Last month, I had the pleasure of assisting in Johanna Winters’ puppetry debut in Lawrence at Free State Festival, alongside artists Alicia Kelly, Anne Luben and musician Jeff Stolz. Johanna Winters is the Lawrence Arts Center’s Printmaker-in-Residence and an incredibly talented interdisciplinary artist whose work encompasses print, mask, and very clever low-tech animation.

Devised and directed by Johanna, ‘The Middle Tell’ is a shadow-puppet performance, video projection, and sound piece that chronicles a trio of female bards as they reluctantly surrender to a deteriorating condition. After Johanna re-staged aspects of the work for our performance, we puppeteers rehearsed together before bringing in musical accompaniment. We performed ‘The Middle Tell’ twice on September 21 outside the Lawrence Arts Center as part of Free State Festival’s performance programming.

Having never participated in shadow-puppetry before, I was taken with the relationship between animated performance (puppetry) and performed animation (low-tech projection of hand-crafted and the hand-operated objects). I was also drawn to the communal aspect of our performance, a happening that could only be pulled off through team effort and coordinated choreography of gesture, movement and timing. I have never animated this way but I am more and more curious about the possibilities of this technique. Thank you, Johanna, for inviting me into this process!