Big Bird, Kermit, Miss Piggy: it’s not uncommon for these characters to come to mind when thinking of puppets. That is, unless you’ve ever attended Puppet Animation Scotland’s manipulate Festival at the Traverse Theatre. As a Canadian student studying Arts, Festival, and Cultural Management at Queen Margaret University, I got the oppertunity to work with the festival as one of their Marketing Placements. It quickly dawned on me that puppetry encompasses so much more than the characters I grew up with on television. I have come to learn and appreciate puppet and animation as diverse art forms which can be a mix of serious, foreboding, funny, sexual, and moving.
Puppetry focuses on the art of manipulation. An actor, director, animator, or puppeteer can use an inanimate object to tell or enhance a story. One of my personal highlights of this years manipulate festival was a solo performance by Sarah Bebe Holmes – a profession aerialist who performed her show, EGG, as part of the snapshot series which highlights the in-progress work of Scottish artists.
Her piece dealt with the emotions of infertility and her experience of donating eggs. Within the piece, Sarah used plastic in place of ropes to represent a sterile hospital atmosphere – and perhaps the sterile reproductive system of one of the characters. The two female characters within the piece (both played by Sarah) were assigned a musical instrument that represented the mood and personality of the two women. The instruments went from soft and soothing to frantic and ominous to portray the emotions of the women. Although the piece did not have puppets in the traditional sense that I was used to, Sarah Bebe Holmes did use and manipulate other objects to enhance her story in ways I have previously never seen. At the end of the event the audience was asked to provide feedback on the in-progress work. Sarah alongside Puppet Animation Director Simon Hart, the director of EGG, and the audience, participated in an short discussion on the significance of her piece and their experiences in making it, watching it, and developing it. Sarah will be performing the completed version this summer at the 2018 Festival Fringe.
By Kimberly Getz