Thursday, July 26, 2012

National Puppet Slam #ATL

Beau Brown hosts The 2012 National Puppet Slam at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta Friday August 3rd at 8:00PM and Saturday, August 4th at 8PM.  For more information, call 404-873-3391 or visit

Experience the beauty, ingenuity, and hilarity of short-form puppet theater in this showcase of puppet slam acts from across the United States. Nominated by their respective slams, then curated by The Puppet Slam Network and the Center for Puppetry Arts, the nation’s best slam performances will be presented for two nights only!  
The lineup includes: Travis Lope #Auburn #NY,  Katie McClenahan #Portland #OR,  Gregg van Lanningham  #Atlanta, Therese Schorn #Ossining #NJ, Carla Rhodes #Brooklyn, Leila Ghaznavi #Philadelphia, Gwendolyn Bonar #Phoenix, Lyon Hill #Columbia #SC, Honey Goodenough #Brooklyn, and Spencer Lott #Kansas City 

Marsian: Why are you excited about the National Puppet Slam?
Beau Brown: I am excited to have so many talented slam artists all in place for the public to see. It was great doing it at the Nationals Festival last year for the puppeteer community and this year we get to share it with the public. I think that having it at a important puppet institution like the Center for Puppetry Arts is a wonderful way to continue to legitimize short form puppetry. People who would come and see adult programming at the Center might not go to a smaller local slam.

Marsian:  Why have a National Puppet Slam?
Beau Brown: I think it important to recognize excellence in our field. Right now UNIMA and PofA don’t really take much notice of short form and it is my hope that, as the tradition of the National Slam continues, acceptance into the show is considered an honor and something that the artists should feel extremely proud of. It is the Oscars of puppet slam! Also doing it at the Center gives these artists a chance to perform on the main stage of the Center for Puppetry Arts which without doing a full length show is not an opportunity that these artists might otherwise get.

Marsian: How do you see this selection showcasing where this movement going?
BB: I think that the lineup truly reflects the diversity in slam performances and puppetry styles. Just like the National Slam last year it shows that puppets slams aren’t just “naughty puppets”.

Marsian: It sounds like people are coming from all over the country...
BB: I have! It is so exciting to see members of the puppetry community making the trip. I am putting up some of them at my place and other members of the Atlanta puppet community have stepped forward to host some out of town guests.
Lets take a closer look at the performers...

Travis Lope #Auburn #NY
Travis Lope is a performer, puppet designer, and a costume designer and technician. Favorite credits include working with Dr. Cosby on Cosby, Lewis Black in Black Humor and Lorenzo Lamos in Dracula. Travis particularly enjoys building larger than life puppets. Ranging from dragon heads and dinosaurs to a 31-foot tall, cable controlled Giant for Ronald Dahl’s BFG. Travis’s work has been featured in commercials for the Connecticut State Lottery and Bob's Discount Furniture.  He recently finished graduate school at the University of Connecticut. The Enchanted Vanity Set has been performed in four different states.

Katie McClenahan #Portland #OR
Katie's love affair with puppets was sparked by a certain green, Balinese sea captain puppet named Captain Clamp. He and Katie were part of a roving pirate, puppet rock opera band consortium called Jollyship the Whiz-bang. After years of touring, Katie departed the high seas to find her land-lubbing ways were far more productive. Currently residing in Portland, Oregon, Katie runs Beady Little Eyes, a puppet event company that specializes in keeping adult short-form puppetry alive in the Pacific Northwest. 

Gregg van Lanningham #Atlanta
Gregg Van Laningham is a puppeteer who got his start in the world of puppet slams. He has written and performed dozens of shows over the course of the past two years, and currently works as a freelance puppeteer in Atlanta with a specialty in science education. Gregg often collaborates with his best friend and creative partner Qate Bean, and together the two of them have performed for audiences ranging from a 4-year-old's birthday party to a crowd of hundreds at Dragon*Con. Gregg earned a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Georgia Tech.

