Puppeteer John Ryan recently relocated to our creative city to grow his artistic practice. John Ryan’s work pushes the boundaries of traditional puppetry, allowing him to explore the medium in a sophisticated way not usually seen by American audiences. John’s work breaks away from the constraints of children’s theater in both concept and content, allowing puppetry to thrive outside of children’s “edutainment” theatre. Each character John creates is complex and intricate, both in physical appearance and emotional depth. John constructs his puppets with variety of materials including wood, fiber, and Poly-foam. His attention to detail and personality bring each creation to life. Within the next year, John Ryan hopes to create a feature-length cabaret style show. Be on the look out, North Adams!
Before his move to North Adams, John Ryan lived in Oneoata, New York, where he spent 10 years working for the Catskill Puppet Theater. Catskill Puppet Theater is a national touring company founded by the husband-and-wife team of John Potocnik and Carol Mandigo in 1973, whose combined backgrounds encompass art, music, drama, and American folk culture. They concentrate mostly on children’s theater in venues as diverse as the Smithsonian, The Iowa State Fair, and Symphony Space in NYC, but the lion’s share of performances happen in elementary schools. John Ryan’s long tenure with Catskill gave him the opportunity to hone his performance skills and contemplate new (and less family-friendly) directions for his own puppetry practice.
We asked John about how his recent move to North Adams was affecting his artistic process. His answer: “The fascinating thing about relocating as an artist is that it inevitably stirs up the silt of old projects and ideas. I find myself confronted with the exposed hulls of half realized sculptures, dog-ends of scripts, forgotten concepts and characters lurking deep within old sketch pads, the ‘roughs’ of a few children’s books and chapters of a novel awakened from it’s long slumber at the bottom of an old chest. The trick appears to be in knowing what to grab onto and revisit before the detritus re-settles into the background of the everyday. Old thoughts re-emerging in a new context as you discover the terrain of new place makes for a strange, satisfying, and hopefully fruitful juxtaposition.”
Well said, John! We look forward to seeing how those old thoughts will re-emerge, inspire, and shape your new endeavors here! Interested in checking out more of John Ryan’s work? Head to his Flickr to see the latest.