PUPPET MELTDOWN 2020 PROGRAM
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Brett Miller/NoSkillCustoms "Blurrgs"
Brett Miller has been an Art teacher in the Buffalo, New York area for nearly 20 years and has been sharing his love of action figures as “Bert” on the YouTube channel “NoSkillCustoms” since last year. Having always been interested in puppets, Brett dabbled in puppeteering when he began teaching Art at the elementary level, but retired the colorful sock character “Socko” when he began teaching at the high school level. Brett only just recently returned to puppeteering to make video content for his high school students when New York State schools closed and shifted to online learning in March of 2020. The use of a puppet character allowed information to be relayed as conversations rather than lectures and allowed for funny situations that would better appeal to his students. It was Brett’s wife and children (themselves puppeteers) who encouraged him to use some of his extra time at home to pursue puppeteering for pure entertainment. Please enjoy the results (consequences?) of Brett’s action figure and puppetry interests colliding: Blurrgs!
Connor Asher/Creventive Studios
"How to Survive COVID-19"
Connor Asher is a professional puppeteer, puppet instructor, and puppet builder working in film, television, and stage with more than 10 years of experience.
Connor performed characters in the new YippeeTV series Pete & Penelope, Jane Lynch’s Simple City, and Opera In Focus.
In 2014, Connor founded Creventive Puppet Company. Through Creventive, he has created and self-produced four of his own live touring theatrical puppetry productions performing for family audiences throughout the USA. In addition to shows, Connor instructs educational puppet performance and building workshops for children and adults, along with providing one-of-a-kind custom puppet building services - helping clients bring their visions to life, worldwide.
Notable clients include Jane Lynch, The Insurance King, Ed Bassmaster, InsureSmart, STORY CO, Magic Wheelchair, and The Marc Dunworth Foundation.
Dana Kogan "Birthday"
Dana Kogan is a puppeteer and improviser. A veteran of 2 Puppet Meltdown slams, she’s also performed with Annoyance Theater and the 2019 GENCON slam. This piece was designed as part of Pam Severns’ solo class online 2020. Love to Kevin, my puzzle piece.
Elise Vanase “Recording In Progress”
Elise Vanase is a senior puppetry undergrad at the University of Connecticut. To stay busy during the pandemic, she is working on her senior project and leading free online weekly workshops with the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. She is fairly new to the puppetry scene, having switched into the program from majoring in business, so she welcomes any opportunity to make connections or improve her skills!
Jessica Nebeker/Homegrown Theatre
“Embrace the COVID-15”
If you would have told Jessica ten years ago that she would be spending her days making masks and puppets she would have thought you were crazy. As a Registered Nurse for St. Luke’s this work seemed entirely out of her wheel-house. Jessica has HomeGrown Theatre in Boise Idaho to thank for her new obsession. She is now most at home in her shop, covered in clay and plaster. Entirely self-taught Jessica specializes in sculpting, molding, and casting puppets and masks. Recent design opportunities include HomeGrown Theatre’s Productions of She Kills Monsters, and The (8th Annual!) Horrific Puppet Affair; Ghost Stories as well as Boise Contemporary Theater’s production of Rabbit Moon. You can look forward to seeing Jessica's work with Treasure Valley Children’s Theater's production of Moana. Jessica wants to thank SeaBeast Puppetry for showing her work in her first ever puppet slam!
Kat Pleviak "Road Rage"
Kat Pleviak is the founder and Artistic Director of Sea Beast Puppet Company in Glen Ellyn, IL.
Under Kat’s direction Sea Beast has initiated a number of exciting puppetry projects including a series of original works such as “The Shadow Puppet Conspiracy," "The History of Light, " and "Méfiez-Vous de la Vache-Garou" which won best in show at the Chicago Fringe Festival in 2013.
Kats work has been featured in such venues as the Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum, The Detroit Institute of Arts, and Skirball Center in Los Angeles California. Festivals she has been featured in include The Chicago Humanities Festival, The Chicago Improv Festival, numerous Puppeteers of America Festivals all over the country and the UNIMA International puppetry conference in Perth Australia. Kat is a regular contributor to The Puppetry Journal and was a featured artist in Puppetry Internationals 40 Under 40 list.
About this piece:
"Road Rage was originally created in 2007 at the O’Neill puppetry conference with Richard Bradshaw and was featured again at the Puppet Meltdown Puppet slam in 2015. Weeks before the slam, the United States passed Federal legislation granting the right of marriage to same sex couples, which promoted a subtle change to the ending. Now, in 2020, the piece was under consideration again for Puppet Meltdown when new legislation was passed by the Supreme Court making it illegal to fire someone based on their LBGTQ status. What a fantastic victory in a time of trial."
Lyssa Troemel "There's No Business..."
