African American Puppetry scholar Dr. Paulette Richards interviewed Professor Margaret L. Kemp for the panel “Rehearsing Truth and Reconciliation: Casting Puppets in The Bluest Eye,” Saturday at 4PM on the Puppetry Track Facebook page. Professor Kemp collaborated with Janni Younge to present a puppetry-enhanced play based on Lydia Diamond’s stage adaptation of Toni Morrison’s critically acclaimed (and first) novel. The Puppetry Track panel also included scenes from the award winning UC-Davis production.
The play used Bunraku-style puppets introduced to Professor Kemp by a South African performance of “Ubu and the Truth Commission.” Younge designed the puppets for the performance. Each puppet required three puppeteers. The production also featured actors in narrative and other roles. The creative blend, illustrated by scenes pulled from the play, was stunning and powerful.
The interview portion of the panel included discussion of the broader concept of the play, puppetry art, reconciliation, and the concept of “double consciousness.” First formulated by W. E. B. Du Bois in an 1897 Atlantic Monthly article, the concept was later included in his 1903 classic book The Souls of Black Folk.
The UC-Davis production of The Bluest Eye won Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Awards for Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Costumes, and a Special Prize for Puppetry. Professor Kemp said that the Center had never given an award for puppetry before.