Author Craig Schwartz gave a positive review (in October¹s Playboard) of the first weekend of the third annual Black Sheep Puppet Festival in Pittsburgh, PA. I was attendant for the final five days, a very entertaining experience and highly successful puppet arts event. This is the third of three years I have been in attendance from Chicago.
The ten day festival included workshops, lectures, a Svankmeyer film festival, and national performing artists from the far reaches of the United States (over 15 states including Washington and California) doing children and adult puppet shows. All this is organized over the course of the year by a small core of visionary local artists known as the IAC (Industrial Arts Coop) that work incredibly hard to get quality and diverse puppetry to Pittsburgh. They also have a chance to showcase their great local puppetry talents. The festival produces a fresh display of talent, a meeting of great puppet minds, and a front-page Pittsburgh arts event. The scope and scale of the festival has grown each year. This festival deserves more national and international attention.
Artists at this festival are encouraged to stay at the impressive venue, an old gothic brewery turned artists live-work space including a new re-vamped theatre and gallery on the first floor. The ³Brewhouse² contains the gallery of puppets, the theatre, the workshop space, many of the organizers¹ homes and studios, and last but not least, space and food service for the visiting artists. This year, the visiting artists created the Luv Ewe lounge for artists to share thoughts and practice techniques. The community is very supportive.
Although not present for the first five days, my impression was that the preparatory work was done well, and the children¹s workshops organized by Cheryl Capazutti were a hit. The first weekend of performances followed the September 11th tragedy and its ties with Western Pennsylvania. The attendance was understandibly off, but for those that needed puppetry, it was there. Craig Schwartz¹s review (mentioned above) gave it good reviews.
The last half of the festival started Thursday night with a dedicated locals night, including Gregory Knipling, Tom Sarver Express, LintGuys, Puppets of Pain, Ric Bach, Frankie Capri, BullSeal, BridgeSpotters and others.
All evening performances sold out to enthusiastic audiences. The evenings were filled with diverse content and puppetry talent. Non-local artists included Blair Thomas, Environmental Encroachment, Miss Pussy Cat, Spyglass Theatre, Beth Nixon, Black Cherry Theatre, Lisa Abatamarco, and Tiny Ninja Theatre among others.
Gregory Knipling gave his annual Puppetry lecture on Sunday; a wealth of talent, puppets, and inspiration.
The IAC¹s goal was to more than organize a performance festival, they wanted to ³sculpt² a living environment . The IAC¹s idea worked, their sculpture worked; there was always a buzz of puppetry, music, show and tell, dissertations of the role of puppetry, spontaneous puppet operas, and other night-long world-event potlatch discourse. The event is alive and it is an artwork itself. I greatly appreciated this aspect, a difference to other performance-related events and festivals (see the Puppetropolis review in Puppetry Journal #_), where events and artists aren¹t as bonded.
This was another successful year for a youthful, fresh, quality festival. Mark your calendars for 2002.
for more information about the festival:
Black Sheep Puppet Festival
2100 Mary Street
website: www.blacksheeppuppet.com (I think the site is under repair)
Write or call the city about it, or ask me questions at email@example.com.
Visit photographs of the Black Sheep Festival on the EE website.
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