Call for Proposals for Puppet Power 2018

Puppet Power 2018: Story

Conference on Applied Puppetry, June 2-3 2018, Calgary, AB, Canada 

Exploring how Puppetry, entwined with Stories, can connect, empathize and make meaning of our world today. 


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About the theme:

A shadowy image blurs, as wistful music plays, and then comes into focus. Its abstract shape has colourful holes and a twisted silhouette, but bears a resemblance to a dinosaur. From behind the screen a small voice says, “ I am lonely – no-one wants to play with me, because I am extinct” – a confession during a puppet workshop on emotions, even more significant because the student was a selective mute.

Puppets speak an innovative language. They have long been a voice through which creative individuals have challenged authority and delivered powerful social messages. Puppets play a broad role in contemporary society. They provide a creative platform to express controversial and significant social issues and can help modern minds in their quest to find effective and unique ways of generating fresh ideas and working collaboratively. Puppets can be a catalyst for thought-provoking experience and conversations that lead to new ways of perceiving contemporary life and its many social and cultural challenges.

Stories surround us. From victim impact statements to elevator pitches, from micro-story headlines to Netflix sagas, from pulpit parables to balance sheets. Some say that storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. (1)

Stories are valued because they make meaning of our world; they help us to connect and to empathize. (2) They can bring a voice to the voiceless and an audience to a cause. A strong enough story will even prompt action. Stories celebrate our human imagination but that same creativity can shape-shift the truth, and output false news or biased views. Stories can become a label, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or propaganda tool for manipulation.  Alternatively, stories can be an emotional vehicle that carries us to remarkable places. (3)

Oral story telling traditions are part of every world culture but we can express ourselves through hundred’s of non-lingual languages. Reggio 100 Languages pedagogy reminds us that there are multitudes of ways of seeing and being, and communication tools include light, objects, art, dance, clay, music, wire, puppetry and 92 other ways. (4)

When puppetry becomes entwined with story, the power sizzles. Puppets plus Story equals Power. Why? Why does the puppet, an in-animate object, give story that added edge?

WP Puppet Theatre Society’s PUPPET POWER 2018: STORY conference will explore the why and the how puppetry is such an effective medium for storytelling.  In keynotes, panels, and exhibits, hands-on workshops and performance, local and international speakers will follow three threads of inquiry:

  • Examine cognitive science findings about the human urge to ascribe animacy to inanimate objects, exploring the subversive, imaginary, and even uncanny, in puppet performances as well as the puppets ability to question reality and perception. The very definition of puppetry will be deconstructed and the puppet’s metaphorical and archetypal strength in film, literature, gaming, robotics and even politics will be discussed.
  • Inspire through testimony and stories, the impact puppetry can have in self-realization and reflection, on reconciliation, community building, healing, human development, literacy and much more.
  • Share practical skills through hands-on workshops, for telling, hearing and interpreting stories using the art of puppetry. Demonstrate the linkage between theory and practice, activating participants to use the powerful mediums of story and puppetry in their practices.
  2. Brene Brown’s Rising Strong
  3. Mark Hierlily