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KEY TERMS This Month, We’re Studying:

Puppetry By Maya Merberg, SUNY Geneseo Puppet Arts (PA) is a program of study at several accredited colleges, and is available as a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Connecticut and West Virginia University. And though all BFA programs can seem a little frivolous if we’re being honest with ourselves, PA seems particularly questionable. Upon closer inspection though, puppetry proves to really be just another type of theatre. And, in an entertainment culture so saturated by digital media, students in the business of modernizing such a traditional art form stand poised to dominate a niche but sturdy market. Potential Jobs: Performing Puppeteer; Stage Managing; Dramatic Writing; Set and Costume Design; A Really Entertaining Stay-at-Home Parent

MYTH & TRUTH MYTH: Puppetry majors never grew up and are afraid of facing adulthood.



TRUTH: Haven’t you seen the marionette version of “Peter Pan”? Maybe Puppetry majors are young at heart, but there’s nothing wrong with that. They dedicate themselves to directing fabric characters around stages, reimagining the entertainment industry and redefining acting.

CHILDREN’S ENTERTAINMENT Not everything Puppet Arts students study is about making kids laugh, but much of it is. Students often have to take classes in early childhood education, and many even perform at pediatric hospitals.

MYTH: Puppetry majors are learning how to manipulate people into doing what they want. TRUTH: Puppet Arts programs do not train students to be figurative puppeteers who socially manipulate through rhetoric and lying. That’s what journalism is for. MYTH: Puppetry majors’ stuffed animals are their only friends. TRUTH: First of all, don’t call them “stuffed animals” within hearing distance of the theatre department. Also, PA majors have vibrant social lives; they just happen to be enhanced by the addition of their charming non-human menagerie.

Fun Fact: Julie Taymor, who designed the puppets used in the Broadway production of “Lion King,” was a Puppetry major.

Example Courses: Mask Theatre; Trends in Contemporary American Puppet Theatre; Scene Construction; String Untangling (a lab section involving headphones coiled in pockets)

CONVERSATION STARTERS “Will you perform at my cousin’s birthday party for free?” • “Are you ever afraid your puppets will come alive at night and haunt you like in ‘The Twilight Zone?’” • “Is it true that Puppetry majors have expert skills with their hands and mouths?”


// NOVEMBER 2016

FR ANK W. BALL ARD A nationally renowned puppeteer and progenitor of puppetry as an academic discipline, Ballard taught his own classes at UCONN, though his office hours were often led by decorated socks on his right hand.

UNEMPLOYMENT Though technically a key term for all Fine Arts majors, if it’s hard to find jobs in performance, it’s even harder in an obscure subset of theatre. Puppetry grads should consider that for a few years, they might only be using their skills to entertain (or frighten and alarm) their roommates.

L-R, Images via • •

Study Breaks Magazine November Austin  
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