The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance offers a wide-ranging
perspective on how scholars and artists are currently re-evaluating the theoretical, historical,
and theatrical significance of performance that embraces the agency of inanimate objects.
This book proposes a collaborative, responsive model for broader artistic engagement in and
with the material world. Its 28 chapters aim to advance the study of the puppet not only as a
theatrical object but also as a vibrant artistic and scholarly discipline.
This Companion looks at puppetry and material performance from six perspectives: theoretical
approaches to the puppet, perspectives from practitioners, revisiting history, negotiating tradition,
material performances in contemporary theatre, and hybrid forms. Its wide range of topics, which
span 15 countries over five continents, encompasses:
• visual dramaturgy
• theatrical juxtapositions of robots and humans
• contemporary transformations of Indonesian wayang kulit
• Japanese ritual body substitutes
• recent European productions featuring toys, clay, and food.
The book features newly commissioned essays by leading scholars such as Matthew Isaac
Cohen, Kathy Foley, Jane Marie Law, Eleanor Margolies, Cody Poulton, and Jane Taylor.
It also celebrates the vital link between puppetry as a discipline and as a creative practice
with chapters by active practitioners, including Handspring Puppet Company’s Basil Jones,
Redmoon’s Jim Lasko, and Bread and Puppet’s Peter Schumann. Fully illustrated with more
than 60 images, this volume comprises the most expansive English-language collection of
international puppetry scholarship to date.
Table of Contents
Part I: Theory and Practice
Edited and Introduced by John Bell
Section I: Theoretical Approaches to the Puppet
- "The Death of ‘The Puppet’?" by Margaret Williams
- "Co-presence and Ontological Ambiguity of the Puppet" by Paul Piris
- "Playing with the Eternal Uncanny: The Persistent Life of Lifeless Objects" by John Bell
- "Visual Dramaturgy: Some Thoughts for Puppet Theater Makers" by Eric Bass
- "Puppetry, Authorship, and the Ur-Narrative" by Basil Jones
- "Petrushka’s Voice" by Alexander Gref and Elena Slonimskaya
- "Clouds are Made of White!" by Rike Reiniger
- "Movement is Consciousness" by Kate Brehm
- "The Eye of Light: The Tension of Image and Object in Shadow Theatre and Beyond" by Stephen Kaplin
- "The Third Thing" by Jim Lasko
- "Post-Decivilization Efforts in The Nonsense Suburb of Art" by Peter Schumann
- "Making A Troublemaker: Charlotte Charke’s Proto-Feminist Punch" by Amber West
- "Life-Death and Disobedient Obedience: Russian Modernist Redefinitions of the Puppet" by Dassia N. Posner
- "The Saracen of Opera dei Pupi: A Study of Race, Representation and Identity" by Lisa Morse
- "Puppet Think: The Implication of Japanese Ritual Puppetry for Thinking Through Puppetry Performances" by Jane Marie Law
- "Relating to the Cross: A Puppet Perspective on the Holy Week Ceremonies of the Regularis Concordia" by Debra Hilborn
- "Traditional and Post-traditional Wayang Kulit in Java Today" by Matthew Isaac Cohen
- "Korean Puppetry and Heritage: Hyundai Puppet Theatre and Creative Group NONI Translating Tradition" by Kathy Foley
- "Forging New Paths for Kerala's Tolpavakoothu, Leather Shadow Puppetry Tradition" by Claudia Orenstein
- "Integration of Puppetry Tradition into Contemporary Theatre: The Reinvigoration of the Vertep Puppet Nativity Play after Communism in Eastern Europe" by Ida Hledíková
- "From Props to Prosopoeia: Making After Cardenio" by Jane Taylor
- "‘A Total Spectacle but a Divided One:’ Redefining Character in Handspring Puppet Company’s Or You Could Kiss Me" by Dawn Tracey Brandes
- "Reading a Puppet Show: Understanding the Three-Dimensional Narrative" by Robert Smythe
- "Notes on New Model Theatres" by Mark Sussman
- "From Puppet to Robot: Technology and the Human in Japanese Theatre" by Cody Poulton
- "Unholy Alliances and Harmonious Hybrids: New Fusions in Puppetry and Animation" by Colette Searls
- "Programming Play: Puppets, Robots, and Engineering" by Elizabeth Ann Jochum and Todd Murphey
- "Return to the Mound: Animating Infinite Potential in Clay, Food, and Compost" by Eleanor Margolies
Section II: Perspectives from Practitioners
Part II: New Dialogues with History and Tradition
Edited and Introduced by Claudia Orenstein
Section III: Revisiting History
Section IV: Negotiating Tradition
Part III: Contemporary Investigations and Hybridizations
Edited and Introduced by Dassia N. Posner
Section V: Material Performances in Contemporary Theatre
Section VI: New Directions and Hybrid Forms
Dassia N. Posner is Assistant Professor of Theatre at Northwestern University. A theatre historian, dramaturg, and puppeteer, she is the author of numerous articles and chapters on Russian theatre, the history of directing, and puppetry and is Peer-Review Editor for Puppetry International. Recent dramaturgy includes Three Sisters and Russian Transport at Steppenwolf.
