Sunday, April 21, 2013

Evolution of A Slam Piece with Carole D’Agostino

PSN: What is your workshop and where is it being held?

CD: Evolution of a Slam Piece is a 3 hour Workshop being held at the Puppet Festival (r)Evolution this summer in Swarthmore, PA near Philadelphia. The Festival runs from August 5-13 and my workshop is Tuesday Aug 6.

PSN: Why "Evolution of a Slam Piece"? Aren’t Slam pieces supposed to be short?

CD: Lots of people make a short piece in a hurry and then never take it beyond whatever came out of them for that weekend. Some developing puppet artists may have a limited vocabulary of choices with which they can create. My workshop is designed to help everyone expand their horizons and create better quality shows overall.

PSN: In 3 hours? What’s the plan?

CD: 3 hours is actually a perfect amount of time! My plan is to show you how I developed one of my own pieces using storyboards, scale models and efficient prep work into a full length show that I can tour as either individual slam pieces of as a full length 45 min production on its own! Everyone in the class will take their budding or existing idea and sketch out a story board. Then we’ll make a tiny paper scale model they can use as reference in the future. Finally we’ll write up an action plan so the artists can leave motivated and ready to make a new show.

PSN: What if I can’t draw? Do I need to bring anything?

CD: You need the most basic skills to use my methods- I am teaching a technique not a strict method. If you can write, then you’ll be fine! I provide all tools- pencils, paper, pre-printed storyboard worksheets, scissors- whatever we’ll need. This isn’t about competition, it’s about your individual thought process and how you can get motivated to succeed. Any skill level is encouraged to sign up.

PSN: You’ve done almost 60 slams now- so what tips and tricks do you have?

CD: That’s part of the class too. While we work, I’ll give everyone notes from my own process to encourage you while your work. You’ll learn where to score useful tools, which items are essential to your success and where to get them at the best price. I’ll show you what producers expect from you as a puppeteer so you can shine above the rest as The One Who Is Prepared. You’ll avoid a lot of the pre-show anxiety if you use my tried-and-true techniques.

PSN: How do I sign up? How much does it cost?

CD: Evolution of a Slam Piece is included in your registration to the Puppet Festival (r)Evolution:  There are no material fees. The earlier you register the lower the costs overall. Being a member of Puppeteers of America can save you money. Tickets to individual workshops become available June 1. Space is limited- Register today! See you Tuesday August 6!
 Visit Carole's website for more info on her work:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Nick Hubbard and the Fussy Cloud Puppet Slam #Seattle

Nick Hubbard is a performance and visual artist currently based in Seattle. His work springs from the intersection of shadow theater and other art forms including puppetry, music, poetry, and actor's theater. He has been performing short-form puppetry since 2008, at venues like On the Boards, Theatre-Off-Jackson, and the Frye Art Museum. He is a co-founder of the Fussy Cloud Puppet Slam, a puppetry festival organizer, and the President of the Board of Trustees of the Puppeteers of America.

Photo by Greta Wilson, 2011

Marsian: How long have you been performing at Puppet Slams?
Nick Hubbard: It hasn't been very long for me at official puppet slams. My first slam experience was in 2011, and I was wearing a suit, a bow-tie, and a fedora. I was performing a piece that's built out of a suitcase, where I'm a bit of a traveling salesman, I had found a poem that I would transform into an object theater of shadows for the audience. I was under a bit of duress, because I couldn't get my light to turn on. It came together in the end.

M: What slams have you performed at?
NH: A total of four events that were technically slams, all in the epic setting of the Pacific Northwest (Seattle and Portland). Prior to that, I had performed short-form puppetry around Seattle, mostly in collaboration with a storyteller named Wes Andrews.

M: What is the weirdest show you have seen?
NH: In Olympia, WA, I saw a bare-chested guy perform a ballet of strength with a six by one foot square wooden column he'd fashioned himself. It was somewhere between The Passion of Christ and the opening sequence of the recent Les Miserables.

M: What inspired you to start hosting a puppet slam?
NH: Witnessing the National Puppet Slam at the 2011 National Puppetry Festival in Atlanta, GA, motivated a group of us from Seattle to make something happen in our city. We wanted to promote the same caliber of bold, experimental work from West Coast puppeteers.

M: Are you part of a slam circuit?
NH: Portland and Vancouver, BC, are both holding slams now. I'd say we are starting to develop a circuit -- with San Francisco and Los Angeles as distant links on the Southern end. Rather than being unique from the others around, I think we all share a common energy and, with that in mind, have been seeking ways to share acts and support each other's events.

M: Tell us about a fabulous failure and what you've learned from it.
NH: I once had to do a show in a space that didn't give us much tech beforehand, and I wasn't able to verify that I'd have complete darkness. My piece required complete darkness, and so once I started, it was clear the audience wouldn't be able to see anything. I had to pull the plug, essentially, and I came out of it feeling that great. I learned both the need to have something flexible for slam pieces (or be very clear about what my tech requirements are), and also that you and the audience can come out OK if you just relax and laugh a bit.

M: Why are Puppet Slams important to you?

NH: I think slams are shaking up the conventions of puppetry, in particular around who can make work. They are making the form more accessible to interested people who want an opportunity to test out their own ideas somewhere besides their garage, but may not be at a university or other venue that's open to broad experimentation. Slams are generating energy and connecting puppeteers across state and international boundaries.

M: What inspires you to create a puppet slam piece?
NH: I'm especially inspired by works of literature that feel too short to expand into a larger show, but contain enough in them that they are worth adapting. Poems seem to often fit in this category, and so do picture books.

M: Who are some other artists you are inspired by?
NH: I'm impressed with the savvy of Carole D'Agostino, especially the way she released three parts of her "Hoarding Show" through various slam appearances. It was a smart way to get feedback on the development of the show and generate interest in the larger work.

M: Where can people contact you to perform?

M: Where do you see the Puppet Slam Network in 5 years?
NH: I see the Puppet Slam Network as a place where many burgeoning puppeteers find their footing. I see it as a hub for touring artists who are, through the slam community and with the support of the PSN, able to compliment and promote larger projects. I see growing audience for puppetry thanks to the PSN; I think people will develop their taste for the art from slams and this will make them more open to all of puppetry's manifestations.

M: Any advice for up and coming slam artists?
NH: Be bold and be invested -- try new things, let yourself make mistakes, and take the time to develop your pieces with rehearsals and reiterations of puppets.