Our associate producer Kristin Haverty recently attended the 2017 International Puppet Festival in Montreal. Here's a report from her experience:

Festival de Castleliers

Between March 8-12, 2017 I had the great pleasure to attend the 12th International Puppet Festival, Festival de Casteliers* in Montréal, Québec, Canada. Casteliers, an organization dedicated to the promotion of puppetry, presents a diverse lineup of programming throughout the year. Casteliers’ Artistic Director Louise Lapointe serves as the president of UNIMA’s International Festivals Commission and is uniquely connected to the vast network of festivals and puppetry presenters around the world. The local talent and enthusiasm for the form is tangible in Montréal. Casteliers’ efforts combined with the locally cultivated talent and support of the government culminate in what is truly a jewel of a festival.

Festival de Casteliers

(Above: Association québécoise des marionnettistes (AQM) Networking Session with representatives from 40+ companies and 9 countries. Photo by Marc Gibert Adecom.ca)

This year the festival showcased intriguing international performances from France, Russia, Slovenia, and the United States as well as Canadian and specifically Montréal-based companies. Tabletop, shadow, marionette, hand-and-rod, humanette, object – you name the style it was utilized in this festival. From Russia’s eighty-six-year-old Bolshoi Puppet Theater’s stark and deftly imagined “Far from here” to the humorous Montréal Fringe hit “Beaver Dreams” by the Lost and Found Puppet Co, the diversity of the festival’s programming gave audiences a wide spectrum of form and content over the five day festival. It was a particular pleasure to see the newest incarnation of American puppeteer Andy Gaukel’s Schweinehund. First developed for the Center for Puppetry Arts’ Xperimental Puppetry Theater program in 2011, Andy has continued to develop it into a full length performance through residencies at France’s illustrious L’ Institut Internationale de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mézières and the fantastic Quebec-based Les Sages Fous' Micro-festival de marionnettes inachevées. It is exciting to see the kernel of an idea first presented at the Center for Puppetry Arts grow as it reaches international audiences.

(Above: Casteliers Artistic Director Louise Lapointe. Photo by Marc Gibert, Adecom.ca)

Attending a well-curated festival such as Casteliers reminds me that the Center for Puppetry Arts here in Atlanta is part of a great global community of theater artists who recognize and celebrate the potential of the animated object. Presenting a diverse range of guest artists has always been an important part of the organization’s mission and programming. When we bring a guest artist to the Center, we bring another worldview to our audiences – and our artists. Despite the challenges inherent in international presentations, this exchange is part of what makes the Center what it is – a place to share and celebrate the diversity of our world through the lens of the Puppet.

(Above, top: Far from here by the Bolshoi Puppet Theater of St. Petersburg, Russia; photo by Marc Gibert, Adecom.ca), bottom: Schweinehund by Andy Gaukel of New York, NY; photo by Andy Gaukel)

It is not a surprise that Casteliers is in the process of creating a puppetry center in Montréal – La Maison Internationale des Arts de la Marionnette.** This is a community that, like Atlanta, has benefitted from sustained exposure to puppetry in all its forms. During this festival attendees had the opportunity to visit the future site of the “Puppet House”  - a building in need of a lot of attention but ripe with potential and in the heart of the city. Louise Lapointe and her team have a strong vision and most importantly support from a community who has experienced the power of the puppet as a theatrical form. I look forward to the completion of the Montréal center as it will be a strong ally for puppetry into the future.

(Above: Exterior of the Maison Internationale des Arts de la Marionnette. Photo by Louise Lapointe)

*Casteliers keeps past programming available on their website, so I encourage those interested to look through the website for programming information.

**Learn more about the Puppet House here.

Kristin Haverty serves as Associate Producer at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, GA. She has performed in the Center’s The Ghastly Dreadfuls and Anne Frank: Within and Without and created cut-paper animations for Duke Ellington’s Cat, all UNIMA Citation award-winning productions. She has toured the Northwest as a puppeteer with Tears of Joy Theatre, studied puppetry with Dan Hurlin at Sarah Lawrence College and with I Wayan Nartha in Bali, Indonesia and performs music regularly with Jeffrey Bützer and the Bicycle Eaters. She has presented workshops for Puppeteers of America National Festivals, the Center for Puppetry Arts, and ASSITEJ-USA’s One Theater World Festival. She has contributed articles to Puppetry International and The Puppetry Journal. In January 2017 she served as Catapult Program Director for the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival and is currently serving as a UNIMA-USA councilor.