DCPA master class will explore identity through puppetry

Emma Fisher is shown puppeteering on her play ‘Pupa.’ Photo courtesy of Emma Mac, Beyond the Bark.

Dr. Emma Fisher’s research explores unconventionally constructed puppets that reflect the disabled body

DCPA Education is offering a special master class and workshops featuring Master Puppeteer Emma Fisher this Thursday through Saturday (October 4-6). Fisher, who recently completed her PhD in Puppetry and Disability at the University of Limerick, Ireland, is a puppeteer, set, costume and puppet designer and puppet playwright. She has had nerve damage and restricted movement in her left hand since age 9.

Fisher says her research explores unconventionally constructed puppets that reflect the disabled body and looks at the history of puppetry to see how it has been applied in ways that transcend oppression of the body. She describes this free, three-session master class in Denver as an opportunity for adult students to explore the world of puppetry, specifically in relation to your body and self, personally and as an artist.

“Puppets visually tell a story with their bodies, from what materials they are made from to how they move,” Fisher said. “Puppetry transcends borders and connects to many fields. In my class, I will introduce the participants to shadow and rod puppetry, and how they can be used as storytelling tools to tell our personal and cultural stories.”

Shadow puppets are figures that are placed between a light and a screen. Moving them creates the illusion of moving images on the screen. A rod puppet is a figure operated from beneath by means of wooden or metal rods.

Fisher, who runs puppetry workshops in universities, schools, community centers and hospitals, founded Beyond the Bark, an inclusive puppet and installation theatre in Ireland, in 2007. As part of her PhD, Fisher developed an adult puppet show called Pupa, which explored her experiences and others’ with disabilities.

“Before the PhD, I never would have even said I had a disability because it doesn’t affect me much on a day-to-day basis,” Fisher told The Evening Echo, a newspaper in Cork, Ireland. “During the PhD, I started asking, ‘OK, why don’t I identify with this group of people?’ and that was a lot to do with how society views disability.”

Fisher’s weekend workshop itinerary in Denver includes an additional session on adaptive puppetry for kids (Saturday, October 6, from 12:30-2:30 p.m.); and one professional development workshop specifically for staff from DCPA Education, the University of Denver and Phamaly – Denver’s acclaimed theatre company that exists to provide performance opportunities for actors with disabilities. The goal of that workshop, Fisher said, “is to explore representations of the inner self, looking at fragmenting the puppet to create a truer representation of how we view illness and disability in our bodies.”

All classes will be held on the third floor of the Denver Center’s Newman Center for Theatre Education at Arapahoe and 13th streets. Space is limited; participants must be able to attend the entirety of all three sessions. To register, call 303-446-4892 or by email at education@dcpa.org.

Emma Fisher: Puppetry Master Class for adults

  • Thursday, October 4: 6:30-9:30 p.m.
  • Friday, October 5: 6:30-9:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 6: 4-8 p.m.

 This class is funded by the Lewis Myers Scholarship Program