Did you know that a whole week of enchantment happened in San Antonio in May? The first-ever Children’s International Puppet Festival was hosted at the Tobin Center by the Children’s Fine Arts Series. Puppet troupes from France, England, and Vietnam joined four American troupes to make magic with not much more than a few bits of wood and string.
I was especially excited to see the styles of puppetry and story-making of the French, English, and Vietnamese artists. Troupes Le Clan des Songes (France) and Mimika (England) performed wordless shows, while the Golden Dragon Water Puppets of Saigon presented a show with lots of talking and music. It was amazing to discover that it didn’t matter whether a show had words in it, or if it did, whether I could understand them. All three of these troupes moved their puppets in surprising and magical ways to create stories that captured my heart. Be sure to keep an eye on the Tobin Center’s website for news of next year’s puppet festival in early May! In the meantime, join us right here in Austin as we create exciting puppet magic of our own. Check our Youth Events Calendar for Literature LIVE!'s Tortuga del Mar, coming soon to a branch near you!
Here’s more about my favorite shows at the festival:
Le Clan des Songes' "Fragile"
Carrying his magic bag, the puppet hero of “Fragile,” by Le Clan des Songes, takes a trip along a road that turns out to have a mind of its own. You might have taken a trip or two just like that. Can you tell that the puppeteers are right onstage moving the puppets? The curtain hiding them is made of light – amazing! Take a few moments to see snippets from their wonderful show here:
Mimika Theatre's "Landscapes"
Mimika’s beautiful wooden set, placed under a cozy fabric dome, became a desert, a sea bottom, and Antarctica. Two puppeteers, mime artists by training, created simple, beautiful, and sometimes funny dances of animals interacting in these environments, watched over by a hungry eagle looking to feed its chick. To tell the stories, the artists created and danced with a whole menagerie of hand and rod puppets, plus motorized towers of small fish, plus bigger fish, and a jellyfish made from colanders, and they even showed animated videos!
Golden Dragon Water Puppets of Saigon
Oh my goodness, these puppets are really in the water! This troupe is a Vietnamese national treasure, performing ancient stories in which villagers live ordinary lives planting rice, raising ducks and scaring away hungry foxes, catching or not catching fish, and playing games. Fish swim, water dragons spit fire and fight over colorful balls, and water goddesses dance. Six musician-actors sit on the sides, make music on ancient instruments, and act out all the parts using their voices, but where in the world are the puppeteers? (Answer: They’re in the water, too! Their puppets are on long, long rods, so the puppeteers can move them from behind the curtain, unseen by us. Some of the rods have triggers so dragons can spit sparks or a man can blow smoke out of his ears!) See some fun from their show here:
Here are some puppetry books for you to enjoy: