Puppet Lab

Puppet Lab is our new artist incubator. Facilitated by Alison Heimstead, this program is entering its 7th year of radical, genre-expanding, boundary-pushing work.

We are excited to announce our 2017-18 Puppet Lab cohort!

Michele Spaise and Elle Thoni were selected as individual artists.

Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra and Magdalena Kaluza will be collaborating, as will Shelby Richardson and Jay Owen Eisenberg.

About the participants:
Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra
is an emerging interdisciplinary post-modern folk artist, curator, and civic artist working in the intersections of art, culture, community, and equity. Her practice includes visual art, music, dance, and performance with an emphasis on Latinx/Indigenous art methods. Her work lives in the Nepantla or in-between of Christianity and Indigeneity and explores iconography, propaganda, Decolonization, and Liberation Theology.

Rebekah co-founded Electric Machete Studios, a Twin Cities Art and Music collective and gallery. She writes and performs music as Lady Xok. She is curator of the exhibition series Dimensions of Indigenous, uniting Indigenous people of the 4 directions, and has worked with Creative CityMaking Minneapolis addressing systemic inequity. She is self-taught, family-taught, and studied studio art at St. Olaf College and Holtekilen Folkehøgskole in Oslo, Norway. Rebekah has over 10 years experience as a teaching artist in non-profits, churches, and schools sharing cultural storytelling and environmentally-just reuse found-object resquatche techniques.

Magdalena Kaluza is a queer/mestizx Maya K’iche’ writer, performer, and youth worker who loves to garden, cook, dance, bike, and co-create. She’s a long-time member of Palabristas, a Latin@ spoken word collective. Magdalena also dabbles in visual art. She grew up in Phillips, and Guatemala is her second home.

Crisanta de Ybarra and Kaluza write that “Puppetry allows us to transport the audience to the dream-like and interconnected worlds represented in our vision.” During the Puppet Lab process, they will continue their explorations of mythology, astronomy, history, and contemporary experiences of Indigenous immigrants as they delve deeper into a specific pyramid scene centered around the Maya Cosmovision.

Jay Owen Eisenberg is an actor, arts educator, writer, and illustrator based in Minneapolis by way of New York City. Jay is the recipient of an MSAB Artist Initiative Grant for his solo show BIG OLD ROCK, running at Open Eye Figure Theatre in December 2017. He is a frequent collaborator with Mixed Blood Theatre, where he serves on the Board of Directors. Jay is currently a Teaching Artist in Residence at the Guthrie Theater, and he also teaches with Children's Theater Company and Pillsbury House + Theater. He holds a BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts (Experimental Theater Wing), and is a proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA.

Shelby Richardson is originally from the small town of Murphys, California and came to Minneapolis in 2009. Since coming to Minnesota she has had the pleasure of working with an array of artists of different backgrounds and disciplines, splitting her time between working in traditional theaters on old plays and creating her own performances. Her collaboration with Jay is more like a private party with a soul-mate than anything else. Shelby's collaboration with Jay is part of a durational piece called PARTNER, which lasts two years. You can learn more about this at: iwanttobeyourpartner.com

Museum Piece will be both a mockery of our collective reverence for the past and a lamentation for what is lost. Eisenberg and Richardson will utilize direct eye-contact, plain-face clown, bunraku puppets, sculpture, strong lighting, and masks to create the feel of a post-apocalyptic museum tour. “Puppets are essential to this project because they can say things that human bodies cannot, and because puppetry itself is an ancient art form with a rich history to demystify, experiment with, and rebel against.”

Michele Spaise is a shadow puppeteer, visual, performance, multi-media, and teaching artist. Creating a body of work delving into healing, transformation, and Ascension from trauma. In 2015, while working on Naked Stages she fell in love with shadow puppetry's low tech, high-magic way of storytelling. Over the past two years studying with Monkeybear Harmolodic through workshops, creating a short collaborative shadow puppet performance, and building community with POC and indigenous puppeteers. Excited to create her first solo puppet show along with the Puppet Lab Cohort!

Spaise will be working on light, camera, rappers, an exploration of trauma as catalyst for healing and transformation. She will be highlighting projection and shadow puppetry, and experimenting with sound, video, and mask making. Spaise says “It’s amazing what can be made from paper and light!”

Elle Thoni is a playwright, performance-maker, public artist, and creative organizer born and based on occupied Dakota land in the Upper Mississippi watershed. A student of myth, Elle creates performances that play on the shared existence of humans and nonhumans: using ritual, spectacle, and narrative to explore possibilities for collective resilience and re-wilding. From 2013-2015, Elle apprenticed with documentary playwright Annabel Soutar of Porte Parole (Montréal, Canada) to help develop two freshwater-themed projects for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto. Since returning to the U.S., Elle has had the privilege of serving as Assistant Curator for Northern Lights.mn. She enjoys listening.

Thoni will create a fable-istic tale about the imagined future of our Great Lakes. She says, “The more I’ve engaged with puppetry, the more I’ve experienced its ability to function as a forum for grassroots myth-making and ritual.”

What is Puppet Lab?

Puppet Lab is a developmental laboratory for artists working within the medium of puppetry. Four artists or collaborative teams will be selected on the basis of a proposed project that will be work-shopped from mid-August 2017 through February 2018. The Puppet Lab program culminates in a public presentation at In the Heart of the Beast Theatre (HOBT) in March 2018.

Puppet Lab establishes a formalized process for emerging puppet and mask theater artists to advance their artistic development – to test and create new works within a supportive and challenging workshop environment. This program gives artists the time and space to test ideas, learn from others, and receive and respond to critical feedback.

We are interested in pushing the boundaries of what we collectively consider to be “puppet theater”. We are curious and stimulated by exploratory, experimental, and innovative performance. We are interested in ideas that work within traditional forms as well as projects that are new in every way.

We look forward to supporting artists who have worked with puppets as well as artists of other disciplines who are interested in delving into a new art form: shadow puppetry, hand puppets, masks, found objects, automatons, any and all sized spectacles, rod puppets, bunraku, miniature installation, marionettes, ventriloquism, integrated media, cantastoria, toy theater, animated projections or new inventions of any of these ancient forms. We will look deeply into how stories (ideas, concept or content) are shared through the means of puppetry.

 This program is made possible by generous support from the Jerome Foundation.

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Image by Zan Tomko
Image by Zan Tomko