21 October 2014

New Zealand Workshop announced for 2015

Four-days in New Zealand' - an intensive puppetry workshop, presented by Gary Friedman, is scheduled to take place at Kawai Purapura Retreat Centre, Albany in Auckland, New Zealand to share skills and life experience. The workshop will take place from Thursday 9 to Sunday 12 April 2015.

The Participants
The workshop is designed for puppeteers, animators, school educators, drama & psychotherapists, community workers, theatre practitioners, as well as anyone interested in using the puppet to communicate a message to change their world.

The Content

This workshop teaches puppetry skills with an emphasis on skilful story telling and delivering a message using the most subtle and basic elements of breath, movement and characterisation, with minimal need for words. This tool is therefore ideal to work across any language, culture or age group.

For more information and bookings for this unique opportunity, go to the website page here!

7 July 2014

Bust the Budget Protest in Australia

The 'Abbott Puppet' took to the streets in all the captial cities of Australia yesterday for a 'Bust the Budget' protest against the Prime Minister's new clamp down on the Australian economy. 'Tony Abbott is making life harder for people,' one of the protesters said. 'He's making life a misery for people who are unemployed and searching for work.'

The anti-budget rally in Canberra featured a three-metre Tony Abbott puppet with smoke coming out of his trousers.  Several hundred protesters converged on the lawns in front of Parliament House and chanted 'One term Tony' and 'Liar, Liar, Pants of Fire' at the puppet. The giant 'Abbott' was built by Canberra-based artist, Hilary Talbot and performed by local puppeteer Matt Armstrong.

This comes hot on the heels on my own recent return from a world filming trip for our upcoming documentary film 'The Puppet and The Power'. More information on this will follow shortly, so stay tuned to our website here!

30 April 2014

Weekend Storytelling & Paper Workshop in Melbourne

We are excited to announce a brand new ‘Weekend Storytelling and Paper Workshop’ in Melbourne from 1 - 3 August 2014 -  A weekend of pure play, inspiration and creativity!

The workshop, for teenagers and adults, is being run by master-puppeteer and facilitator, Gary Friedman and will focus on the art of storytelling, using the medium of paper, movement and sound.

We take storytelling and improvisational performance to the most elaborate ends. This workshop is ideal for teachers, therapists, artists, story tellers, community workers, and lovers of play!

This once-a-year weekend workshop will begin on Friday 1st August from 5pm and will run until Sunday 3rd August 2014 at the Batesford Hub in Chadstone, Victoria.  There are restricted spaces available, so book now!  To view examples of this workshop, click here and here!
Bookings and more information, click here!

23 April 2014

Off to meet Roger Law...

In an interview at the AGI Open last year, Roger Law spoke about his satirical British television show "Spitting Image" and his visit to ZA News studios in Cape Town. Roger Law is an artist, caricaturist and one half of Luck and Flaw, with Peter Fluck, creators of the satirical television puppet series in the eighties and nineties, Spitting Image.

Many countries around the world have since created their own spin-off versions of the satirical programme, such as South Africa's ZA News, which recently I visited at the launch of our recent documentary film shoot in January.

I am now off to shoot many other inspiring puppeteers around the world working in puppetry and politics. In fact I'll be even interviewing Roger Law at the Cartoon Museum in London next month, where a thirtieth anniversary exhibition of 'Spitting Image' is currently running.

So my upcoming adventure starts next week. I firstly visit  'The XYZ Show' in Nairobi, Kenya. The wonderful puppeteers working on the series were my former-puppetry students in the nineties, when we ran puppetry training workshops in East Africa. The company has also recently created a Nigerian Web Television Series, 'OGAS at The Top'

Following Kenya, I shall be filming in the Middle East and Europe. We have many fascinating interviews and performances lined up along the way. Our documentary film, 'The Puppet and The Power' shall feature some controversial and powerful political figures, both of puppet and human variety, discussing and demonstrating how the puppet is being used to criticise the world's powers, in some often extremely dangerous situations. So stay tuned for updates!

21 March 2014

The Puppets and The Power and World Puppetry Day

As you now already know, today is World Puppetry Day! What does that mean for puppeteers in the world today?

It really gives us a chance to take our art onto the streets, into the theatres and onto the screens of television sets and social media screens to tell people about the profound power of the puppet and its ability to touch people all over the world, as they have done for thousands of years.

Many years ago, growing up in Apartheid South Africa, during the seventies, I realised to my great frustration, that my personal voice of self-expression had been removed by the power of fear instilled into me by the government’s propaganda and fear campaign. The people who protested, were being severely beaten or sprayed with purple dye through large water canons by the police and being arrested. Like so many of my contemporaries, fleeing the country at the time, I felt powerless. 

