The Puppetry Empire of New York

The Puppetry Empire of New York

By Yasmeen A Alkooheji

Unbridled excitement, puppets galore, and gleaming eyes in glistening lights. That is only a fraction of all the fun and frenzy that New York’s first-ever International Puppet Fringe Festival (IPFF) encompassed on its four-day run. Hosted by Teatro SEA and The MORÁN Group, the unprecedented festival catered to audiences of all ages as it boasted a plethora of events ranging from a red carpet puppet walk and puppet cabarets, to over 40 performances by world-renowned national and international puppet companies.

Among the national production companies were WonderSpark Puppets, Drama of Works, Paper Heart Puppets, Red Herring, and Chinese Theatre Works. The companies joining us from overseas were Costa Rica’s Compañía La Bicicleta, France’s Les Anges au Plafond, Canada’s La Tortue Noire, and Puerto Rico’s Agua, Sol y Sereno. Each company presented a distinctly unique and invigorating performance that left the audience utterly mesmerized. Some of the performances targeted at slightly older audiences, tastefully and meticulously interwove the elements of culture and history into their performances in an attempt to not only entertain the audience but to also raise awareness. A prime example of this is Puerto Rico’s Agua, Sol y Sereno’s Corazón de papel: A Hurricane Story, as it chronicled the story of the loss and devastation left in the life of Puerto Ricans in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

As a result, the IPFF was at its core, a celebration of diversity and inclusivity as it created a platform for all voices to be heard and paved way for more accurate portrayals of minority groups. The wide array of cultures and religions represented through the different puppet performances served to empower, educate, and inspire our young audience members, and to promote the notion of the acceptance of others and oneself, in particular.

We strived to further highlight the importance of representation and diversity in the arts through Teatro SEA’s very own theatre production, Sueño. With the amalgamation of theatre, dance, and puppetry, Sueño instantly became a fan-favorite as it offered the ever-growing audience a seamlessly executed performance of a Latino take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The crowd erupted in laughter and applause as children and adults alike, were spellbound and enchanted by the stimulating music, visuals, and folkloric Puerto Rican characters.

After a series of art exhibitions, artist-talkbacks, and a marathon of riveting performances, the puppets and puppeteers said their goodbyes, the scurrying of little feet came to a halt, and the curtains closed. In the span of four short days, the IPFF was able to build an empire of puppetry in the bustling city of New York, that left people enraptured and inspired. And we can’t wait to do it all over again!

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