31 August 2015

Producing new online Puppetry Tutorials

A series of new tutorials and workshop films are currently in production for our new website, Puppetry Films. These films, in both the paid and free sections, are being developed by our tutors across the globe to cater to the requests by puppeteers and students who have indicated, in a recent survey that their specifixc interests include: The Fundamentals of Puppetry; Bringing a puppet to life for the first time; Glove puppetry; marionette theatre; directing for the Puppet Theatre; Puppetry for TV construction and Puppetry for TV manipulation and directing. If you are interested by any of the above topics, click here to complete the Puppetry Films survey online.

If you have not yet visited our new website, do so today. We have a new Spotlight featuring the life and work of the German shadow puppetry film animator, Lotte Reiniger here.
If you have any special requests for material that you would like to contribute or be featured, you can contact the editor here!

13 August 2015

Call for Puppets for Peace and Diversity from Iran

The International Puppet and Doll Museum first opened it's doors in Tehran, in September 2014 to mark the occasion of International Day of Peace. Peace provides equal opportunities for individuals when the prevailing cultural and social environment recognizes and respects the diversity of its people.

The museum is now calling for puppet builders and doll makers from around the world to send their puppets/dolls as peace ambassadors in an exhibit that will begin in Tehran and later tour throughout the country, bring their artists' message of peace to Iran.

The doll artists and puppet makers are invited to create puppets with the theme “Peace, Diversity, and Understanding” in a diversified cultural, linguistic, ethnic/racial, gender, physical and/or psychological, age, and social context. The doll and puppet makers may also portray in their artwork the challenges faced by the vulnerable populations such as the disabled, immigrants, refugees, the homeless, ethnic or religious minorities, the elderly, prisoners, street children and women in crisis.

The artists are required to write their peace message in English and their native language to accompany their submitting doll or puppet. The artist should include resume and specifications of the submitting piece.

Deadline for Submission: 1 October 2015.

You are kindly asked to forward this call to everyone who might be interested in participating in this project. You can find their website is here and FaceBook page here.
Contact Poupak Azimpour here!

9 August 2015

Puppetry Films portal officially launched

We are proud to announce the launch of a brand new web portal housing, Puppetryfilms.com containing:

• puppetry tutorials

• workshops

• documentaries
• theatrical puppetry

• stop motion animation
• puppetry film archive

Many of us today want to watch films and new media online. However, I believe there is far too much information available to wade through before we discover that jewel which makes the long sorting and research process worthwhile.

I have often been asked about a global portal for puppetry films. It’s taken a long time to get it all together but I see it as a developing process, which we will undertake to house high-quality films under a single banner.

The website is being coordinated by three puppeteer-film makers: Steven Ritz-Barr from Los Angeles; Mathieu René from Montreal and Gary Friedman from Melbourne.

More specifically Ritz-Barr will be looking at theatrical puppetry on film; René will be running the tutorial and workshop section and Friedman will focus on documentary film.

Film makers, animators and puppetry-film producers are invited to showcase their work (free and paid content) under our banner and find a larger dedicated market. This will make their work more accessible to the entire puppetry, arts, education and animation communities.

Under our Free Content we shall collate and post new films, as they are discovered and reported to us.

Under our Paid Content our film rentals and purchases will be available for in-depth content and professional development materials.

Send us your films and ideas today!  Watch our films, spread the word to your friends and colleagues and together let’s make this new portal a global community resource. Namaste! 

21 June 2015

A visual theatrical treat on film

In two days, there will be a special cinematic event in the US. Visionary director/ puppeteer Julie Taymor, creator of 'The Lion King' will be screening her 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in select cinemas across the United States on 22 June. It looks like a visual spectacle, something of a mix between Cirque du Soleil, Phillippe Genty and Julie Taymor. To view the fantastic 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' trailer, click here.
For tickets and more information, click here!

7 June 2015

A Puppet's Essence in the Czech Republic

There's a very exciting summer masterclass woodcarving workshop, A Puppet's Essence, announced from 27 July to 2 August 2015 in the beautiful Czech countryside, near Prague. Over the period of seven days, the participants will complete a table top puppet, from your their own design through to its final form. A maximum 12 participants guarantees a personal approach from both of the tutors — internationally recognised puppet designer Mischa Bartonova and professional carver Jiri Helcel. They will provide the necessary guidance to assist participants with their concept using theory of archetypes, provide tips on hand-carving and most importantly ensure a great time along the way!

Michaela Bartonová is as well director of Tineola Puppet Theatre. Since 1999 she has launched 8 puppet plays for Tineola and has been cooperating with numerous European puppet theatres. Michaela teaches puppet design focusing on the aesthetic properties of puppets.  She has initiated, arranged and lectured in 'Communication through Puppets' and 'Puppet and Imagination'.