Only after being exposed to university life, did I realise that there could be another, possibly safer way to express myself. I had already been a puppeteer for most of my life, but living in such isolation, I was not exposed much to the outside world. In the early nineteen-eighties, after having travelled for the first time to festivals abroad, I decided to create my own South African version of the infamous Punch and Judy Show and take that into the streets of Cape Town to test the waters of socio-political expression through the use of the puppet. 

Even though I got beaten up several times during the eighties for my street performances, I realised that the power of the puppet to discuss issues that normal people could not, was immense and it had the ability to make people laugh at themselves and their situation. This ‘humour’ became the key in opening up the minds and hearts of the audience and thus the ‘interactive communication’ began.

Nowadays, many decades later, things have not changed that much. In many countries governments still try to suppress people’s freedom to express their political outrage at corruption and atrocities being perpetuated by the power of the day. My recent feelings, living in “first-world” Australia have been to get the puppet back onto the streets to ‘speak out’, but alas speaking out has officially been banned where I now live in Australia (see articles here and here). 

And it’s now a very different, more sophisticated world of social media, filling the void and providing on-the-ground information where the national press won’t dare to tread. This was the inspiration to make a documentary film and look at the ‘puppet’ in its naivety and look at the role its played throughout the world as court jester, while at the same time information provider about what’s really going on in our world.

Last year, while travelling around Europe conducting workshops, I met up with two special ladies in France, who are coordinating a rather unique conference on 'PUPPETRY AND POWER:  CENSORSHIP, PROPAGANDA AND RESISTANCE', which will take place in Charleville-Mézières, France, from 20 to 22 November 2014. I was invited to be part of the Scientific Commission in coordinating this rather unique conference. My idea was also to make a documentary film to illustrate, in the best way possible, how puppeteers in many oppressed regimes, can once again speak out against The Power!

Stay tuned for updates as I embark on an international film shoot through Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

UNIMA Message for World Puppetry Day 2014

Afghan company / Foto: DP.

Today 21 March 2014 is World Puppetry Day. Tomorrow is the opening of the UNIMA Councilors meeting and festival which will take place in Varadero, Cuba.

As you probably know, each year, UNIMA invites a different guest puppeteer, director , someone important to our art to deliver a message to the world's puppetry community. This year we feature Argentine Master Eduardo Di Mauro, currently living in Venezuela. His company, TEMPO, and the Latin-American Institute of the Puppet, now directed by Maritza Peña, are based in Guanare and may well serve as models for the world of puppetry.

"The puppet draws its origins from one of the most primitive and original forms of art: the play, not the representation of the sacred, as it was sometimes understood. Puppetry is born from a genre of performance that is objective, spontaneous, transparent, naturally becoming increasingly complex as it has adopted various forms and contents.

Due to its transgressive nature, the puppet has been feared and persecuted by kings, emperors, emirates, czars and every other kind of abusive power, since this character of wood and cloth, however lovable and picturesque, is at the same time the carrier of a keen talent for condemnation and criticism, able to use sarcasm, irony and humour with talent, rhythm and biting effect.

Perhaps the period in life when we best identify with this age-old art is adolescence, because that is when young people are carriers of this same energy embroidered with a certain passionate irresponsibility, reacting with the same ardour to whatever they admire, judge or criticize. Perhaps that explains why it’s the young who take a stand and aim their darts at the worldwide media who turn the essential into the banal and make excuses for the worthless.

For many decades our theatre has dedicated a good part of its efforts to the teenagers, promulgating themes that interest them, encouraging them to use puppets to express what moves and concerns them. So of course they themselves bring up taboo subjects like violence, the Mafia, alcoholism, corruption, child pregnancy, loneliness and others which they confront with candour and irreverence.

Puppetry is able, and should be able, to inspire their creativity, through reading, study, research and experiment with new forms, in a search for beauty and harmony in their productions, never forgetting that their relationship with puppet theatre must involve compromise.

Speaking of compromise, a word of many meanings and definitions, I am reminded of our responsibility to understand our real place in the world, what is our position when faced with the multiple examples of the abuse of power in the heart of today’s society – who are today’s kings, where the emperors, the sheikhs. Today they are not to be found seated on a throne adorned with finely wrought precious stones, they prefer to be where nobody can see them distinctly. They possess means of communication which they can reveal or conceal at their pleasure. This kind of king is a thing of a thousand heads, it is neo-liberalism corrupted and savage; these czars, they are the multi-national corporations which inflate their profits and their power, but care nothing about the destruction of the planet and the destruction of lives.

