File puptcrit/puptcrit.0810, message 73

Date: Sat, 4 Oct 2008 16:25:05 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] academic actor training programs

I have to say, I second the motion that panels on puppetry education would be totally thrilling and one more reason to attend festivals. Since starting teaching puppetry at NYU in the Tisch School of Arts, I've begun creating my own dialogue with other puppetry education professionals regarding principles and priorities of the education of college age performers. There are only so many who are really dedicated to teaching puppetry at universities and seeing it not as a diversion from one's art or even a supplement for that matter, but another art within the former. Most recently I was at the PIF festival in Zagreb, Croatia and was super-fortunate to sit down with Madam Niculescu who was on the festival jury to ask her how to be a better teacher of puppetry. She was so enlightening and talking with her about puppetry made my heart swell within me. She broke down the process of performing puppetry and lined it up with the process of training a performer.
 She highlighted never leaving any one student out and the importance of creating a group feeling. She also stressed the importance of working with objects rather than relying on illustrative storytelling. It was fascinating and important for me to hear because my class at NYU has been sold out and my courses are growing at a quantum rate which is incredibly exciting because the school is one of the top arts schools in the world and has never made a commitment to teaching puppetry regularly or intently in the art school. And relaying back to the previous dialogues, my students come from all backgrounds, drama therapy, musical theater, film production, art history, children's television, etc. Reaching so many people from diverse backgrounds at one of the biggest art schools in the nation and getting to teach puppetry has become a passion for me and I need other people I can talk to about it who not only do not think it makes me a lesser puppeteer but
 rather see its importance in my life, in the life of the form, and the nuances of the task. 

--- On Sun, 9/28/08, Dorlis Grubidge <> wrote:

> From: Dorlis Grubidge <>
> Subject: [Puptcrit] academic actor training programs
> To:
> Date: Sunday, September 28, 2008, 1:03 AM
> After being a student in a well known actor training program
> with a modest puppet class, being a doctoral student in a
> well known theatre/drama program with absolutely no
> allowance for puppetry, being a faculty member in a general
> theatre program where there was support for puppetry and
> spending several years tracking American college and
> university theatre programs which include puppetry -- I have
> great interest and experience in the actor/puppeteer
> dichotomy.
> Although I grew up not far from Alan Cook, I do not
> remember seeing any puppet shows in So. Cal.  I know that I
> attended a show at The Turnabout Theatre but do not remember
> the puppet part of the show.  I was completely uninterested
> in the puppet class at the U of Washington.  I was totally
> focused on being an actress.
> While doing research for my doctorate I picked up the UNIMA
> book (first one) and my thinking about THEATRE changed --
> that book showed some of the creativity possible.  From then
> on I worked and taught theatre as a continuum from the
> natural human actor, through makeup, masks, and the endless
> possibilities we call puppetry. Our puppetry courses at UWO
> included the history, international scope and aesthetics for
> everyone who took the course regardless of their major or
> proposed future uses for puppetry.  We also integrated
> puppets into human actor plays, where appropriate, and,
> conversely, used human actors in puppet shows -- whatever
> worked.
> One of my major frustrations was that other academic
> theatre programs continued their exclusion of puppetry.  One
> professor from a major university told me that universities
> might think differently about puppets "if they ever do
> anything important."  University faculty tend to teach
> what they feel safe with -- what they learned in their
> undergraduate or graduate programs or the subjects of their
> dissertations.  Graduate students are usually discouraged
> from pursuing puppetry related topics for dissertations
> because of feared prejudice by a major professor or
> dissertation committee.
> Going through the curricula of hundreds of colleges and
> universities, I found few puppetry courses and fewer
> programs of any consequence.  Worst of all, if the
> institution suffers any financial problems, the puppetry
> classes are the first to go. 
> Mark Segal writes of the failure of actor training programs
> to include puppetry, mask work, etc.. -- perhaps one of the
> projects for P of A or UNIMA  is to include faculty from
> academic theatre programs to participate in festivals, to be
> on panel discussions and to expose them to the excellent 
> productions.  
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