PERRY — The New York State Puppet Festival will return live and pick up Perry next week.
There will be artists from three continents and some from as close as Perry and Warsaw from June 23 to July 3.
One of the two signature shows is “Shank’s Mare”, featuring a fifth-generation Japanese puppeteer.
“It’s a very particular type of puppet. Cart puppets where you sit on the little rectangular box with wheels underneath, much like the Flintstones wheels,” said Josh Rice, New York State Puppet Festival Artistic Director Producer. “While you’re sitting on it, you tie the puppet’s feet between your big toe and then the other on the other foot. This way you can hold the puppet and make it walk, and operate it with a single person.
Rice said that in typical traditional Japanese puppetry, three puppeteers are needed to operate a puppet in the Bunraku style.
Created by Tom Lee and Japanese master puppeteer Koryu Nishikawa V, Shank’s Mare is the story of two wandering travelers whose paths cross in time and space. Using traditional Kuruma Ningyo puppets, video projection and live music, the play explores themes of life and death and how tradition is passed down.
The other standout show is an exhibit at the Wyoming County Arts Council of one of North America’s most beloved and well-known puppet companies, Bread and Puppet Theatre.
Rice does a puppet wrestling show called “Kayfabe”. Emma Wiseman performs “Remember When They Told You This Was A Helicopter?”, which tells the story of a puppet trapped in a manipulative skyscraper with video game rules. Leah Ogawa will present “To Be Alive”, a 10-minute performance exploring the fundamental questions of life. Then Sifiso Mbena will perform [sunflower]which follows a Zimbabwean woman’s quest to “call home” after decades of immigration.
The New York State Puppet Festival also hosts a puppet slam, which Rice says is an evening of short 10-minute plays by local performers and other festival performers.
The nearly 10 days of programming will include several world premieres, including a sensory outdoor puppet theater performance for neurodiverse audiences making its Autism Nature Trail debut with the internationally acclaimed Trusty Sidekick Theater Company.
Trusty Sidekick is out of New York and Rice said they are well known for making plays for young audiences.
“More recently, they’ve been hired to do a lot of work for a neurodiverse audience at Lincoln Center,” he said. “They created a play…called Campfire, which invited families and audiences into the theater to experience what it’s like to live outdoors. Essentially bringing the outdoors into a theater. There was so park rangers, campfires, and animal puppets. I always thought, “Wow, that would be a really great show to put on at Letchworth State Park,” because I knew Autism Nature Trail (ANT) was open.
Speaking to ANT Vice President Loren Penman, they wrote a grant to the Palma Foundation and received it. However, that’s when 2020 came along and since then the play has been put on hold until they can return and perform live.
Trust Sidekick created a show, “A Perfect Party for Trees”, especially for ANT.
Leigh Walter, director of “A Perfect Party for the Trees,” said there was a long history in the making of the show. It started in the summer of 2021, Trusty Sidekick brought together a group of artists in a Zoom call to create an outdoor show.
“Together we went through a whole bunch of brainstorming about what we wanted to do. It went all over the place,” Walter said. contacted, me in particular, to create a show for a neurodiverse audience outside, we went back to the original brainstorm.”
There are elements in the show like a beekeeper, a bear, mystery boxes, self-discovery, and themes of emergence. In February, another workshop session was organized with the key artist with whom Walter wanted to create the show.
Neurodivergent audiences will be able to interact with the show as they wish. Walter said it was a multi-sensory show; they will dig, play with fabric, play with instruments and move.
“The public is having this birthday party with us,” she said. “The show is filled with board games, and you are welcome to watch and attend. You are welcome to play the game.
Penman said there is an interesting book written by Ron Suskind called “Life, Animated” about his autistic son who stopped talking at age 3. The family had no way of communicating with him and his son seemed to be locked in a world. by himself.
“(The son) spent a lot of time watching Disney movies. They found out quite by accident that he had memorized the dialogue from every Disney movie he watched,” Penman said. communicate with him using puppets playing the role of Disney characters.”
She said the puppets have been documented as a way to engage children with autism-related speech and language issues as a way to draw them in and give them a form of communication.
Performance at ANT is free, but tickets are first come, first served. Tickets can be easily found at autismnaturetrail.com.