Dylan Shelton curates Strung Out Puppet Cabaret in Cincinnati with Irina Niculescu. Dylan graduated from Wilmington College with a BA in Theatre and then earned an MFA in Acting from Ohio University. Dylan began his career at Madcap Productions Puppet Theatre as an actor in 2002 and spent a year as the interim Artistic Director in 2005. Since then, Dylan has been Madcap's Creative Director writing, directing, acting, and designing shows.
Marsian: This is your second puppet slam to date, tell us more about Strung Out Puppet Cabaret and how it fits in with the Puppet Slam Network.
Dylan Shelton: The growing popularity of puppet slams has given puppeteers license to showcase some of the most brilliant and innovative and sometimes absurd and bizarre pieces of theatre you will ever see. The Strung Out Puppet Cabaret will feature pieces which are no longer than seven minutes, and each one has been hand selected by myself and Irina Niculescu. Musicians, improv comedians, and a boundless variety of puppets will come together for the event!
M: The name Strung Out Puppet Cabaret would seem to imply that there is some sort of puppet withdrawal or an addiction to puppets.
DS: That isn’t so far fetched with our theme. I wanted to expose our Cincinnati audience to puppet slams with the hope that they would form a deep desire for more. We haven’t had a lot of events like this, so creating something so appealing that people would actually experience withdrawal from it when it’s over is definitely a goal.
M: How are you finding acts for Strung Out?
DS: We have found several local puppeteers by word of mouth. One popular improv troup in Cincinnati asked about performing an improv piece with puppets which I thought would be perfect for our slam. Irina Niculescu teaches at a university in Montreal and found two puppeteers there who will be joining us. Other puppeteers came to our slam in December and applied to participate in this one.
M: Have you been to many puppet slams or cabarets outside of Cincinnati?
DS: I saw a couple of puppet slams last year and I thought it was such a great way to get people excited about puppetry. The supportive and enthusiastic community of puppeteers was infectious. I wanted to bring this same inclusive atmosphere to Cincinnati where puppet slams are far from abundant.
M: What are you inspired by in puppetry and puppet slams?
DS: I love to be surprised by puppetry. Seeing puppets do the unexpected or relating to the puppeteer in a unique way really inspires me. The emotional pieces are also intriguing to me. When music is used to help create a specific mood, I find myself immediately drawn into the piece.
M: Do you have any pieces in circulation that you could bring to other puppet slams?DS: As a relative new comer to puppet slams, I have only developed a couple of pieces. I have also worked with other puppeteers developing slam pieces, but I don’t have a large repetoire yet. Unfortunately, I don’t have a large list of people I perform with regularly, but I hope to develop relationships with other puppeteers to keep the slam community growing in Cincinnati.
M: Tell us about some of your other pieces.
DS: One of my favorite puppet pieces was a piece I directed with Aretta Baugartner as my puppeteer. It was for the Cincinnati Fringe Festival last year called The Body Speaks. It was about a young boy (a table top puppet) who slowly wraps himself up in a cocoon as a seemingly naked lady manipulates him. At the end, she emerges as a moth behind a shadow screen. To me, this would be an excellent slam piece to continue developing. The relationship between the puppet and puppeteer was interesting, and the monologue under the puppetry was absurd and complex.
Strung Out Puppet Cabaret will next be presented as part of as part of the Cincinnati Fringe on Saturday July 2nd and Sunday July 3rd. You can see photos from their last slam on our Facebook Page.