Never before have I thought about how wonderful it would be to go to something like Comic-con: a bunch of people, passionate about the same thing, there for the sole purpose of sharing and geeking-out. Of course I had never considered the awesomeness of a thing like that because I never thought it possible that I would ever get to experience my own Chinese Shadow Puppet-con.
But I did, everyone! It occurred and I was there!
The Ballard Institute of Puppetry and the University of Connecticut Puppetry program hosted a number of scholars, puppeteers and artmakers and enthusiasts to join in the conversation at the first ever North American Chinese Shadow Puppet Symposium, run in tandem with their Pauline Benton Chinese Shadow Figures exhibition running until December 16th. (PS: I’ll be blogging more on the awesomeness of Pauline Benton soon!)
I expected to be inspired by the talks that were given and inspired to give one myself on my recent fieldwork, but I was surprised by just how invigorating it was to be in the same room with these people. Usually, we research, read and synthesize in isolation. To bring these thoughts, feelings and concerns forth to a knowledgeable and equally passionate public was nothing less than finally feeling seen and heard. No, you’re not crazy for dedicating so much time and energy to this, and Yes, it’s as fascinating and never-ending as you’ve been suspecting.
John Bell was such a warm host along with the rest of the BIMP staff; Fan Pen Chen gave us an amazing run-down of her current research of snake cults and the legend of Lady White Snake and its evolution as a common shadow puppet story; Mary E Hirsch mesmerized us with her incredibly astute work in correcting mis-identified Chinese shadow puppets in American collections; Stephen Kaplin and Kuang-Yu Fong gave us both a great tour of their co-curated exhibition and a sneak peak at their first attempt at a one man digital shadow puppet show (which was wholly engaging); Bradford Clark told us about his recent trips to China to experience puppetry; and many other short presentations rounded out the event.
I laughed, I cried, it was much better than Cats.
Next time, I hope you will join us.
Thanks for reading~