Lyssa Troemel is a puppeteer and a puppet/prop builder from Fort Wayne, IN who is making her puppet slam debut. She is a resident artist for Three Rivers Music Theatre where she has worked on shows like The Wild Party, Once on This Island, Fun Home and Hair as a Properties Designer. She has also worked for the theatre company Shakespearemachine on their productions of Faustus and Macbeth as a puppet designer, builder and coach. Her work from those shows was chosen for exhibition in 2019 at Maker Faire Bay Area in California and for the exhibit at the National Puppetry Festival in the same year. She also interned for Artistree, Inc assisting with the restoration of puppets for one of their shows. Earlier this year, she participated in the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry’s 48 Hour Puppet Film Project on the film From Afar. She would like to thank her family and friends for their love and support.
Michelle O'Shea "Evee's Origin Story"
Michelle O'Shea is a comedic improviser, laughter yoga teacher, voice actress, and intuitive coach who uses storytelling and humor to entertain and help others remove blocks to physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. Intensely curious and passionate about the power of storytelling and therapeutic play, Michelle is excited about her new puppet/animation projects, which she posts to her YouTube channel Connect To Joy.
Mary Kate Jenkins "Godspeed Mooncat"
Mary Kate Jenkins is a Chicago area freelance puppet builder and puppeteer with a BFA in Drama from New York University's Experimental Theatre Wing. She has worked with several New York area production companies such as Basil Twist and Encyclopedia Pictura, where she worked on Bjork's music video for "Wanderlust." Props Design credits include “Buddy Holly” at Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace, “Sylvia” at the Metropolis Performing Arts Center, and “Iolanthe” at Light Opera Works. Her television puppetry credits include puppeteering for the children's eco-based television pilot "Mr. Furry Fur Fur and His Friendly Earth Friends." She currently works as a founding member of Sea Beast Puppet Company.
About this piece:
"Mooncat was born from my love of cat memes, crankie and toy theater, and M. Night Shyamalan style twists. Also David Bowie."
Sam Locke/Underhanded Productions
Underhanded Productions is a production company focused on puppet-centric sketches. The company consists of Sam Locke and Peter Robards. Peter Robards has performed and taught all over North America, from Texas to Toronto, New York to LA, Alaska to Hawaii, and most places in between. Sam is a resident puppeteer and director at the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago, and has performed across the country with both Underhanded Improv as well as the Noah Ginex Puppet Company
The music in the piece was provided by Lisa McQueen, known for providing music at the Annoyance Theatre, Second City, as well as performing with Jazz ensembles around the city, and her Rolling Stones cover band, the Rolling Clones.
About his piece:
"Ask Weathersby started as a bit of a lark a few years ago. My group, Underhanded Productions, in between live stage shows, had been putting out a few unrelated puppet videos here and there. One day, sitting alone a silly idea popped into my head. "What would happen if someone took an antibiotic and a probiotic at the same time" and i pictured a puppet taking both and vanishing.
So I set my green screen up and filmed a short video of an old man puppet I'd built for a show at the Annoyance Theater, acting as though he were answering a letter that had been sent into him.
After the first letter a few people actually sent in real questions. The videos became a little more elaborate, while keeping the simple structure i set up initially. Question>Silly Answer>Something bad happens to Weathersby. I would involve other puppeteer friends I knew and film as many as I could.
After 17 episodes, I decided to put the videos on hold and focus on other projects.
Then the pandemic hit.
Wanting a way to keep producing content while unable to do live theater entertainment, I decided to do a new Weathersby video answering my friend Dustin's question as to what happens during self quarantine. I put out a request for friends to send in more questions and began doing the videos again, this time as a way to continue to create content and hopefully make people laugh during a rough time"
Sea Beast Puppet Company
Founded in 2009 by Artistic Director Kat Pleviak, Sea Beast Puppet Company is known as being a leader in puppetry excellence in the Chicagoland Area. Over the past 10 years Sea Beast has created a variety of original touring productions for both adult and youth audiences. Some of these productions include "Surf and Turf," "Hans My Hedgehog," "Little Red Rosie and the Dragon of Dümm," "The History of Light," "The Shadow Puppet Conspiracy" and "Méfe-Vous de la Vache-Garou". Besides their touring shows Sea Beast offers workshops to students of all ages and professional development classes in areas of puppetry performance, design, construction, and writing. When they aren’t teaching or performing Sea Beast is dedicated to presenting other puppet artists to the Chicagoland area through the curation of their puppet slam "Puppet Meltdown”.
About this piece:
"Inspector Banana was made in 2018 as a submission for The Hump Film Festival curated by Dan Savage. Though it didn’t make it into :Hump", Inspector Banana has been screened all over the country at puppet slams, festivals, and the GenCon gaming convention. But the reason we included it is this is the most recent project we have made as a full company. We really miss working together and can’t wait to do it again."
Seth Origitano/All Fools "Joe King"
All Fools is a video and experiential production team. Originating in Chicago All Fools has toured the music festival circuit engaging in tomfoolery and hootenannies. While under quarantine we made moves toward puppetry. Adapting older radio drama scripts we created brief theater in house (literally we had to self isolate)
About this piece:
"This show was made through the collaboration of many different artists quarantined across the country. The comic design was sketched by my friend in Chicago. The score was made by my buddy in New York. Lastly the show its self was filmed in LA with the help of my roommates. Stay in place made it very difficult to find inspiration but my friends and community gave me the bandwidth to keep creating. "