Blair Thomas & Company: Puppets Take Strathmore

Around the world, across the centuries, puppets have transcended cultures as one of the most expressive, adaptable art forms—its origins can be traced back to Egypt, about 4000 years ago. From Saturday, June 22–Tuesday, August 17, 2013, the campus-wide festival Puppets Take Strathmore (North Bethesda, Maryland) observes contemporary puppet culture through performance, workshops and an art exhibition, proving that puppets don’t only serve as children’s entertainment, but also as powerful tools for storytelling and for communicating ideas to people of all ages. From award-winning Broadway shows like War Horse and Disney’s The Lion King to astonishing new stagings of opera and dance, puppets have transformed the arts in America. Puppets Take Strathmore invites artists and experts such as Cashore Marionettes, Blue Sky Puppet Theatre, Nana Projects and the preeminent Blair Thomas & Company to share the stage with their creations and explore this amazing medium. For additional information and tickets, call (301) 581-5100 or visit

_M0E1647In Hard Headed Heart (D.C. Premiere), a trio of interconnected solo vignettes, Chicago-based puppet artist Blair Thomas creates new art where puppetry and performance art collide. The performance, featuring music performed live by Chelsey Green and The Green Project, is based on the words of Federico García Lorca, Wallace Stevens, and the blues classic “St. James Infirmary.” Thomas is “a controlled maelstrom, at once scene-shifter, shape-shifter, storyteller, and one-man band…” ( A sellout in Chicago, this is Hard Headed Heart’s D.C. premiere. Best for ages 14 and up; this show is intended for adults. Sunday, August 4, 2013, 1 & 4 p.m. City Dance Studio 405 Theater at Strathmore (Music Center at Strathmore), Tickets $15

_M0E1625In Blair’s workshop, The Puppet Tells the Story, participants create their very own puppet show, complete with handmade rod puppets and scripted skit. Best for ages 8-12. Kids dive in with paper, cardboard, sticks, ink markers and lots of hot glue to create their two dimensional performance masterpieces. Saturday, August 3, 2013, 10 a.m. –noon, Mansion at Strathmore, Tickets $25.

Strathmore patrons can extend their experience by visiting the Puppets Take Strathmore microsite, featuring a history of puppets around the world as well as education and performance guides.

The festival kicks off with No Strings Attached, a fine art exhibition featuring an eye–popping collection of photography, representative sculpture, masks and multi-dimensional puppets of every size, color, culture and description. No Strings Attached examines the role of fine arts in the creation of puppets, and the reverse, puppetry’s influence on visual art. The exhibition highlights puppets large and small to showcase the genre’s depth, from Don Becker’s palm-sized marionettes to the larger-than-life, interactive mutant puppet-creatures of international touring group, Big Nazo. Heather Henson’s IBEX entertainment company is providing the puppet short Yamasong with puppets from the film, as well as shorts from the film Handmade Puppet Dreams, Volume IV. Other highlights of the exhibition include the stop-motion short film Cicada Queen; 14 vintage puppets from the Ballard Museum of Puppetry including Punch and Judy puppets from the early 1900s and marionette replicas of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers from the 1930s; puppets caught  in action through the photography of Richard Termine and the still life dioramas of Elyse Harrison, vignettes that combine to form a full narrative; and Philip Huber-designed (Being John Malkovich, Oz the Great and Powerful) puppets from the Broadway production, Busker Alley. Fourteen artists and organizations are represented in the exhibition.

Performances from Cashore Marionettes, Blue Sky Puppet Theatre, Nana Projects and Blair Thomas & Company illustrate the dynamism and sophistication of puppetry as an art form. Emma Jaster, Katherine Fahey, Pointless Theatre Co., Sarah Olmsted Thomas and Alex Vernon, Colette Searls and many more artists will be featured in the Puppet Slam and outdoor concert puppet performances. A trio of rich education experiences will see participants creating their own puppet shows, learning about puppets as a storytelling tool and the representation of puppetry in contemporary American theater. The festival culminates with an academic panel discussion and puppet slam featuring some of the best local artists performing short, new works, and the Washington premiere of Blair Thomas & Company’s critically acclaimed Hard Headed Heart.

For additional information or to purchase tickets, visit or call (301) 581-5100.