NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The rock stars of the puppet world perform this weekend at a festival for top-notch puppeteers, some of whom traveled here from as far away as Germany and Japan.
The International Puppet Festival is the biggest event of its kind in North America, according to Phillip Huber, the puppeteer behind the China Girl in "Oz the Great and Powerful" and the marionettes in "Being John Malkovich."
"It's definitely not rinky dink. It's on par with many of the European festivals," said Huber, who performing his "Suspended Animation" show on Saturday night as one of two paid performances to benefit the otherwise-free festival. "You would have to travel the world to see this kind of talent. And to see it in one place over a weekend — it's fantastic."
Performances include Sombras Chinas from Argentina, where a puppeteer creates complex shadow puppets using only her hands and a few simple props. There will also be the object theater of France's Velo Theatre, in which a puppeteer/storyteller stays on stage and anything he picks up can be transformed into a puppet, and the traditional Bunraku puppetry of Japanese troupe Kawasemi-za with the show "Silent Poems," which has no words and includes a giant dragon puppet that fills the stage.
The library's own troupe, Wishing Chair Productions, is performing a newly created country-music themed show Thursday called "String City," featuring intricate marionettes at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Jon Ludwig, the artistic director at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, said puppetry is so visual and can easily transcend language and culture.
"When puppets are brought to life by a puppeteer, it cuts through any barrier and you totally believe you are looking at a live thing," he said.
But the different troops are in no way generic. "You get a sense of what the culture is like," he said. "A lot of times you see that in the design, each has a cultural style. Sometimes it's surprising. It's not always what you think."