The New Orleans Giant Puppet Festival returns with shows for adults and children, a parade, slams and more | Events
Three years have passed since the last episode of the New Orleans Giant Puppet Festival, but there was a glimpse of this year’s event during carnival when giant puppets mingled with costumed crowds in Bywater and Marigny. London puppeteer Andrew Kim held a workshop, and on Mardi Gras morning some of the attendees paraded around with their creations, like a huge pink spatula, with its wings and head manipulated by different puppeteers. Local muralist and puppet maker Henry Lipkis makes giant puppets, and he and his Krewe of Monsters also paraded during Carnival.
Some of these puppets will be part of a puppet parade during the giant puppet festival. It meets at the Mudlark Public Theater and departs at 11 p.m. on Saturday, April 9 for the Art Space venue at 2120 Port St., where there will be performances and a puppet slam – the puppet version of an open mic.
The festival features local and guest puppeteers in shows at venues including Mudlark, Art Space, AllWays Lounge & Theater and Happyland Theater from Thursday April 7 to Monday April 11. There are also workshops, a round table and puppet banging. Some shows are suitable for children and some shows are intended for adults.
Rasputin’s Marionettes from Los Angeles presents one of the shows not intended for children. “Sugarbitch Goulash” has bits of noir and vaudeville in a fictionalized version of what led to the Black Widow Murders. Helen Golay and Olga Rutterschmidt met at a fitness center in Los Angeles in the 1980s. They struck up a friendship and eventually the seemingly sweet older women attempted to execute a perfect crime. “Sugarbitch Goulash” runs at the Happyland Theater every five days.
The graduates participated in a residency at the Center for Contemporary Art last year, and they have two presentations on April 8 and 9.
Puerto Rico’s Poncili Creacion features wildly colored large-scale puppets in non-verbal performances. A few of its members are co-creators of a puppet-like art car dubbed “Reality Breaker” that cruises the streets of New Orleans. The Toyota minivan is painted in a burst of bright color and covered with giant eyes, a mouth, chicken puppets and more. Poncili Creacion presents “The Life and Death of Everything”, which combines dance and experimental music, at Art Space from Thursday to Monday.
Festival founder Pandora Gastelum leads her Mudlark Puppeteers in a new show born out of her interest in fables and folklore. “The Story of St. Dymphna, A Passion Play” is based on an Irish folk tale about Dymphna. When her mother passed away, her father was devastated and eventually fell in love with his 14-year-old daughter because of her resemblance to his wife. Dymphna fled to the forest and learned to survive on her own. The show runs every five days at the Happyland Theater.
Back at the festival is Portland, Oregon’s Night Shade, which will use shadow in a cinematic approach in a puppet variety show at Art Space. The whimsical ToyBox Theater in Asheville, North Carolina presents two kid-friendly shows, “Charlie Mean’s Miraculously Inventive Machine,” about dealing with bullies, and “Toybox, America’s Favorite Cartoon Witch “. Artists Enormous Face and Cookie Tongue hail from New York.
In-person and online events coming up this week in New Orleans.
Local puppeteers include Harry Mayronne and his puppets and Flutterbug and Scribbles. Poose the Puppet was created by Ben Martin, who recently moved to New Orleans and is the younger brother of musician and performance artist Sam Martin, who plays the role of Three-Brained Robot. Ben Martin works with hand puppets and his shows are interactive, free-spirited and absurd. Now based in New Orleans, H. Gene Thompson’s work is based on wearable fabric sculptures. Thompson presents “The Body is a Puppet Show” in the Twilight Room at AllWays Lounge.
The festival features many traditional types of puppetry and contemporary approaches to puppet theatre. There’s a panel discussion at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 10, titled “What’s Not a Puppet?” and it will explore the limits, or lack thereof, of the art form.
For more information and tickets, visit neworleansgiantpuppetfest.wordpress.com.