Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jessica Simon Gets Nasty, Brutish & Short (well... sort of)

Jessica's work has been seen at the Austin Puppet Incident, Toy Theatre After Dark Festival in Minneapolis, the National Slam in Atlanta, Puppet Playlist in NYC, and Nasty, Brutish & Short Puppet Cabaret (NB&S) in Chicago.  She co-curates NB&S and serves on the Artistic Direction Committee for PuppetFestival (r)Evolution

2012,  photo: Marielle Solan (at Puppet Playlist)

Marsian: What was your entry into the world of Puppet Slams?

Jessica Simon: I'm pretty new to slams - I've only been involved for about a year.  My friends Dan and Lizi performed my piece The Talleys at the first NB&S in March of last year.  I was excited to revisit my participant piece from the O'Neill Puppetry Conference.

M: What cities have you performed in Puppet Slams in?
JS: Ive performed at slams in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Austin.  I got a bruise on my head from a flying piece of chocolate at the National Slam in Atlanta...

M: What lead you to become a Slam curator? What would you say is distinctive about Nasty Brutish and Short?
JS: I sort of inherited my spot with Nasty, Brutish & Short.  Seth Bockley and Julia Miller curated the first one and before the second one in the fall Julia asked if I'd like to help out because Seth had a lot of other projects on his plate.  One thing that I've been particularly interested in trying to make happen at each one is having an out of town guest artist.  We've hosted artists from Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and I'm super excited that we have not one, but three visiting artists from Kansas City and Brooklyn for our upcoming show March 5th! I'm grateful to the Puppet Slam Network for helping us make that happen.

M: Where would you say you are in a Puppet Slam Circuit?
JS: I know there are a couple that happen in Minneapolis, but I don't think that constitutes a circuit...

M: Yes! There’s actually two in Minneapolis: Forthe Love of Puppets and Full Moon Puppet Cabaret. I have also recently learned that St. Paul started hosting one as well.
JS: Super!

Why do you think Puppet Slams are important? What gap are they filling that is not filled by other forms of puppetry? Who cares?

JS:  I think slams are a great way to introduce audiences to many different styles of puppetry and get them to realize that it's not just kid stuff.  Also, it helps audiences develop their palate.  If there is a short piece that sucks, maybe they'll learn that the piece itself was bad, not that all puppetry is bad.  Does that makes sense? 

M: Puppets don’t suck… People do!
JS: Also, I think Beau said this before, it is a good kick in the pants for artists.  Having a deadline forces you to work on that idea you've been kicking around in your head.

M: Do you have any upcoming slams you plan on performing at or organizing?

JS:  Our next cabaret is March 5th!

M: Well stay tuned to our calendar to find out more details (sign up here)! . . .Jessica, what actually motivates you to create a puppet slam piece?
JS:  I have a little notebook where I jot down ideas and that's where a lot of those ideas die.... having that slam deadline is an excuse try some of them out.

M: So sad when ideas die…  Now who would you say on the circuit is killer?
JS: I'm inspired by (and a bit jealous of) Connor Hopkins and Carolin Reck down in Austin [hosts of Austin Puppet Incident].  Not only are they creating awesome long-form work, but they've created a great little puppetry community that works together creating short pieces for their slams.  From what I understand they host regular open shop nights and anyone who wants to can come in try something out.  I'd love to have a regular workshop time for people to collaborate.  There is somewhat of a community here in Chicago, and it's growing [with Puppet Meltdown], but I'd love to mix it up even more and have a dedicated time and place for people to come together.

M: What pieces do you have in circulation to perform in puppet slams? And where can people reach you if they want to ask you to perform?
JS: The Talleys is a 2 person tabletop piece that follows the changes in the lives of a couple and Mustachioed Pistachio is about a nut that has his mustache stolen. I can be reached at
M: Where do you want to see the Puppet Slam Network in the Future?
JS: Like I said before, I'm grateful to the Slam Network for providing opportunities for artists travel, myself included.  I'd love to see that continue and expand. 
M: What advice do you have for up-and-coming slam performers?
JS: Try and see a lot of stuff, talk to people after shows, ask veterans to do something with you. 

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