There is tons more information and beautiful photos of their work, on their website here and also more info on Misca's magical puppetry work here!

13 May 2015

Copenhagen Festival of Puppetry and Politics

After the recent social-media hype, the Copenhagen 'Puppetry in Politics Festival' finaly opens tomorrow. The festival headlines with 'Outpost' a new production by the renowned British company Green Ginger, which takes a subtle glance at politics, power, manipulation and evil.

Besides some great live theatre productions, there is also a symposium on puppetry in activism, voicing dissent and social commentary on Saturday 16 May, which features presentations by Mohsen Abolhassani from Iran on 'Puppets of Social Commentary'; Cariad Astles from the Central School of Speech and Drama, UK on 'Farting in the face of fear: dummies and dictators'; Claudia Orenstein from Hunter College, USA presenting 'Magic in our Hands' and Matt Smith from University of Portsmouth, UK on 'The Puppet as Witness: Inside and Outside Prison with Transgressive Objects', amongst others.

There is also a Film Festival featuring a few fascinating documentaries like 'Magic in our Hands' which follows a puppetry artist in Hyderabad in South India; 'Neighbourly', a local Danish film which blends documentary with puppet film; a few Scandinavian Animated short films and a few of my own documentaries from my work in Africa, including Puppets for Democracy, Puppets Against Aids in Kenya, Puppets in Prison and an updated version of Puppets Against Apartheid. You can view the full film program here.

All in all, the festival contains some fabulous events and the organisers deserve a great attendance, so if you are in Europe, it's well worth attending this week.  You can view a teaser of the UK production 'Outpost' here!

22 April 2015

The Puppet Centre, London, then and now..

For those who follow 'Puppetry News', you would have read about the terrible fire recently, that almost destroyed the home to Puppetry in the UK for so many years. Well the fascinating history of the Puppet Centre has been documented by founder of the British Puppet Centre, Penny Francis.

It begins a long time ago, in 1974, when some crazy puppet people got together and started the iconic institution. It looks at the very first Puppet Festival in March 1972, when performances were presented by the Little Angel Marionette Theatre (John Wright), Cap and Bells (Violet Philpott), Caricature Theatre of Wales (Jane Phillips), Cannon Hill Puppet Theatre (John Blundall), DaSilva Puppets, Theatre of Puppets (Barry Smith), Hogarth Puppets (Jan and Ann Bussell), Polka Children’s Theatre (Richard Gill) and Stage Three (Christine Glanville).

When I attended my very first International Puppet Festival in London in 1979, many of these companies were still performing. Penny remembers what she calls "The Monster Festival, ‘Puppet Theatre 79’, run by Jan Bussell and me with Helen Gundlach assisting and a committee that included the Guild and British UNIMA, was held in 16 venues across London (Sadler’s Wells was the biggest: they staged the St. Petersburg State Puppet Company). It was designed to increase the public’s appetite for good puppet theatre. Even the National Theatre staged an exhibition in its foyers and presented a show by Christopher Leith which would have been in the Cottesloe theatre had the builders and staff not been on strike."

Penny even goes on to describe another wonderful episode in the history of the Puppet Centre in 1987, when once again, I was privileged to be a student on an international masterclass "Puppet Centre held its second International Masterclass on ‘Text into Performance’ in Norwich Puppet Theatre, again led by Jurkowski and Niculescu, with support from Barry Smith and Ray DaSilva."
So the stories and memories are plentiful, for those interested in the more recent history of British puppetry and the role the Puppet Centre has played.

The posts are written in five chapters, which, if you'd like to read more are listed here: Part OnePart Two; Part Three; Part Four; Part Five; Part Six; and Part Seven.

7 April 2015

It's all starting up again next week, or is it?

'Newzoids' finally set to launch in the UK in a week

Are you old enough to remember the popular UK TV's political puppetry series, 'Spitting Image'? The famous political puppet series ran from 1984 to 1996 and was created by the two cartoonist masterminds, Peter Fluck and Roger Law. When I interviewed Roger Law in London last year, (for my latest documentary film - see below), he denied any personal involvement in the new series and didn't seem to know much about it.

Thirty years later, ITV’s new 'Spitting Image' style puppet satire Newzoids features the royal couple in a scene which has clearly been inspired by the pair, who run a bed and breakfast in Kent.  The Charles puppet is seen holding a remote control in one hand and a glass of white wine in the other while Camilla is cradling a dog while nursing a glass of red.  Of course, Charles and Camilla aren’t the only famous faces who’ve been immortalised.

