

Photographer Richard Termine’s keen eye zooms in on the exceptional work of one of the United States’ most prolific and versatile puppeteers, festival artist Basil Twist.

Presented with support from Cheryl Henson.


Presented by the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival’s Chicago Puppet Studio

See the the original storyboards, the cast of puppet characters, and the miniature sets and props designed and crafted by the Chicago Puppet Studio for Vancouver, the multi-award winning, made-for-film puppet theater  collaboration initiated in 2020 by Ma-Yi Theater Company, in association with The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, and directed by Ralph B. Peña.

Chicago Puppet Festival Pop-Up Cafe

Presented by Spoke & Bird Cafe and the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

Take a break between the many Puppet Hub shows and exhibits in this puppet-inspired pop-up cafe inside the Fine Arts Building, or just pop in to meet fellow puppetry enthusiasts for coffee, tea, winter soups and baked treats.