Claudia Orenstein is Associate Professor of Theatre at Hunter College and the Graduate Center at CUNY. Publications include The World of Theatre: Tradition and Innovation, and Festive Revolutions: The Politics of Popular Theatre and the San Francisco Mime Troupe. She is a board member of UNIMA-USA and Associate Editor of Asian Theatre Journal.
John Bell is Director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut. An active puppeteer with Great Small Works and Bread & Puppet Theater, as well as a theatre historian, his publications include American Puppet Modernism (2008) and Puppets, Masks, and Performing Objects (2001).
"The duality of the puppet--which oscillates between a vibrant being and inanimate object--has afforded theater artists and scholars a rich legacy of philosophical criticism and commentary. Adding to this scholarship, Bell (Univ. of Connecticut), Orenstein (Hunter, CUNY), and Posner (Northwestern) have assembled 28 essays written by noted scholars, theorists, and performers (some contributors fulfilling several roles) to reexamine traditional definitions of puppetry in light of contemporary performance… The essays examine puppetry practices of 15 countries and include 66 illustrations in all, making this volume a significant corpus of new English language puppetry scholarship…Summing Up: Recommended."
- R. A. Naversen, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, CHOICE
Praise for The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance
"This is a marvelous collection of essays testifying to the growing importance and richness of historical, critical and theoretical writings being produced today on the fascinating world of puppets and performing objects."
-- Marvin Carlson (Graduate Center, City University of New York)
"The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance is a landmark in puppetry studies. Its collection of articles is remarkably wide-ranging and up to date, with writing that is scholarly but uniformly accessible to any reader with an interest in puppetry. It is an essential book."
-- Steve Tillis (St. Mary’s College of California)
"This is a much awaited book that guides the reader intelligently and engagingly through the recent discourse on puppetry and material performance with its myriad of new terms. Comprehensive in its reach, the book includes investigations into the traditional, modern and hybrid manifestations of performing objects as well as analyses from philosophical and practice-based perspectives."
-- Mari Boyd (Sophia University, Tokyo)
"The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance features a lively range of approaches to puppetry in theory and practice. It will be an indispensable resource for material performance studies."
-- Andrew Sofer (Boston College)
"This Companion gives platform to the thinkers of our day in their search for an articulation to our truly unruly art form. The vitality audiences have seen on our puppet stages in the recent decades is dynamically revealed here in vibrant thought and discourse."
-- Blair Thomas (School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
"I cannot speak highly enough of this book. Not only does it bring extra rigour to the study and analysis of its subject, but it also manages to be an enjoyable read."
-- Penny Francis (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London)
"This is a brilliantly conceived, meticulously edited volume that could easily become the cornerstone of an entire course of study (either undergraduate or graduate) and a foundation text for the entire field."
-- Bradford Clark (Bowling Green State University)
"From wayang to War Horse, the chapters in this collection provide evocative theories, history, and accounts of practice surrounding puppetry and object performance around the world. It is impossible to deny the ever-growing popularity of puppetry, and this book offers a much-needed overview and provides an excellent springboard for further study and research. Every theatre scholar and practitioner should get a copy!"
-- Jennifer Goodlander (Indiana University)
The editors have succeeded in making a case for the field of material performance to be considered alongside other performance fields... This collection proves that not only is puppetry ubiquitous in our material world, but that there is invigorating material performance work happening today that merits discussion.
-HEATHER DENYER The Graduate Center/CUNY, Theatre Journal