The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance


Edited by Dassia N. Posner, Claudia Orenstein, John Bell

© 2015 – Routledge

Paperback. 352 pages

SKU: 9781138913837 Categories: ,


The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance offers a wide-ranging

perspective on how scholars and artists are currently re-evaluating the theoretical, historical,

and theatrical significance of performance that embraces the agency of inanimate objects.

This book proposes a collaborative, responsive model for broader artistic engagement in and

with the material world. Its 28 chapters aim to advance the study of the puppet not only as a

theatrical object but also as a vibrant artistic and scholarly discipline.

This Companion looks at puppetry and material performance from six perspectives: theoretical

approaches to the puppet, perspectives from practitioners, revisiting history, negotiating tradition,

material performances in contemporary theatre, and hybrid forms. Its wide range of topics, which

span 15 countries over five continents, encompasses:

• visual dramaturgy

• theatrical juxtapositions of robots and humans

• contemporary transformations of Indonesian wayang kulit

• Japanese ritual body substitutes

• recent European productions featuring toys, clay, and food.

The book features newly commissioned essays by leading scholars such as Matthew Isaac

Cohen, Kathy Foley, Jane Marie Law, Eleanor Margolies, Cody Poulton, and Jane Taylor.

It also celebrates the vital link between puppetry as a discipline and as a creative practice

with chapters by active practitioners, including Handspring Puppet Company’s Basil Jones,

Redmoon’s Jim Lasko, and Bread and Puppet’s Peter Schumann. Fully illustrated with more

than 60 images, this volume comprises the most expansive English-language collection of

international puppetry scholarship to date.


“This is a marvelous collection of essays testifying to the growing importance and richness of historical, critical and theoretical writings being produced today on the fascinating world of puppets and performing objects.”  — Marvin Carlson (Graduate Center, City University of New York)

“I cannot speak highly enough of this book. Not only does it bring extra rigour to the study and analysis of its subject, but it also manages to be an enjoyable read.”  — Penny Francis (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London)


Table of Contents

Part I: Theory and Practice

Edited and Introduced by John Bell

Section I: Theoretical Approaches to the Puppet

    1. “The Death of ‘The Puppet’?” by Margaret Williams
    2. “Co-presence and Ontological Ambiguity of the Puppet” by Paul Piris
 “Playing with the Eternal Uncanny: The Persistent Life of Lifeless Objects” by John Bell

Section II: Perspectives from Practitioners

    1. “Visual Dramaturgy: Some Thoughts for Puppet Theater Makers” by Eric Bass
    2. “Puppetry, Authorship, and the Ur-Narrative” by Basil Jones
    3. “Petrushka’s Voice” by Alexander Gref and Elena Slonimskaya
    4. “Clouds are Made of White!” by Rike Reiniger
    5. “Movement is Consciousness” by Kate Brehm
    6. “The Eye of Light: The Tension of Image and Object in Shadow Theatre and Beyond” by Stephen Kaplin
    7. “The Third Thing” by Jim Lasko
    8. “Post-Decivilization Efforts in The Nonsense Suburb of Art” by Peter Schumann

Part II: New Dialogues with History and Tradition

Edited and Introduced by Claudia Orenstein

Section III: Revisiting History

    1. “Making A Troublemaker: Charlotte Charke’s Proto-Feminist Punch” by Amber West
    2. “Life-Death and Disobedient Obedience: Russian Modernist Redefinitions of the Puppet” by Dassia N. Posner
    3. “The Saracen of Opera dei Pupi: A Study of Race, Representation and Identity” by Lisa Morse
    4. “Puppet Think: The Implication of Japanese Ritual Puppetry for Thinking Through Puppetry Performances” by Jane Marie Law
    5. “Relating to the Cross: A Puppet Perspective on the Holy Week Ceremonies of the Regularis Concordia” by Debra Hilborn

Section IV: Negotiating Tradition

    1. “Traditional and Post-traditional Wayang Kulit in Java Today” by Matthew Isaac Cohen
    2. “Korean Puppetry and Heritage: Hyundai Puppet Theatre and Creative Group NONI Translating Tradition” by Kathy Foley
    3. “Forging New Paths for Kerala’s Tolpavakoothu, Leather Shadow PuppetryTradition” by Claudia Orenstein
    4. “Integration of Puppetry Tradition into Contemporary Theatre: The Reinvigoration of the Vertep Puppet Nativity Play after Communism in Eastern Europe” by Ida Hledíková

Part III: Contemporary Investigations and Hybridizations

Edited and Introduced by Dassia N. Posner

Section V: Material Performances in Contemporary Theatre

    1. “From Props to Prosopoeia: Making After Cardenio” by Jane Taylor
    2. “‘A Total Spectacle but a Divided One:’ Redefining Character in Handspring Puppet Company’s Or You Could Kiss Me“by Dawn Tracey Brandes
    3. “Reading a Puppet Show: Understanding the Three-Dimensional Narrative” by Robert Smythe
    4. “Notes on New Model Theatres” by Mark Sussman

Section VI: New Directions and Hybrid Forms

  1. “From Puppet to Robot: Technology and the Human in Japanese Theatre” by Cody Poulton
  2. “Unholy Alliances and Harmonious Hybrids: New Fusions in Puppetry and Animation” by Colette
  3. “Programming Play: Puppets, Robots, and Engineering” by Elizabeth Ann Jochum and Todd Murphey
  4. “Return to the Mound: Animating Infinite Potential in Clay, Food, and Compost” by Eleanor Margolies



Dassia N. Posner is Assistant Professor of Theatre at Northwestern University. A theatre historian, dramaturg, and puppeteer, she is the author of numerous articles and chapters on Russian theatre, the history of directing, and puppetry and is Peer-Review Editor for Puppetry International. Recent dramaturgy includes Three Sisters and Russian Transport at Steppenwolf.

Claudia Orenstein is Associate Professor of Theatre at Hunter College and the Graduate Center at CUNY. Publications include The World of Theatre: Tradition and Innovation, and Festive Revolutions: The Politics of Popular Theatre and the San Francisco Mime Troupe. She is a board member of UNIMA-USA and Associate Editor of Asian Theatre Journal.

John Bell is Director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry and Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts at the University of Connecticut. An active puppeteer with Great Small Works and Bread & Puppet Theater, as well as a theatre historian, his publications include American Puppet Modernism(2008) and Puppets, Masks, and Performing Objects (2001).

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