Puppet Theatre

Discipline: Semester at Sea Seminars
Instructor: Kattwinkel
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 0800
End: 0915
Field Work: Day 1 | South Africa Download Syllabus

In what ways can puppets represent human experience better than human actors?  What sorts of stories are suited for puppet performances? What does puppet theatre offer to conversations about a culture? How can we use puppet performance to reflect our own intercultural experiences? This course will look at puppet theatre forms from around the globe, focusing on the areas of our voyage.  Puppet theatres take many forms, from the water puppets of Vietnam, to the shadow puppets of Burma and Malaysia, to the wooden puppets of Japan and Ghana.  In order to help us understand how puppets can communicate in unique ways the class will also include a project where we make shadow puppets and create our own story of our voyage and cultural encounters.

Field Work

Country: South Africa
Day: 1

South Africa is the home of one of the world's most famous puppet companies – Handspring Puppet Company. They are known internationally for their innovations in the art form and their productions, particularly the wildly popular War Horse. But they are only the best known of many companies in South Africa and surrounding countries. These companies come from a variety of artistic genres – from children's theatre to socially conscious theatre to physical theatre to big-budget entertainment. This field lab will introduce students to a couple of the practitioners of puppet theatre in South Africa with differing objectives and methodologies. Rainbow Puppet Company is a hand puppet company producing children's theatre, and Cosmos Theatre Company uses masks and puppets to create art with a documentary, social justice focus. We will meet with the founders of both of these companies to learn about their approaches to the art of puppetry.
  Academic Objectives:
  1. To witness and compare two different puppet aesthetics, and analyze in light of performing object theories covered in class.
  2. To acquire puppet-making and manipulation techniques for use in the students' own puppet performance
  3. To analyze connections between the puppetry of South Africa and the culture that created it, as well as their own place as a visitor in that culture.