World Puppetry Day is March 21, 2019, and this year Bellingham will be celebrating with a mini-festival from March 21 through March 23. The festival includes a lineup of local and regional performers in a variety of marionette, mask, string, shadow and stick puppetry media. Most performances will take place at the Alternative Library at 519 East Maple Street in downtown Bellingham. The festival begins on Thursday, March 21, at 7:30 pm with an Open Stage event co-hosted by Eve Smason, a jazz pianist, and Max Eberhard, the local puppeteer of “PappenSpiel” fame. Seattle performers “Jawbone Puppet Theatre,” and Linda Comer will also be performing, followed by interactive audience engagement opportunities and short sketches. Learn how puppets are made, operated, and more.
The Festival continues Friday and Saturday evenings with a PuppetyCabaret featuring performers from Olympia, Portland, Seattle and Bellingham. Performances start at 7:30 pm and tickets can be purchased online or at the door for $ 8 to $15. A festival pass is available for $20, providing admission to all shows. Friday’s show features String and Shadow Puppet Theatre of Olympia. They’ll tell how “Esperus: The Janitor” saves the old world. Pappenspiel will perform followed by Shadow Sail puppet theatre, bringing Noodle back to the stage, along with Jawbone Puppet’s Adam Ende from Seattle.
Saturday’s show features author GennaRose with a folktale of mythical and magical revelations illustrated with art on a “crankie” scroll. Winner of the 2017 National Poetry Series competition. Local author Pheobe Wahl, String and Shadow, Andrea Love, and more will round out the cabaret.
World Puppetry Day was established in 2002 by UNIMA, the Union Internationale de la Marionnette, a nongovernmental organization affiliated with UNESCO, and has been celebrated around the world since 2003. Mask performances have deep roots in ancient prehistory of all cultures, and many spiritual practices include full body sculptural costumes for the enactment of animals and spirits in dance and storytelling. Modern puppetry and marionette arts continue to expand the medium to include large scale dramatic sculptures operated by multiple skilled actors in a variety of settings.
Local performers and arts groups came together in late 2018 to plan a Bellingham World Puppetry Day celebration with the goal of increasing awareness of the artistry and technical advancement of puppetry, and to demonstrate that this art form goes well beyond childhood play.
In the words of Bellingham puppeteer, Max Eberhard, “Puppetry continues to feed the play of the unending child within all of us ‐ either way, Puppetry and Mask is one of the cornerstones of the dramatic arts and a “serious” communicative force created by human beings from and at the very beginning of time. It was there when voice, dance and imagination birthed culture.”
It is hoped that the Bellingham World Puppetry Day festival will be the founding event for the formation of a Whatcom Puppetry Guild composed of local performers and artists.