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Report from the Puppet Centre Trust

March 05 - Director Beccy Smith

It’s currently arctic in the Puppet Centre – a few of our puppets, perhaps in a bid for freedom, seem to have loosened the window frames leaving a chill wind rattling through. This will be fixed soon in the new improved Centre (see below), but in the meantime we’ve been keeping warm by keeping busy.

In January we were pleased to set up, in association with London International Mime Festival, the second in our masterclass series for Animating the Animators - The Logic of Movement, led by Stephen Mottram. The session was well attended with 18 participants coming from all across the country and giving excellent feedback on the day’s work whose focus distilled more than twenty years of practice as Stephen explored his means of communicating meaning through the way the puppet moves. Over the next couple of months we will be setting up a new section of the PCT website which will focus exclusively on reports and images from the AA project and a more detailed survey of the session, written by Stephen himself will be housed there (you can expect to see reports there from all of our masterclass leaders in due course). We’re in the process of recruiting a new web administrator to work alongside our dedicated Animations Online team, so expect to see a revamp of the PCT pages of the site coming soon, and any of you who have emailed me in vain over the last few months to ask for links – this section will be getting a complete overhaul at the same time. Sorry about the wait!

Our next two masterclasses are branching further afield. First, we have a session focusing on Vocal Skills for the Puppeteer led by internationally renowned Neville Tranter as part of Bath Puppetry Festival. This will be held on March 31st 2005 at the Ustinov Studio – for details on how to apply see the Training section (link to Training and CPD page). Secondly the Puppet Centre will, for the first time, be making an appearance at the National Student Drama Festival, where Rene Baker (freelance puppeteer and educationalist currently teaching at CSSD) and Rachel Riggs of DNA will be holding two full-day sessions intended to introduce the possibilities of puppetry to the theatre students there. These will be open sessions and we’re extremely pleased to be taking work there this year: there has never been a solid puppetry presence at the festival but with the increasing trends towards devised and visual work amongst emergent performance students we feel the timing is very apt for a ‘puppetry intervention’ to inspire the next generation of theatre makers. I’ll report back in the next e-dition of Animations.

On a related note, the three-month application period for this year’s bursary scheme is now closed - we had a flurry of applications throughout January. Forty-three applications were received in all and the shortlisting process was held at the Centre mid-February. The standard of proposals submitted from applicants, whose background was extremely varied, was, according to the judging panel, outstanding. We’ll be announcing the winners of both the £8500 professional development grants in mid-March and the scheme for 2006 will be open in November 2005.

We’ve also been hard at work setting up a new project for later this spring. As part of Soho Theatre’s annual New Writing Festival, and as a pilot for a larger commissions project we’re hoping to run later in the year, we’ve set up a one-day guerrilla-style event throwing together 5 puppeteers with 5 experienced new writers to collaborate on creating short new performances for puppetry. This will be a groundbreaking event for Soho’s audiences and, we feel, a very positive step in bridging the perceived gap between creating work using puppetry and other theatre methodologies. You’ll be able to come along and see the outcomes on April 2nd, 4pm in the Soho Theatre Studio (there’ll also be an enlightening talk on the innate connections between puppetry and writing and an opportunity to discuss what you have seen). Tickets are available through Soho theatre’s box office and are a snip at only £5.00 (£3.00) – hope to see you there!

In March the Puppet Centre Trust is getting a new look! We’ll be completely renovating, repainting and reflooring our space…and we need your help! If you can spare one day, half a day, a week (!) and a squirt of elbow grease you could help transform the Centre’s historic rooms in BAC. We’re looking for volunteers who can offer time between 10am and 5pm March 15th – 23rd inclusive (except for weekends) so if you can offer any time at all during that period we’d be enormously grateful. We simply can’t do the work without your help. And we’ll also give you lunch! Please pass on this plea to anyone you think might be able to help and contact me at the Centre if you’ve any time at all you can spare.

We were very pleased to be able to host two performances of A Word in your Shell-Like by emerging company Sorcerer Baklava over the weekend of February 19/20 –there will be a report by Cath Connolly in the next e-dition of Animations. The aspiration is for us, through the transformation of the space, to be able to offer greater services such as this to the puppetry community, with the space operating as a function rehearsal room as well as (small – we’re licensed for audiences of up to 50) performance space. If you have any ideas about how you could use the new space after April or if you’d like to discuss this or anything else in this report further, give me a call or drop me an email

and I’ll be happy to chat in more detail.
Finally, please note that PCT’s office will be closed from March 14 – 23rd inclusive and the Library will also not be accessible on those dates. We can assure you however that it will be worth it in the end! I look forward to hearing your news and responses – don’t forget to keep us in the loop about upcoming / current projects and developments. Here’s to spring!

Beccy Smith, Director
Puppet Centre Trust

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