Best Place in the U.S. For Puppeteers
Most of the information in this post is straight from their website and accurate as of the time of this post, but I encourage you to visit their site.
Puppeteers of America is a national non-profit organization founded in 1937 to provide information, encourage performances, and build a community of people who celebrate puppet theatre of every type.
Along with Regional guilds that help like-minded members in the same area stay connected, the Puppeteers of America has produced over 160 national and regional festivals to celebrate and share the art of puppetry. The organization publishes the quarterly magazine, The Puppetry Journal. Founded in 1949, The Puppetry Journal provides a continuing chronicle of contemporary puppetry.
Puppeteers of America encourages local puppet groups or “guilds” to stay connected and help each other out. The guilds are independently run with no financial or administrative connection to Puppeteers of America, but it helps members in organizing events, etc.
Puppet Guilds are communities of people with a common love and interest in the Art of Puppetry. The Guilds provide opportunities for puppet professionals, enthusiasts and those new to puppetry to meet regularly, enjoy performances, and learn puppet technique.
You can belong to the Puppeteers of America without belonging to a guild, and you can belong to a guild without belonging to PofA, but my personal suggestion is to be connected with both to get the full experience. If you are interested in forming a new guild, or have questions about guilds, in your area, check out the PofA Guidelines for Guilds and some of the more popular regional guilds.
There are a series of awards that the PofA give out annually. Each award presented by the Puppeteers of America is a unique and distinct honor. The awards recognize extraordinary contributions to of the art of puppetry and to the community of puppeteers.
The President’s Award is the only honor in USA puppetry that recognizes a body of work or entire career in puppetry. It is a lifetime achievement award. The recipients include: Jim Henson, Bil Baird, Burr Tillstrom, Julie Taymor, Peter Schumann, Frank Ballard, Rufus and Margo Rose.
Two awards were established to recognize and encourage service to the puppetry community.
Three newer awards are named for distinguished artists who are inspirational role models.
The Jim Henson Award for Innovation
The George Latshaw Award for writing
The Marjorie Batchelder McPharlin Award for education
Awards are presented every two years at National Puppetry Festivals.
Any member of Puppeteers of America can make a nomination for an award and any member can win, based on their contribution to the art.
World Day of Puppetry
Along with many other events, PofA has an amazing festival called World Day of Puppetry. Puppetry in America is older than the country itself, but until the beginning of the 20th century, puppet shows were rare. Puppeteers kept their art a closely guarded secret, certainly not shared with the public. In the first half of the 20th century, some puppeteers (most notably Tony Sarg) helped to lift the veil of secrecy, sharing information about their work, which led to the formation of the Puppeteers of America in 1937.
In an effort to strengthen recognition of puppetry as a global art form and to align activities with UNIMA-USA, Puppeteers of America officially merged the National Day of Puppetry with the World Day of Puppetry, each March 21.
Today, almost three quarters of a century onward, puppets hold a place in the public’s heart that is rivaled by few other arts. They appear on stage, in movies, on television, and now, on the Internet. The Puppeteers of America is proud to present this National Day of Puppetry taking place all over North America and brought to you by the local Puppeteers of America guild in your area.
The Puppetry Journal
The Puppetry Journal is the official magazine of the Puppeteers of America. It is published four times a year to members of the organization. Each issue is about forty or so pages.
In each Journal, we produce a mix of articles, photographs, columns and other features – a mix that documents contemporary puppetry and profiles the work of contemporary puppeteers, but also explores the legacy of our historic and fascinating art.
The Puppetry Journal is not sold on newsstands and not currently offered as an online publication at the time of this post, though from time to time selected articles will be featured on their website. The magazine is available only as a hard-copy publication, mainly to members as part of their membership.
Most members build up a collection of their Puppetry Journals over the years that become collector’s items as well as training guides.
If you get the opportunity to join the Puppeteers of America, I would highly recommend it, but if you aren’t in America don’t fret, In a future post I will talk about UNIMA.