Puppetry is one of the oldest and most beloved art forms on the planet. Festival Mondial Des Theatres de Marionettes (International Puppet Theatre Festival) is a bi-yearly event held in Charleville-Mezieres, France.

For 2013, the dates are September 20th to September 29th with over 600 theatrical and display exhibitions. The streets and courtyards of picturesque medieval Charleville-Mezieres will be filled will the magic of puppetry during this festival.

Puppetry is one of the oldest and most beloved art forms on the planet. Festival Mondial Des Theatres de Marionettes (International Puppet Theatre Festival) is a bi-yearly event held in Charleville-Mezieres, France.

For 2013, the dates are September 20th to September 29th with over 600 theatrical and display exhibitions. The streets and courtyards of picturesque medieval Charleville-Mezieres will be filled will the magic of puppetry during this festival.


Marionette
Photo: Patrick / Flickr

The word, “puppet” comes from the French word for “doll” and the word for “puppet” in French is “marionette.” The main difference between a marionette and a puppet is that the marionette is controlled by strings that are manipulated from above.

A marionette performance excels with a freedom of movement that is unmatched by other forms of puppetry, and this type of movement demands a great deal of skill from the person who is pulling the strings.

Some people consider puppetry as light entertainment for kids only. However, there are thousands of others who would beg to differ. The approaching puppetry festival and its international performers will demonstrate the ardor and diligence of a largely undervalued sphere that incorporates theater, magic and wonder.

The festival embraces both contemporary and long-established forms of puppetry. It is scheduled to feature worldwide traditions of puppetry including Bunraku, Vietnamese water puppets, Indonesian shadow puppets, traditional marionettes, giant puppets and more.

From the iconic Jim Henson Muppets to the latex caricatures of British TV’s “Spitting Image” to the robot friends of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” they have taken capture of every corner of the globe. Here are some of the greatest places to visit for puppets from all around the world in case you cannot make it to France.

Bob Baker Marionette Theater, Los Angeles

Bob Baker Marionette Theater
Photo: Bob Baker Marionette Theater / Facebook

One of the oldest puppet theaters in the USA, this is one area that will thrill both children and adults alike. The singing and dancing marionettes are simultaneously adorable and unusual as they perform traditional sketches while also interacting with the audience. They interact with the audience by roaming through the seats and sometimes asking them odd questions. If you have a surreal sense of humor and want to take the young ones out for fun, this is the place to be.

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre, Vietnam

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre
Photo: Benjamin Vander Steen / Flickr

The Thanglong Water Puppet Theatre in Vietnam is truly one of a kind puppetry, coming from a long tradition that began over 10 centuries ago. While the stories might not be understandable, the technical aspect certainly shines. The puppeteers are submerged in water and the “stage” is a simple platform raised above the water. Visitors should be warned: there is a splash zone in the first 5 rows.

Prague, Czech Republic

National Marionette Theatre, Prague
Photo: National Marionette Theatre / Facebook

Virtually the entire city is dedicated to some form of puppetry. One of the original halls that started it all is the National Marionette Theatre. The venue features performances utilizing the puppets in Mozart’s operas such as Don Giovanni or The Magic Flute. The hand-made wooden characters are amazingly crafted and are rather tall. Even their costumes stand out as they are dressed in period accurate costumes on an 18th century stage set. There’s no language barrier for the international audience either as most of the performances are narrated visually. Prague also contains shops that sell puppets, such the Rici Marionette Factory and the Charles Bridge Marionette Shop.

Bunraku Puppetry, Japan

Bunraku Puppetry
Photo: Bunraku Bay Puppet Theater / Facebook

Bunraku Puppetry refers to the official form of puppetry of Japan. The puppets in Bunraku are ornate works of art. Bunraku is considered the most refined form of puppetry The name comes from the theatre that most of the shows were performed in, the Bunraku. Before then, the art of puppetry was known as either as “ayatsuri joruri shibai” (joruri plays) or “ningyo joruri” (narrative dramas). The puppetry is famous not only for its beautiful artistic values but also for the traditional joruri music and the technical aspect of it. It takes three people to operate these puppets.

Wayang Bali Shadow Puppets, Bali

Wayang Bali Shadow Puppets
Photo: micro.cosmic / Flickr

The eastern Asian nations of Java and Bali, Indonesia, have had a long history with shadow puppets. This exclusive art form is considered one of the oldest traditions of storytelling in the world. Shadow puppets are recognizable for their uniqueness and until recently any performance was considered sacred by most of the population in Java and Bali and only performed on special occasions. Wayang Bali is a traditional play done entirely with shadow puppets that is currently receiving positive exposure in the west. Its blend of drama and humor, coupled with the puppetry creates a truly unique experience. The story is based off of the Mahabharata myth cycle which consists with traditional series of stories from the region. It usually involves the inner fighting’s of family members with a blend of magic, gods, demons and without doubt a beautiful princess added in for good measure.

Puppets and marionettes are not merely an artistic tradition, but has become a modern art form cheerfully received by audiences from various backgrounds. A visit to this year’s event of the Festival Mondial Des Theatres de Marionettes in Charleville-Mezieres, France does just that by placing a smile on all spectators.

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Pull Some Strings and Head to Charleville-Mezieres, France

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