Newzoids is a six-part series - a UK co-production for ITV between Citrus Television and Factory. The Series was commissioned by Director of Entertainment and Comedy for ITV, Elaine Bedell, and Claire Zolkwer, Commissioning Editor, Comedy Entertainment, ITV.

Featuring the voices of impressionists Jon Culshaw and Debra Stephenson, Newzoids’ groundbreaking mixture of low-tech traditional puppetry and state of the art animation puts a satirical and surreal spin on the stories and celebrities we read about every day.

In the world of Newzoids, anything can happen and no one in the public eye is safe from the Newzoids treatment. Amongst the roster of famous faces on the Newzoids roll call are Ant and Dec, Wayne Rooney, Beyonce, Harry Styles, Prince Harry, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg, Barack Obama, Russell Brand and Simon Cowell. I shall be following this new series with interest and report back on this soon!

Newzoid begins on ITV on Wednesday 15th April at 9pm.

With this said, I shall shortly be launching a crowd-funding campaign for my latest documentary film, 'The Puppet and The Power' which discusses the puppet as a political weapon in over twenty countries and I'd love you all to be involved. If you are prepared to assist me in publicising this campaign internationally and help get this film out there, kindly give me a shout and let me know by clicking here! It will be most appreciated.

26 March 2015

Ancient art of Bunraku gets a revamp

Bunraku Theatre in Osaka, Japan  (Photo: Britannica)

The ancient Japanese art of Bunraku puppet theatre, 'Ningyō Jōruri', began in Osaka more than three hundred years ago. Bunraku's history goes as far back to the turn of the 18th century when Uemura Bunrakuken came to Osaka from Awaji and began his own theatre.

The National Bunraku Theatre Troupe offers five or more seasons every year, each running for two to three weeks in Osaka before moving to Tokyo for a run at the National Theatre. The troupe also tours within Japan and occasionally abroad. Until the late 1800s there were also hundreds of other professional, semi-professional, and amateur troupes across Japan that performed traditional puppet drama. Nowadays, like many other forms of traditional theatre, it has become a dying art. But let's not give up hope quite yet. Bunraku is going through a rejuvenation program in Japan and is trying to re-invent itself for the younger generation. I discovered this short documentary (here) that shows what is being done to keep the form alive. Of course it has evolved and changed and is used nowadays by puppeteers throughout the world and adapted to different styles and texts, but what about the 'original' theatre of Bunraku?

The increase in interest in Bunraku puppetry contributed to the establishment of the first traditional Japanese puppet troupe in North America. Since 2003, Bunraku Bay Puppet Troupe, currently based at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, has performed at venues around the United States, including the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as in Japan.

Did you ever think you would see traditional Bunraku theatre perform at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro?  You can view a wonderful short report on the modernisation of Bunraku theatre here!

23 March 2015

New Website launched on 'World Puppetry Day'

Puppet creator for Les Guignols de L'info, Alain Duverne, in his Paris studio

After a really busy year, I am pleased to announce the launch of our new website, www.garyfriedmanproductions.com for 'World Puppetry Day' on Saturday.
This new site incorporates our previous site 'Puppetry News' and the Puppetry News Blog, which has been out of action for a while, but will finally get moving again with current news, events and interviews.

The new website incorporates much of the old Puppetry News site, but has plenty of new projects and updates and is easier to access information and navigate. You can find out and view short clips from many of the international workshops carried out in the past year in Europe and Asia. There is a short film clip of a Paper Playback Workshop in Oslo, Norway made in November 2014. There is a vast puppet video and audio archive which you can access here. You can also
locate international puppet festivals and events taking place over the upcoming year here.

As many of you know, for the past year, I have been travelling around the globe working on a new documentary film, 'The Puppet and The Power'.

A few of the wonderful puppeteers and activists interviewed for the documentary include names like Ronnie Burkett (Canada); Adrian Kohler & Basil Jones (Handspring Puppet Company, South Africa); Roger Law (Spitting Image, UK); Paul Zaloom (USA); Tony Mboyo (XYZ Show, Kenya); Ariel Doron (Israel); Mohammad Halayka (Palestinian National Theatre, Jerusalem); Penny Francis, (Puppet Centre, UK); Glyn Edwards (Punch & Judy Prof, UK); Toni Rumbau (Puppeteer & author, Spain); Joan Baixas (Puppeteer & theatre director, Spain); Pavla Dombrovska (Director of Divadlo Lisen, Czech Republic); Deepak Chopra (Spiritual guru, USA); Peter Schumann (Bread & Puppet Theatre, USA); John Bell (University of Connecticut, USA); Karim Dakroub (University of Beirut, Lebanon); Dominique Houdart (Cie Houdart-Heuclin, France) and the list goes on. You can view the pilot here!

Do enjoy the new website and you are welcome to send feedback through our comments page here!