ArtsX

Puppets have the power to entertain, enrage, and heal

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Two things were clear during the conversation on Puppetry: Exploring Life & Art. Puppets aren’t just for kids, and puppeteers are tired of having writers point out that puppets are not just for kids. The panel came on the eve of ArtsX at Bowling Green State University. Kelly Mangan, the prop master for the Department of Theatre and Film, facilitated the talk between Mel Hatch Douglas, a 1998 BGSU graduate and associate artistic director of Madcap Puppets, and Bradford Clark, puppet master, scholar, and museum curator. The spoke in the Eva Marie Saint Theatre with a backdrop of some of the puppets in their lives. In some traditions, puppets are considered alive. Mangan remembered first meeting Clark, long before either joined the BGSU faculty. She was 19, and she remembered Clark blowing incense into the eyes of puppets. This came, he said, from his studies in Bali. “At that point, they became people,” she said. “As a prop person in order to put them back into storage, we had to take the life out. Until then we treated them as people.” For a 19-year-old, this was magic. She’s retained her love of puppets and has used them in her work. “I look at a script and help a director tell that story.” Sometimes that involves elements of puppetry. For a Huron Playhouse production of “The Wizard of Oz,” she used elaborate shadow puppets as scenery. Clark recalled his own initiation into puppetry. He loved it as a kid growing up in California. His fourth grade teacher brought in a stage so he could present marionette shows. Right before heading off to college he took a job at an old theater in the Carmel Valley run by two veteran puppeteers and his passion was fully aflame. The focus of his studies has been the use of puppets around the world, both in theater and ritual. Douglas came to puppets relatively late. She delayed graduating from BGSU by touring as an actress. When she finally graduated in 1998, some six years after her class, she was beginning to tire of the traveling actor’s life.  She was offered a job at MadCap in 2000 and has been there since. The troupe she noted hires actors, and then trains them as puppeteers. She brought MadCap to campus for ArtsX where the troupe presented its shadow puppet treatment of Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird.” That show was geared to adults, while the troupe earlier on Saturday presented at the Wood County Library. In a wide-ranging discussion,…


Dancing the night away at ArtsX with dragons and more

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News ArtsX puts passions of Bowling Green State University’s creative class on display. For Hannah Kinney that meant showing off her dragon, which stretched out under the grand staircase in the Wolfe Center for the Arts.  Now in her third year at BGSU, she created the dragon originally for a 3B Production of “Shrek the Musical” in 2014 Since then, the dragon has appeared in a number of local productions of the musical, including at Bowling Green High School. When a production uses the dragon, Kinney said, she goes along to direct and guide it, and if she’s not available, as was the case in BG, her mother minds the dragon. Kinney noted she actually does not operate the dragon. She doesn’t have the upper body strength don the backpack harness and carry the huge creature on her back. Kinney, from Toledo, came to BGSU to study paleontology, but transferred to theater. Her scientific studies, she said, help in her in designing her puppets. Though puppets are her passion, not enough share the interest for there to be courses. But she’s hoping to do independent study. Puppets were the focus of ArtsX programming. Across from Kinney’s dragon was a display of puppets made for BGSU productions, including most recently “Frankenstein.” In another hall, Bradford Clark, a BGSU professor and foremost expert in puppetry, was carving, though questions from visitors gathered around his temporary work bench, kept chiseling into his carving time with their questions. In the scene shop, people had a chance to stage their own puppet shows, and in the art education room in the Fine Arts Center next door, youngsters were making their own puppets. In the Donnell, the Madcap Puppetry from Cincinnati staged the event’s signature event, a half-hour long production of Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” using vibrant shadow puppets. Kevin McCluney said his pre-school son was a little frightened by the show, but he said he really liked it. McCluney and his wife, Noel McCluney, and their two sons were taking in the annual festivities for the first time. He teaches in biology and admitted he’d seldom been over the arts side of campus. This was his first time in the Fine Arts Center. It was good, he said, to get a taste of what goes on here. This was a great chance to expose their children to the arts, said Noel McCluney. Though the puppets had a place of pride at ArtsX, the event offered far more. Arts X, this year the theme was Make.Believe, is…


Puppets take center stage at ArtsX

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News “Make.Believe” is fitting as a theme for ArtsX. The 13th ArtsX will be presented Saturday, Dec. 2, from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Wolfe Center for the Arts and the Fine Arts Center on the Bowling Green State University campus. That summarizes how the free, one-night-only festival of the arts has evolved since 2005 when started as a way to bring together all the art club sales. Dennis Wojkiewicz, who spearheaded that inaugural event, remembers some music, particularly a bluegrass band. The event was held in conjunction with the opening of the faculty art show (as it still is), and everything happened on one floor of the Fine Art Center. Now the ArtsX includes contributions from all the arts on campus – fine art, music, dance, theater, film, creative writing as well as the library. Hundreds from campus and the community attend. Making it what it is has taken faith, maybe blind faith. “It’s crazy,” Wojkiewicz said. “We were just looking for a way to create an event that would benefit the clubs and that would get people into the Fine Art Center and take a look was what was going on.” Even then he had an idea for something larger, modeled on a similar event at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. ArtsX has sprawled out especially when the Wolfe Center opened. The Wolfe with its grand staircase and large lobby, two theaters, multiple studio, and assorted nooks and crannies seems created to host ArtsX. For the past several years, the organizers have brought in an outside group to help set the theme and supplement the ample home-grown talent. In 2015 the focus was on circus arts, and last year it was on aerialists. This year MadCap Productions Puppet Theatre will present Igor Stravinsky’s ballet “The Firebird” using actors and shadow puppets at 5:30 and 7 p.m. in the Donnell Theatre in the Wolfe Center. Wojkiewicz said that the idea is to bring someone with connections to BGSU back to perform as well as to present some kind of workshop. Mel Hatch Douglas, MadCap’s associate artistic director, is a 1998 BGSU graduate. She and BGSU Professor Bradford Clark, an internationally known scholar of puppetry and the curator of the Jim Henson Museum, will talk about the art of puppetry during a panel discussion, “Puppetry: Telling the Story of Art and Life,” Friday, Dec. 1, from 4-5:30 p.m.  in the Wolfe Center’s Eva Marie Saint Theatre. The panel will be moderated by Kelly Mangan, of the Department of…