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Puppetry: A World Historyby Eileen Blumenthal
Synopses & Reviews
Puppets have existed in one form or another in nearly every culture throughout human history. From the intriguing shadow puppets of Java to the romantically challenged Miss Piggy, from African carved-wood actors with outsize genitalia to merry maniac Mr. Punch, puppets are incredibly diverse, reflecting the varied cultures, environments, and personalities of their creators.
In this lavishly illustrated volume, Eileen Blumenthal provides a comprehensive overview of the history and techniques of puppetry, examining the unique nature and abilities of puppets and illustrating the countless roles they (and their creators) have played in societies across the globe for thousands of years. She draws on examples from an astonishing array of puppeteers, performances, and historical artifacts, providing readers with an in-depth view of this intricate world of constructed actors and the eclectic-and often eccentric-artists who create them. With a lively and accessible text and a wealth of illustrations, this one-of-a kind volume will be treasured by lovers of both visual and theater arts.
"There is much more to puppetry than Jim Henson's creations or children's puppet shows, as this thoroughly researched book makes abundantly clear. Through her narrative and 350 illustrations, Blumenthal, a professor of theater arts, takes the reader through an exhaustive history of the puppet world, from prehistoric times to Tony-winning Broadway hit Avenue Q. Blumenthal's approach is different than that of previous historians: rather than giving the 'where, when and how' and dividing her work by region or time period, she employs a thematic approach, including, among others, chapters on puppet characters, sex and puppets in politics. This approach pays off, and the photos here range from an African fertility puppet to the iconic Miss Piggy to a disturbing likeness of Margaret Thatcher wielding a meat cleaver. Although some images may border on creepy, the book is beautiful to look at, and the writing is largely accessible. This would be a welcome addition to the libraries of performing arts buffs who want to learn more about a lesser known form. " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
All the pageantry, wonder, and remarkable range of puppetry is represented in this knowledgeable and beautifully illustrated book, which contains over 350 color and b&w plates. Blumenthal (theatre arts, Rutgers U.) achieves her aim of presenting a history with a fully international scope. These are puppets for adults—though some for children are included—with themes found in serious theater. In order to provide a meaningful overview of a vast field, Blumenthal uses a thematic presentation, with chapters on politics, sex, violence, ritual use, and characters, while also paying homage to exceptional performers, groups, and national styles.
Annotation ©2005 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
- Virtually no competition - most historical overviews are by university presses, are not heavily illustrated, and are not comprehensive; or they're extremely expensive and difficult to find. - Julie Taymor, Playing with Fire is in its second edition and has sold 12,886 hardcover copies (net - see below) since its publication in 1995 - Huge success of Sesame Street, the Muppets, films like The Dark Crystal and the Muppet movies, as well as Broadway plays like Avenue Q (which won the 2003 Tony for Best Musical), suggest that puppets are extremely popular across the spectrum of entertainment
About the Author
Eileen Blumenthal is professor of theater arts at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, and a writer on contemporary Asian and Western theater. She has written hundreds of articles and reviews. She is also the author of Joseph Chaikin: Exploring at the Boundaries of Theatre and coauthor, with Julie Taymor, of Abrams' highly acclaimed Julie Taymor: Playing with Fire.
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Arts and Entertainment » Drama » History and Criticism