Puppeteers of the whole world, let us confront cruelty, inequality and injustice. Using the infinite variety of techniques and aesthetics to give form to that most expressive of personalities - the puppet - and endowing it with the most fiery language, let us denounce them and demonstrate to them with an admonitory finger how these young people, branded as lacking in ambition, are striving for the development of a better, more humane world."

Eduardo di Mauro 2014
Teatro Tempo

9 February 2014

High-tech ART with a sense of humour

"Expressing emotion and behaviour patterns in the creatures we create" sounds like the words of a puppeteer, not an artist working with purely with technology to achieve an effect. But where do art and technology actually meet and is this just another form of puppetry too?

One example of this installation is - 'A viewer sort of unsuspectingly walks into the room, and catches a glimpse of a group of panels in a messy composition on the wall. Within seconds, as if the panels have noticed the presence of the viewer, they appear to panic and sort of get into a strict symmetry. So this is the sketch of the two states. One is total chaos. The other is absolute order.'
'So a viewer enters the space, and they snap to attention. And after a while, if the viewer continues to remain in the space, the panels will sort of become immune to the presence of the viewer and become lax and autonomous again, until they sort of sense a presence in the room or a movement, when they will again snap to attention.'

Artist and TED Fellow Aparna Rao re-imagines the familiar in surprising, often humorous ways. With her collaborator Soren Pors, Rao creates high-tech art installations — a typewriter that sends emails, a camera that tracks you through the room only to make you invisible on screen — that put a playful spin on ordinary objects and interactions.
It's best to view Aparna's TED Talks on their site; 'Art that craves your attention' here and the second talk, 'High-tech art (with a sense of humour)' here!

8 February 2014

Quick start for new year of change

Bishop Desmond Tutu with his alter egos Tutu & Tata on ZA News

My sincere apologies for taking so long to post something on this blog! I can explain. We arrive home, after spending six weeks catching up with family and friends in South Africa, to an eviction notice. The house we are living in, here in Melbourne, is being chopped down in a few short weeks. This means we have to find alternative accommodation really soon. So, as you can imagine, the past few weeks have been spent driving around the town 'house hunting'. We're slowly getting there, but that still means the long pack-up and move has to begin very soon.

But let me tell you about Africa - the dark continent. Besides entertaining my two little boys, which was a full-time job, I did get to start shooting a documentary film on 'Puppetry and Politics' for the international conference of the same name, which is scheduled to take place 20-22 November in Charleville-Mezieres in France.

Some of the wonderful artists whom I recently interviewed in South Africa, all working in puppetry related to politics in some way were Thierry Casuto, producer of ZA News, Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones from Handspring Puppet CompanyCindy Mkaza, head of UNIMA South Africa, Janni Younge from Handspring, Aja Marneweck, who directs puppetry productions and runs workshops internationally and Conrad Koch, with his ventriloquist puppet Chester. Conrad has his own TV show, where he interviews local politicians and sends up the political highs and lows in South Africa.
If anyone is interested in attending the conference in late-November in France, please do get in touch.

Handspring's A Midsummer Night’s Dream now on!

For the first time since the triumph of War Horse, Bristol Old Vic's Artistic Director Tom Morris and Handspring Puppet Company reunite to realise one of Shakespeare’s most popular and fantastical plays 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' which is now running at the Barbican Theatre until 15 February 2014. If you'd like to view some of the images from the production, click here!  If you going to be anywhere in the UK during this period, don't miss it!

Daily Battles in Shadows and Film

I can watch this beautifuly made film over and over again and never get bored! Daily Battles is a collaboration beween two artists, a paper artist and a film maker. Béatrice Coron developed a language of storytelling by papercutting multi-layered stories.

Upon seeing her TED presentation film of 2011, I actually was hoping that the camera would zoom into her silouttes to reveal the tiniest treasures hidden in the detail. Film maker, James Steward, was obviously thinking exactly the same thing.

They met up after the paper artist, Beatrice Coron did a presentation at TED in March 2011. The results are unusual and exciting, showing the incredible potential for collaboration between arts practitioners emerging from two almost diametrically opposed sources.

Their combined work, Daily Battles' was premiered at the 2013 TED Conference in Long Beach, California.
You can read an interview with Artist Béatrice Coron and Filmmaker James Stewart in two parts, here and here.
But most importantly, you should view the original inspiring TED Talk of 2011, in which Béatrice first inspired the world, here!