Karrie Marshall was a Key Note Speaker at the Puppet Power 2016 :: Connecting Generations Conference. She presented Connecting Through Creativity & Joy: Exploring the Power of Puppetry in Dementia Care as well as co-presenting a hands-on workshop, Puppet Selves, with her partner Chris King. We asked Karrie 5 questions
Why puppets? What inspired you to get into puppetry?
I love feeling energy flow through a piece of cloth. Puppetry reveals what is important…the essence of something. As an artist I am interested in connections between people, and how this deepens understanding, often without words. Puppets engage people in imaginary worlds; yet they can powerfully convey real life through parody, as shown by Russian puppeteer Obraztsov.
Metaphorical expression of changes (in cognition, mental health or wellbeing) is effective through many art-forms, and especially puppetry.
There is something about creativity that releases people from the confines of a label. A ‘something else’ becomes visible, which may have been unknown before the creative encounter. My art and puppetry is about this something else. I understand it as having faith in a process, feeling wonderment and dwelling in possibility. These ideas nurture my work with co-artists and performers. I love the transformative and healing nature of participatory arts and puppetry.
What is your favourite puppet related childhood memory?
Waking up one morning to find my mum had placed a home-made beautiful black cat glove puppet on my pillow. Another favourite is the puppet scene in The Sound of Music with goats created by Bill Baird and Cora Eisenberg.
How do you connect generations and/or communities with puppetry?
The work through Creativity In Care social enterprise focuses on participatory arts, including puppetry. We work with people aged 5 to 95 who are co-artists, co-puppeteers, co-writers or performers. A recent intergenerational community show ‘The Nine Lives Theory’ is a good example, with a cast of 42 people of all ages and abilities performing together.
People supported in care facilities or at home in the community, create puppets and artworks that are shared with families, staff and peers. These aid communication and connection. Participant’s art can help raise awareness, not just of the individual’s experiences, but also widen other people’s perceptions of what is possible.
Our work through Zenwing Puppets Theatre Company is usually aimed at family audiences. The touring shows regularly see audiences of 3 generations enjoying the show together, and feedback shows this is a valued experience. Puppet workshops support people to create mini-performances for other people.
Can you tell me about a time when you could see a lasting response or impact of your work?
Seven years ago we worked with people keen to tell their life stories through puppetry. The aim was to raise awareness of how people experience mental ill health, and show what helps recovery. The puppets and performances were stunning, and audiences were deeply moved and inspired. People still have their puppets, and recall that time as pivotal in feeling understood and connected.
We are also aware of the powerful impact personal puppets have on families of people living with dementia. They become so significant that we have seen some of our co-created puppets at the maker’s funeral or buried with them.
Is there someone who is in a different generation that inspires you?
Inspiration is everywhere. I am always inspired of the artworks produced by children, adults and older people we meet. I am also motivated by people who contributed to human rights understandings such as Rogers, Maslow, Lincoln, Luther-King. I am inspired by the art and thinking of the early 20th Century, Miro, Picasso, Calder, Magritte. I love surrealism and the desire to express sub-conscious imagination and aspirations.
Karrie gave the Keynote Talk, “Connecting Through Creativity And Joy: exploring the power of puppetry in dementia care” for our Puppet Power 2016 conference, and, a hands-on workshop with Chris King, Puppet Selves.