My Favorite Bit of Information From The Week:
Puppets and Mental Health
This week I feel very fortunate to share Noah Ginex’s thoughts on puppetry and mental health. Noah is an incredible artist in the city, and I am very fortunate to have him as the creator and designer of One Woman Hamlet’s puppets. You can check out more about him on his website, and I highly recommend checking out some of his incredible videos. Also, he mentions his quarterly puppet slam in Chicago, it is called Nasty Brutish and Short, and it is on Sept. 9th. You can check out more information here if you would be interested in attending!
Noah’s Thoughts on Mental Health and Puppets:
“As I type this I am currently working on two other projects in addition to Kate’s One Woman Hamlet. The most immediate of which, is preparing for 4 days of puppet-filled madness at Gen Con in Indiana. The end of a long stressful sweaty day building puppets and gathering props and keeping on top of everything that is a producer’s job, is the perfect time to talk about mental health, when everything inside me is saying, ‘Puppetry is bad for mental health! Of the puppeteer!’
But of course that’s not true at all. Anybody who’s heard an interview with Caroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar) knows that playing those two characters specifically, has been very good for his mental health. He often jokes about how, through the opportunity to play those two very disparate personalities, he has saved millions of dollars in therapy. And joking or not, there’s a lot of truth to that.
Through my many years of being a puppeteer, just on a personal level, I have been able to channel very different aspects of my personality into all these different characters, and through their eyes have experienced the world from a bunch of different angles. I have had shows where I didn’t want to be performing, and the angrier characters let me get my grumpiness out, which makes me feel better through a productive outlet. But even more than that, if I am feeling that angry emotion, it’s a much easier job to get around the anger if I have a puppet on my arm, who isn’t angry.
Puppetry has also trained my brain in ways that have nothing to do with puppets. Past the muscle memory of doing the act of puppeteering, it’s made my brain sharper. Through performing as different characters, I have become a better improviser, a better actor, and a faster thinker than I think I would be otherwise. One of my great joys is hosting a quarterly puppet slam here in Chicago, because my partner and I never plan what we’re going to do. We can’t, really. The acts are different every time, and it affords us this amazing opportunity to not think and just exist in the moment, as those characters, in a way that we couldn’t if we went out onstage as our human selves.
That brings up another way in which puppetry is amazing for the mental health of the puppeteer. Through puppetry, you can be what you’re unable to be in real life. And for some people, that’s as simple as speaking in public. People who are incredibly shy in their every day life come alive through a puppet, either hiding behind a puppet stage, or even just hiding behind the character they’re performing. Once that character is there, the performer underneath or above or behind, is forgotten about, which frees them up to let themselves go places they couldn’t otherwise.
The link between mental health and communication is a direct and intrinsic one, and puppetry as an artform is one of the simplest and most effective ways of communicating. What often goes unnoticed is that it does as much good, if not more so, for the puppeteer as it does for the audience.”
The Bi-Polar Puppet: As I was researching puppetry and mental health I stumbled upon this amazing woman Anginet. She is diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and has used puppets as a means of telling her story – both for herself and others. Her story was very inspiring to me, and also her video entitled “Saving The World” (I really recommend reading her story below the video and then watching the song). I have had this on replay in my house for the past two weeks and it has never failed to lift me up when I am having a hard time. Thank you Anginet! For more on Bipolar Disorder, check out my previous blog post.
Puppetry For All: While the research on puppetry as a means of therapy is still very slim, we do know that communication (as Noah so beautifully said) is important for healing, whether you are dealing with day to day stress or trauma. And we know that being creative is healing. Puppetry encompasses both. While most people seem to think of puppetry as a means of therapy for children only, this is not the case. Children do respond well to puppetry as a means of healing, but so do adults. I found this incredible woman namedFarryl Hadari that, after completing her masters in Educational Theater from New York University, moved to Israel and began teaching puppetry there as a means of healing. Her stories are all throughout her website, and I recommend having a box of tissues in hand. I started with her “The Beginning” story, which is about half way down the page. She shares the story of how, even though she didn’t know the language yet, she was able to communicate with two soldiers who had lost a leg each and they were all able to find healing and community through the building and interaction of puppets. I highly recommend checking this out if you have time.
Therapeutic Puppet Community: There may not be a lot of documented studies done on puppet therapy, but there are a great many, very grounded theories. The organization Therapeutic Puppetry is a community of mental health professionals and artists that are sharing their research and theories in order to help the community and education in the field grow. You can find research, practitioners, and a break down on why the author of the website (Asa Vikland) believes puppet therapy works, or the ability to be a part of the community if puppet therapy interests you.
This following quote from Asa Vikland really stood out to me and encapsulates a lot of how I feel with regards to puppet therapy:
“All of you having played intense with a puppet – or for that reason an object – have touched the true empowering essence of play. It is a dialogue in which we participate naturally as children, but in fact continue to take part in the whole life through. It vitalizes our beings, we become alive as does the object in our hand. This can be more or less obvious, like shown in the quote. We might not recognize the parts of self externalized, since it has been so well hidden from our conscious selves. This is the core of therapeutic puppetry.”
Update On My Show:
Puppet Update! The Amazing Noah Ginex has been working hard on the puppets for One Woman Hamlet!
Fundraising: Puppets and art are amazing, but there is a financial cost to creating. The project is free for audiences and therefore is completely independently funded – any support is appreciated! If you have already donated, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, you have made it possible to get this far. And if you are not in a place to give a dollar right now, thank you for being here and being a part of breaking the stigma on mental health. Much love!If you would like to donate to my show, share this project with a friend, or find out more about it please check out my gofundme here.
Please check out the One Woman Hamlet Website: www.onewomanhamlet.com
AND! my update Video.
Many, Many thanks: Margo Siwak and Joe Siwak for the design of the logo, and to Jillian Best and Bill Best for the Website creation and Design! I feel very blessed to have such beautiful humans in my life.Thank You: Thank you VERY much to all who have donated time and funds thus far, making this project possible.
Ways to Support: If you would like to donate to my show, share this project with a friend, or find out more about it please check out my gofundme here: https://www.gofundme.com/one-woman-hamlet
Thank You: Thank you VERY much to all who have donated thus far, making this project possible.