connect / 2020

Skirball Puppet Festival

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Skirball Cultural Center

The Skirball Puppet Festival is a daylong profusion of puppet theater serving over 2000 participants from Greater Los Angeles. Interactive performances, roaming marionettes and pageant puppets, live music, and puppet-making workshops take place across the Skirball’s indoor and outdoor stages and courtyards. Skirball Puppet Festival engages multiple generations with puppetry arts and immersive storytelling, while sharing immigrant stories and the value of caring for one another—a welcome celebration following the virus-imposed isolation.

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

What is the need you’re responding to?

The Greater Los Angeles area is one of the most culturally diverse communities in the United States, as first-generation immigrants comprise over 35% of our population. There is a great need for public, accessible cultural offerings that reflect the area’s ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity. With free and plentiful parking, and accessibility via major freeways and public transportation, the Skirball and the Festival attract culturally, generationally, and economically diverse audiences. A rich mix of languages can be experienced at our stages and courtyards. The Festival advances the art of puppetry by employing puppeteers and giving a broad stage to this beloved yet less recognized art form. It features puppet making and a visitor performance space, enhancing the message that each of us has artistic capability and stories to tell. The Festival is an anecdote to the quarantines and closures caused by the coronavirus that will be embraced by a diverse gathering of Angelenos.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

The Skirball has a 24 year history of presenting day-long festivals that encourage creativity and foster empathy, self-esteem and civic engagement through performance, storytelling, and art making. The Festival provides an opportunity for families and people of all ages to learn together, experience stories both familiar and new, and to understand the conflicts and challenges of a complex world as told through the craft of puppetry.

The Skirball’s connection to the puppet arts began in 2007 with the creation of Noah’s Ark at the Skirball™, which features over 300 bunraku (full-body) puppets and animal sculptures. For its first Puppet Festival in 2012, the Skirball reached out to Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry (LAGP) and the partnership has continued every year. LAGP brings expertise in puppet arts and the Skirball brings a gorgeous venue and experience presenting large-scale public events. In 2018 the Skirball welcomed CalArts School of Theater as an additional partner.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

The Festival—a welcome anecdote to recent isolation—affirms a core Skirball belief that through shared arts and cultural experiences we can better see what is common among us rather than the differences that separate us. The selected puppeteers bring stories to life—from traditional folk tales to reenactments of moments in history—inspiring conversation and shared experience around universally accessible stories. The Puppet Festival also offers opportunities for visitors to explore puppet making and storytelling for themselves. A community performance space encourages visitors to “perform” with their puppets for other visitors. Many will have new stories to tell from the pandemic turmoil, and the need to share them.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

The success of the Skirball Puppet Festival will be measured by: The number of responses to the Call for Puppetry Acts and their geographic distribution The number and quality of puppet artists engaged and hired The number and quality of acts representing diverse cultural traditions The number of new works commissioned by/premiered at the Festival The number of Puppet Festival attendees The number of volunteers engaged with the Festival The number of staff engaged with the Festival The number of vendors hired Outreach and marketing activities conducted The number and quality of media coverage, previews, and reviews received The percent of favorable performance ratings received from attendees via surveys Anecdotal audience feedback indicating increased exposure to diverse cultures and increased appreciation of puppet traditions from around the world.

The Skirball and its partners envision a capacity crowd of 2,000, including 50 artists, 80 staff, 25 adult and teen volunteers, 8 vendors and their staff, plus the audience. A successful Festival will serve multi-generational families from across diverse cultural communities, enjoying puppet making and performing with their puppets. The Skirball Puppet Festival will showcase expertise in puppetry, emerging puppeteer artists; and experienced storytelling that embraces welcome, equality, and celebration.

Which of the connect metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Public arts and cultural events
  • Volunteerism
  • Immigrant integration

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?

  • LA is the best place to CREATE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Access to the LA2050 community