First day at the 2011 Charleville festival

Author: ; Published: Sep 18, 2011; Category: Puppet festivals, Travel, Uncategorized; Tags: , ; No Comments

Bruja in the plaza with child

Curious – other than here in Charleville it often seems to us that puppets don’t exist, and here, with the city completely taken by puppeteers and puppets, it gives us the illusion that the world is filled with puppets. What a contrast: all or nothing.

On the first day of the Festival we saw Paul Zaloom, the only other puppeteer from the US, in a one-man show entitled “The Adventures of White Man”. ( It was fantastic to see how one person, alone on the stage, with no “technique” and just using found objects could create an ironic, funny, critical story. He spoke in a mixture of English and fractured French – and he captivated the entire audience. He allowed himself to be taken by his imagination to very crazy places and put the audience in the same trance-like state. The audience then became more than just spectators… we were complicit in the event.

After such a great event, we ran through the streets to get to the next show, billed as “a monument to puppeteering, a masterpiece of puppets”. A play from Handspring Puppet Company from South Africa in the “Teatre Principal”, the largest and most “important” space of the town. We had to fight to stay awake.. boring and pretentious… and of course, all the “authorities” of the festival were present for this opening show. In puppets, it seems that once your troupe has a great reputation, you feel empowered to create BIG shows (and this show had a huge set that filled the stage) without any of the grace that puppets can carry.

One has to be very careful in the equilibrium between technique and aliveness.. technique can easily kill aliveness. When you see a show like this, everything is perfect, correct, but you are not moved or transformed, nothing has entered inside you… there has not been communion between you and the play… you were not part of the ritual and you leave the same as you entered. Technique cannot be just in machinery, it can be found in the acting and movement of the puppets, or in the beautiful way that actors and dancers move on the stage.

The plaza as always is filled with people, puppeteers, good humor, everybody enjoying the events.


On the road to Charleville

Author: ; Published: Sep 13, 2011; Category: Travel; Tags: None; No Comments

Before crossing the border between Spain and France, we almost missed a roadside sign announcing¬† a puppet museum – there aren’t so many of these in the world (we wish there were more), and we never expected to see one in this very small village in the Pyrenees. Amazingly, there was also a museum of popular religion in this town, Abizanda.¬†

In Spain everybody was outside until late at night. Drinking, talking, hot. After crossing the border through the tunnel and getting to France we experienced a complete change: nobody in the streets, everything closed. And cold. Where are the people? We see a little movie theater, we entered to see the latest Almodovar movie. The movie theater is full. The movie is a disappointment… none of the wonderful craziness that older Amodovar movies have.

The town is Oloron-Sainte Marie where Muriel Heineman, an American actress and theater director who died 2 years ago taught theater to the children of the Spanish Republicans refugees in France in 1947.

We headed in the direction of Bordeaux. Wine, cheese and Goya. Every time we stopped to have a picnic lunch, we found delightful small areas near rivers – old concrete tables in bucolic settings… and everywhere we looked, there was GREEN… and we are asking each other, “Do you remember why we came to live in the desert?”