Therese Schorn #Ossining #NJ
Therese Schorn is a NY based puppeteer, clown and designer. She most recently performed in Puppet Art Attacks. She also performed and taught at the 2011 International Yunlin Puppet Festival in Taiwan. She is a 23 year veteran of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care bringing puppetry music and clowning to hospitalized children. Shows include A Village of Fools (Theater for the New City) and Peaceable Kingdom ,a puppet and physical theater play with a cast of 2.4 children. She also constructs and performs with giant puppets for Nyack’s Halloween Parade.
Carla Rhodes #Brooklyn
Carla Rhodes has been practicing the art of ventriloquism since the age of 9, after seeing Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop on television and to her absolute delight, was later mentored by her hero. Throughout her teens, Carla performed all over her hometown of Louisville. She has been living and performing in New York City since 2004, at such legendary venues such as Joe's Pub. Recently, Carla performed a full-length rock'n'roll ventriloquism show, The Continuing Story of Carla Rhodes. Time Out New York proclaims the show “is an idiosyncratic neo-retro blend of ventriloquism, rock music and comic storytelling" and she “throws her voice like a curveball, bringing old-school ventriloquism skills to new-school puppets (including one of Keith Richards).”  

Leila Ghaznavi #Philadelphia
Leila Ghaznavi is an actor, puppeteer and playwright currently based in Philadelphia. She has been featured as an emerging artist at The National Puppetry Conference at The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and her original multi-media puppet work, Silken Veils, received five stars and was nominated for best new work at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Silken Veils has been featured on the Leonard Lopate Show, BBC Persia, and Voice of America. Her featured work, Remembrances was presented at 2011 Puppetry Festival, UNIMA Day in NYC, and the Puppet Pandemic Slam in Philadelphia. Leila Ghaznavi has an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts.

Gwendolyn Bonar #Phoenix
Gwen is a second generation puppeteer who started puppetry as soon as she was able to walk and talk. A professional puppeteer from the Great Arizona Puppet Theater, she has performed all around the state of Arizona as well as numerous guest performances at theaters around the country. She has also had the pleasure to perform internationally, including Kazahkstan this Fall. 

Lyon Hill #Columbia #SC
Lyon takes his inspiration from comics, animation, pop up books, view master reels, and other graphic arts. In his work, he combines these diverse mediums to create new hybrids.  Supine is a nightmare experienced by his wife. Small paper puppets are projected large scale to tell the surreal story of a woman being chased through a desolate city by a shadowy figure.
Honey Goodenough #Brooklyn
Honey Goodenough is a New York City based puppeteer, producer, costume designer, educator, clown, and magician. She earned her MA in Educational Theater from NYU. She has produced many puppetry related events including the premiere of Puppet Rampage (Puppeteers of America Festival Documentary film). Honey has co-curated Emerging Artist Theater's Laugh Out Loud: Clown and Puppetry Festival in 2009, the Voice 4 Vision Puppet Slams hosted at The Theater for the New City in 2011, as well as the UNIMA USA: Celebration of World Puppetry, hosted by Teatro Sea. She is a three-time recipient of the Puppet Slam Network grant to produce Puppet Pandemic, a showcase of puppetry works developed during The National Puppetry Conference at The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, which supports the Alumni Scholarship, to help artists create more short form puppetry. Honey has been touring from Brooklyn to Brookline, Austin to Boston and throughout the Puppet Slam Network for the past four years. 

Spencer Lott is a freelance puppeteer. He develops and produces commercials and online video content as well as live stage productions. This summer his work was on display at the Springfield Art Association and his original puppet shows The Bicycle Brothers from Ohio and Bigfoot’s Magical Moped are now in development. Recently Spencer has performed in Puppet Slams in Kansas City, New York City and Chicago. After the National Puppet Slam, Spencer will return to Kansas City where he will act in Theatre Gym’s adaptation of The Miser by Moliere.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tommy Cannon on the Yanky Panky Puppet Slam #Phoenix

Tommy Cannon has hosted and performed in many of the puppet slams at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in downtown Phoenix, telling dirty jokes downloaded from the internet with his sock puppet, Hector. He will be performing in the Yanky Panky Puppet Slam at Great Arizona Puppet Theatre July 6th & 7th. 

