Hooray! We finally received our official 501(c)3 designation from the IRS. We are so excited by all of our ideas and look forward to working with our community to make awesome puppetry a part of the Richmond scene. Happy dance time!
We are all supposed to be planning for the future, right?
A few years ago, I ran into a puppetry friend, colleague and scholar up in Boston. She’s in her 70’s and had just recently relocated to Boston. I asked her if she had family in the area, and she replied, “Well, not in the sense that you mean.” I asked for clarification, and she explained to me that she chose Boston because it has a strong puppetry scene; she knew she would be able to see lots of great puppet theatre (for all ages) throughout the year. She moved to Boston to be close to her puppet "family."
I love Richmond. Because we (my husband, Sam, and I) tour with our puppet shows, we are on the road a lot, but we love, love, LOVE coming HOME to Richmond. We love being part of the community as we raise two children. We love the parks, the art scene, the museums, culture, and the big trees. Thinking ahead, though, I’ve decided that I want to retire somewhere that has a really fabulous puppetry scene. That leaves me only one choice: create a fabulous puppetry scene in Richmond.
I’ve been taking classes in non-profit management for the past five years through Nonprofit Learning Point, so I actually know what I am getting into. (Mostly.) But I have been to numerous communities with a strong puppetry scene, and I know what that looks like, what it feels like. I'd really like to see it here.
What would it look like? Puppet performances on a regular basis. Yes, just fun stuff for kids and families, but also mind-blowing, transformative theatre for adults on difficult subject like dementia, multiple sclerosis, the environment, and antisemitism, to name a few. There would also be puppet slams, workshops, educational outreach, school residencies, and support for new works by local puppet arts professionals.
What would it feel like? Vibrant. Fun. Joyous. Eclectic. Open. Inclusive. Creative. Zany. Exploring. Magical. Alive. I'm not sure exactly how you feel these things, but that is what it feels like.
It’s a lot of work, but I am so proud of what we are doing! It’s just like birth: messy, painful, complicated, and there is paperwork. Lots of paperwork. And. Worth. Every. Minute.
Richmond has such a great theatre/art scene. In our travels performing throughout the country, we've experienced communities with strong puppetry scenes. Atlanta. Boston. NYC. Syracuse. Philly. Asheville. Putney, Vermont! All different shapes and sizes, but with lots of puppetry.
Presenting live puppetry in RVA on a regular basis allows another opportunity for families to experience live theatre together and allows adult audiences to see a different side of puppetry. Our family shows will go beyond mainstream offerings as we share fun works that showcase the creativity of puppet artists working in a multitude of puppetry styles. Hand puppets? Check. Rod puppets? Check. Non-verbal shows? You bet! Marionettes, shadow puppets, object puppets? Yes, yes, yes!
Let us open your eyes to the possibilities in puppetry!
Sure we have social media and are so interconnected right now that it is a bit overwhelming, at times. One of theatre's many amazing attributes is that it brings people together (in real-time and real-space) for a shared experience. There is something about being together in a space full of people that is a bit magical. We have so many experiences that we do a bit separately nowadays: even eating dinner together as a family can be tricky!
Our focus is smaller audiences -- under 100 people. With this in mind, we will be able to keep our community in mind with shows that have a more intimate feel and programming that can be focused upon special audiences. We are working to set aside several performances that are "sensory-friendly," as well as planning into the future for events like a food-free Halloween performance in 2015 for kids with severe allergies (you cannot imagine the torture of trick-or-treating when you can't eat anything!).
We are engaged with the community and open to your suggestions. Homeschool programming and performances? Yes, we are working on that. Shows for tots? Also in the works. Puppet play group? Working on it! So many possibilities, but we need to support! Check out our first fundraising blast and spread the word!
We want our shows and workshops to be accessible.
Most people don't realize all the costs that go into producing and presenting theatrical works: keeping the toilets clean, the lights on, heat (a/c) on, marketing/promotion, insurance, taxes, legal fees, storage, postage, office supplies, fundraising expenses, printing programs, and on and on. Most venues can easily show that the cost of a ticket does not pay for the show. Fundraising is essential.
Seeing theatre in a theatre is a wonderful experience. Having the lighting and sound "just so" to place the performance in the best light possible for the audience. It's all about you -- the audience member, the theatre-goer!
Our goal is to keep our tickets at an affordable rate -- especially for our family series -- while crafting a full, theatrical experience for our audience.
(This is Part 2 in a series of "Top Ten Reasons to Support Puppets-Off Broad Street" in RVA.)
Expand your horizons! Puppetry is an ancient tradition with roots in shamanistic rituals and religious ceremonies. The word "marionette" is actually derived from "Little Mary" in French and refers to the nativity plays held by the church in Medieval times to educate the illiterate masses. Puppetry has been present in one form or another throughout time on every human inhabited continent (I don't think penguins in Antarctica have any works to their credit).
Modern puppetry ranges all over the place: silly, sublime, outrageous, shocking, beautiful, celebratory, intimate, spectacle, and everything beyond and in between. In America, we tend to think "Muppets" and "kids," but in the rest of the world, puppetry is embraced as a theatrical form for adult audiences. In Indonesia, you can watch shadow performances that last all night long. Bunraku in Japan, Water Puppetry in Vietnam, and African Mask are a few other forms steeped in tradition. Throughout Europe, Australia, Canada, and (yes!) even the United States, puppet artists work to create works that share stories with unique visions for contemporary audiences.
We'd like to bring a full-spectrum of puppetry to Richmond audiences.
(This is the first in a series of ten in-depth reasons to support Puppets Off-Broad Street.)
The next series of posts will explore each of these in more detail, but here is our abbreviated list:
1. There is more to puppetry than meets the googly eye.
2. Affordable tickets.
3. Theatre and puppetry build community.
4. We add diversity to the theatre offerings in Richmond.
5. Puppets are cool.
6. Move children full STEAM ahead with puppetry.
7. Versatile and unique programming for special populations.
8. Puppetry is a 4-dimensional, synergistic theatrical form.
9. We navigate the tricky waters beyond the mainstream.
10. Puppetry can change lives. Really.
I am so thrilled by the outpouring of support as we start off on our adventures as a presenting organization. Puppets Off-Broad Street has been an idea for quite some time: morphing and changing and only recently solidifying. To make this dream a reality, we have a lot of work ahead of us...but it is worth it!
We have a long list of aspirations and goals that includes regular family programming, performances for adults that range from the silly (like Puppet Slams) to the sublime, workshops, classes, a special film series (wouldn't that be fun when the Byrd gets those new seats?), and even a puppet camp! We have big plans for RVA that are born of what we have learned from visiting and experiencing rich puppetry scenes in other cities. We have seen how puppetry and theatre have transformed neighborhoods, lives, and communities. We hope to give the same to Richmond.
Heidi Rugg is a puppet artist, mom, maker of stuff, and the founder of Puppets Off-Broad Street. Her company, Barefoot Puppet Theatre, has toured all over the country. She lives in Richmond's Northside with her husband, Sam, two daughters as different as rain and ribbons, a cat named Moxie, a lizard named Pepper, and a legion of nameless dust-bunnies.
Christopher Hudert is a is a versatile artist whose skills include script writing, sculpting, set and puppet construction, puppetry, clowning, stilt walking, juggling and much more. His company, Applause Unlimited, has toured extensively. He lives in Lakeside with his family.