How old is a puppeteer?

That is, how old is an artist who’s puppetry is sufficiently notable to be profiled?

Bob Nathanson (see review, page 36) took his first puppetry workshop in his thirties. Benji Nelson, on the other hand, was honored with an UNIMA Citation (for excellence in the art of puppetry) at the age of sixteen, and Dmitri Carter (see profile, page 27) began performing with the Carter Family Marionettes before he turned five. Carter’s son, age seven, is already performing.

We Baby Boomers grew up with some venerable role models: Marjorie Batchelder, Margo and Rufus Rose, Basil Milovsoroff, Bil Baird, Paul McPharlin, Martin Stevens, Jero Magon, Forman Brown, Harry Burnett and many others. Yet, as Steve Abrams (UNIMA-USA board member and archivist) reminded me, when these giants were forming Puppeteers of America back in 1936-7, they were all under 40. Jim Henson, when he became UNIMA-USA’s first president, was only 30 years old.

Why 40 under 40?

If a thirty-something can be a relative newcomer or well into mid-career, then aside from the alliteration and symmetry our line in the sand iss admittedly random. AND YET . . .we do believe that one of the tenets underlying creative enterprise is this: make a random choice and commit to it. Because then you don’t know how it will turn out. Because then it becomes a journey of discovery. With this issue of Puppetry International, as always, we put the word out and waited to see what came in. We put a little bug in the ears of puppeteers around the world: What is fresh, who is making a difference, who is (dare I say it) blowing your mind!? The only constraints we imposed were that the artists in question be under the age of 40 at our established deadline, and that we would only print 250 words per profile.

The past two decade’s graduates of the UConn MFA program alone would have filled our issue, as would those of Charleville’s École Supérieure National des Arts de la Marionnette—several times over. Many worthy young artists are missing, but work your way through this issue and you’ll find lots of surprises—from Indonesia, India, Mexico, Russia, as well as Atlanta and LA. You’ll find college students and leaders in the field.

These profiles give just enough detail to peak one’s interest. In every case, you are invited to go to our website for more images, more text (for some), and links to the artists’ websites, blogs, YouTube videos and all sorts of other virtual “portfoliana” that didn’t exist back when we were under 40. Our website features additional artists who are not profiled in our pages. We’ve been working with our webmaster, Donald Devet, to increase our “electronic footprint” as a way of making Puppetry International an even more useful, and more pleasing resource despite harsh economic times. So twitter us, google us, follow a link from your IPhone. We’re there for you 25/7.

- Andrew Periale