File puptcrit/puptcrit.0707, message 251

To: <>
Date: Sat, 28 Jul 2007 15:44:18 -0400
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] A Question re: puppetry and racial problems

Hi Alan.Great topic.
I 'm not black as far as I know, but I'm human, and that is the only real 

I once read that Race was scientifically proven wrong as a concept, when 
they did genetic compatibility testing.
When the researchers found out a white person in the americas could have 
better genetic compatibility with an aborigne person on another continent 
than with his own ethnic group back home, they had to question the very 
foundation of the concept of race. Sorry, I cannot remember where I read the 
article, it was many years ago.
We are all human, that should be enough.

I'm apparently white, although I know of a few ancestors who brought variety 
into my creation. I'm a mix of at least French, British, Scotish and native 
american. My great grandfather, whom I knew, looked just like a movie 
sterotype "indian chief" made even more authentic by his strange speech 
caused by lack of teeth in his advanced age. I would love to learn more 
about my ancestry, perhaps someday I will get into genealogy, or hire 
someone to dig. It's a fascinating subject to know where we come from.

Two years ago, I saw a "white" collegue perform a short piece of puppetry, 
using a puppet she created herself.
At first glance, I got worried for her, because the puppet was obviously a 
black creole woman, and she looked ridiculously deformed in the face, with 
buck teeth and exagerated everything else, the whole thing brought together 
a stupid-looking gaze. But, as she performed, I realised that her puppet 
wasn't just what she looked like, as is the case with humans.  I knew the 
performer was a traveler who enjoyed cultural variety, to the point of 
learning their language when she got imersed in their cultures. She speaks 
at least 5 languages, and a few dialects of each. That included creole, and 
she sung it wonderfully. Her puppet was loved by everyone in the room, and I 
learned a great lesson that night.

For a long time before that, I was affraid of creating puppets of another 
"race" than my apparent white, affraid of raising protest if I ended up with 
a stereotype. Then from life experiences I learned that even the most 
exagerated caricature could still be non-insulting. I learned also that 
there will always be complainers, no matter what backgrounds. And it's seen 
as acceptable for a person to mock his own "race", however mean the mocking 
may get. Coming from anybody of any background, I consider racist comments 
to be hurtful and uncalled for, even if I consider race as an obsolete 

Today I'm all ready for creating puppets of any background, and will make 
sure to get full with visual references, but have yet to get a contract 
enabling me to. Next chance I get to build a puppet for myself, I'll give it 
a go.  I console myself with the fact that I create many creatures, and in 
that category, species and styles and vocal accents intermingle freely for 
the enjoyment of all. I probably won't ever get any protest from an orange 
or polka dot skinned audience member. Then again, you never know...

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Alan Cook" <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, July 28, 2007 12:44 PM
Subject: [Puptcrit] A Question re: puppetry and racial problems 
(opportunity/oppression/politically incorrectness/who is blacker than whom)

>I was sorry to hear that the California African American Museum in 
>Exposition Park, Los Angeles decided not to have a Ralph Chesse 
>retrospective exhibit---it could have shed light on past problems in 
>American History.
> I would appreciate any comments from African American puppeteers about 
> financial survival in puppetry, if any challenges came up, etc. Any 
> comments on puppetry as a means of addressing social/racial problems in 
> our culture also welcome.
> I am considering an essay from puppetry aspects. What is a stereotype 
> puppet, what is a folk art puppet (the two different categories have been 
> confused in the past), what is a non-stereotype puppet?
> All related thoughts welcome.
> As previously mentioned, while installing the puppet exhibit at St Paul 
> Central Public Library in June 2007, an African American library patron 
> expressed pleasure that the exhibit INCLUDED 2 Black Puppets.
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