Puppetry Center Attracting ATL International Communities

Playing off a rich global heritage of puppetry, leaders at the Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts are planning a series of programs and activities focused on drawing in the city’s international communities. 

“Puppetry is actually something that … has been in existence in almost every single culture, so most people can trace their ethnic and cultural roots through puppetry,” Vincent Anthony, executive director for the center, told GlobalAtlanta.

To attract a more diverse audience, the center is planning a series of workshops and productions geared around international themes and is inviting members of the international community in Atlanta to visit.

Toward that goal, the center gave a private tour of their facility to a delegation of members from the Asian American Heritage Foundation and Who’s Who in Asian American Communities Alliance Foundation in order to strengthen relationships with the Asian community in Atlanta.

“We were happy to have the Asian groups here to tour the center and see what we do,” Mr. Anthony said. “There’s a tremendous connection to the Asian community through our puppetry.”

Vir Nanda, who led the group and sits on both the boards of the AAHF and Puppetry Arts Center, said the two groups make natural partners, although they just don’t know it yet.

“See the problem is that most people don’t know about the center unless they come and visit, so that’s why I got the leaders of the Asian community to come here and go behind the scenes,” Mr. Nanda said.

“I think the tour came out pretty good,” he added. “Almost everybody in the group thought they were going to do something in the future.”

As an international hub for puppetry and performing arts, the center hosts the headquarters of the UNIMA-USA, the American branch of the international puppetry organization Union International de la Marionnette, the oldest theater organization in the world.

And as one of only a few puppet museums worldwide, the center has received much acclaim in its 34-year history, even in areas not traditionally associated with the craft.

In 2008, the center beat out the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a Microsoft Education Award Laureate at the Tech Museum Awards for its distance learning programs.

And while the center is known as a popular field trip destination for metro Atlanta schools, it also offers virtual trips for students around the country and internationally via distance learning programs. So far, the center has performed video conferences with partners in CanadaMexicoThailand and theUnited Kingdom.

Beyond its work presenting original and traveling productions, the center offers classes and workshops for people of all ages.

The center also holds one of the world’s largest collections of puppets and marionettes, including several exhibitions by renowned puppeteer Jim Henson, one of the center’s first supporters.

The late puppeteer’s Jim Henson Co., creator of the Muppets, has recently stepped into the fray surrounding comments made by the president of Atlanta-based fast-food company Chick-fil-A on the issue of gay marriage.

Eight national puppeteering companies are scheduled to perform at the center this season on a tour aimed at kids of all ages, as well as the upcoming production of the young children-focused “Aesop’s Fables” Aug. 2-Sept. 9.

And beginning on select Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August through October, the center will begin holding internationally themed “Discovery Days” showcasing puppetry traditions from around the world, including the Americas, Africa and Asia.

For more information on the center, visit www.puppet.org.

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This story first appeared on GlobalAtlanta.com on Aug. 3, 2012.

Video editing performed by Charrod Walker of GlobalAtlanta.

 

 

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