Between the production of Avenue Q at Theatre Downtown (extended through October 29) and the upcoming Thanksgiving release of the new Muppet movie, I've had puppets on the brain lately. Which led me to wonder "what's going on with the Orlando Puppet Festival this year?"
The answer, it turns out, is quite a bit. The 7th annual event, created and supported by Heather Henson of IBEX Puppetry, returns this November in a new format. This year, the programming is being spearheaded by Sean Keohane of Pinocchio's Marionette Theater in the Altamonte Mall, which will host the bulk of OPF's performances on November 5 & 6. In addition, there will be more adult-oriented offerings, including a "puppet slam" and Muppet Movie singalong, held downtown at Urban Rethink and the Gallery at Avalon Island.
As a festival kickoff/preview, the OPF-sponsored art show "Puppet, Muppet, & Marionette" premiered last night at the Gallery at Avalon Island, as part of the evening's Third Thursday art crawl. The collection curated by Benjamin S. Sawinski features inagesof Jim Henson's iconic characters reinterpreted by over a dozen artists including Rhandi, Kenny Durkin, Eric Johnson, Parker Sketch, Cassie Wojcik, and Jennifer Jacobson. My favorite element of the exhibit is the display of handmade creatures by Jack Fields in the adjoining Cafe; the richly textured junk-made monsters (along with stills from his work-in-progress surrealist short film) are each unique, but all carry a consistently off-kilter aesthetic that serves to imbue piles of detritus with personality.
Here's a photo gallery of selected artwork from the show, which will be on public display through November 11th, followed by complete up-to-date details on OPF straight from the festival's press release:
[gallery link="file" columns="2" orderby="title"]
THE ORLANDO PUPPET FESTIVAL IS BACK THIS FALL!
This Fall the Orlando Puppet Festival returns with something for everyone:
*family-friendly shows, puppet-making workshops, and fun face painting for adults and children the weekend of November 5 & 6 at Pinocchio's Marionette Theater in Altamonte Springs;
*art for all ages, including Muppet fan art from BSS Art at the Gallery at Avalon Island in Downtown Orlando from October 20 through November 11;
* free screenings of puppet films, including a "Muppet Movie" sing-along at the Gallery at Avalon Island
* A toy theater show sponsored by the Mexican Consulate and puppetmaking workshops with TV's Noel MacNeal of "Bear in the Big Blue House," all at Pinocchio's
*and a puppet slam of short acts just for adults hosted Downtown by the Central Florida Puppet Guild at Urban ReThink the evening of Saturday, November 12!
Originally conceived by local artist Heather Henson as a community project for her company IBEX Puppetry, the OPF has partnered in recent years with Central Florida arts groups to bring world-class performers to our area. In 2011, the 7th Annual Puppet Festival is being curated by Pinocchio's Marionette Theater, the family puppet theater located on the lower level of the Altamonte Mall in Altamonte Springs, FL, with support from IBEX.
Live performances appropriate for all ages include Pinocchio's own "Cinderella" and "Funny Bunnies," MicheLee Puppets' anti-bullying piece "A Good Day for Pancake," Davey Rocker's "Barnyard Jam," and Prof. Brent DeWitt's traditional, English-style "Punch & Judy" show as well as Sean Keohane's French-style "Polichinelle & the Big Surprise," starring a hungry crocodile! The OPF is proud to present a holiday-themed sneak preview of next year's marionette musical "Babes in Toyland" (with a special appearance by Santa) and open the weekend with the beautiful "Nativity Story" from the mind of Jane Henson, with puppets from David Jordan and the Jim Henson Workshop, accompanied by live Renaissance music played by the Olde Noyse Trio.
Benjamin S. Sawinski's exhibit "Puppet, Muppet, & Marionette" opened at the Gallery at Avalon Island on October 20, saying "everyone still holds a strong bond to their childhood memories, memories we all share together, no matter what our age."
Film screenings offered in the upstairs theater at the Gallery at Avalon Island include "The Muppet Movie" Sing-Along at 7:30pm Friday, November 4 (interactive goodie bags are $3 apiece); and Handmade Puppet Dreams, with a first look at Volume 5, hosted by Beau Brown, co-creator of the SciFi Janitors, at 7:30pm Friday, November 11. Prior to the HMPD screening in Avalon's upstairs theater, at 6pm November 11, Toybox Theater and Cripps Puppets will present their live show "Billy the Liar." All events at the Gallery at Avalon Island are free for all ages.
And the "Action Puppet Force" adult puppet slam hosted by the Central Florida Puppet Guild is scheduled at 8pm Saturday, November 12, at Urban ReThink in Downtown's Thornton Park District. It will feature many local puppeteers as well as guests drawn from around the country via the Puppet Slam Network, a national effort to link venues with performers in the puppetry arts.
Upcoming OPF events at Pinocchio's also include a bi-lingual-- and free!-- toy theater show from Mexico City's Facto Teatro troupe, sponsored in mid-November by the Consulate of Mexico, and, finally, a puppetmaking workshop by television puppeteer Noel MacNeal of "Bear in the Big Blue House" and "Between the Lions," to be held the afternoon of Saturday, December 3.
For the full and developing schedule of this year's exciting events for the 7th Annual Orlando Puppet Festival, please visit our website at www.orlandopuppetfestival.com. See you soon, and happy puppeting!