2010, photo: Diana Welsch

Marsian: How long have you performed at Puppet Slams. Tell us about the first one.?

Tommy Cannon: I have performed in GAPT's puppet slams since April of 2002. The first slam was nuts and funny. We had no idea what we were doing. My friends and I did a piece that I wrote called "Finger War" it was about a magical land where all of the disembodied fingers of shop teachers go. It was very fun and our puppets and props fell apart as we performed with them.

M: How do your puppet slam pieces tie into the other kinds of puppetry, performance or your art-life at large?
TC: ...I have had opportunities to perform slam pieces at other venues in different contexts. I've performed slam pieces in art show openings, concerts, and variety shows at Space 55, the Eye Lounge, and The Trunk Space. The improv community here in Phoenix has seen anumber of improvised puppet shows as well... all because of GAPT's slams.

M: What cities have you performed in puppet slams or cabarets in?
TC: I've only performed in slams in Phoenix, Tucson, and St. Paul, MN. So, the furthest and most exotic for me would be St. Paul. It's totally not a desert there and it's so... it's so.... GREEN!

M: What's the funniest, freakiest, edgiest, or weirdest show you have seen?
TC: One time I saw a character named Oscar the Otter describe the etymology of the word c*nt.

M: Sounds edutaining What was the worst puppet slam you performed?
TC:  One time a certain troupe from a certain town two hours from Phoenix sent up some very rookie/ unprofessional performers. Thankfully they were on last because 75% of the audience left during their set.

M: If you were to form a puppet slam circuit near you for touring, what slams/cities would this include?
TC: I am grotesquely unfamiliar with what the other cities are doing. So, route would be uninformed. I guess I'd like to visit San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Austin... does that sound good to you?

M: Sure, there is Adult Puppet Cabaret hosted by Animal Cracker Conspiracy in San Diego, Puppetzilla in Los Angeles and soon Cabaret Automata in LA as well. Tell us about a fabulous failure (at a slam) and what you've learned from it.
TC: One time I hosted a slam wearing a banana mask and told an Aristocrats joke. It was horrible. It taught me to keep the crazy at bay. People just want things to be a little bit naughty and a little bit weird. They didn't pay their admission to go to the asylum with me.

M: Why are Puppet Slams important to you? What gap do they fill? 

"Puppet Slams provide a short form of visual theater that is satisfying in a way that no other entertainment is. They fill the gap of giving grown up audiences the same fun visuals you can get with children's TV or an art museum visit in a live show."

M:  What inspires you to create a puppet slam piece?
TC: Deadlines.

M: Any other slam artists you are inspired by? 
TC: Gwen Bonar with her Oscar the Otter pieces inspire me because they are so damn funny. She does those pieces with perfect timing. It's her timing with that character that blows me away.

P.S. The Oscar the Otter pieces involve a 5 year old otter boy teaching us grown up lessons on things that would be inappropriate for a 5 year old (or anyone) to talk about.

M: What pieces do you have in circulation?
TC: Oh I have five Mount Rushmore pieces that I do. As you've probably gathered, I have the Presidents of Mount Rushmore talk to each other to comedic effect. I also do a number of Bible related shows with Dain Gore. Also, with Dain Gore, I do a piece called "Tristan's Tale" which is about zombie art school.

M: Wow, zombie art school - that hits close to home. Where can people contact you to perform?
TC: If you wish to perform in GAPT's slams give the staff a call at (602)262-2050 or write to them at

M: Where would you like to see the Puppet Slam Network in the future?
TC: Still going strong.

M: What advice do you have for up and coming slam artists?
TC: Go to the Phoenix Guild of Puppetry to get connected with people. Make a video of yourself working and send it to GAPT. If they like it they may put you on. Find your thing. I'm not much of a puppet builder or manipulator, but I'm pretty funny. So, I sell that.