August 3-8, 2015

IMAGE-OBJECT-PUPPET Creating a Poetic Theatre

with John Farrell
Artistic Director of Figures of Speech Theatre

IMG_1727.1Figures of Speech Co-Founder  and Artistic Director, John Farrell, will lead participants in an exploration of various forms of puppetry as they discover what it means to embody metaphor in performance.

Participants will begin working with basic materials, then proceed to objects, and finally construct their own bunraku style puppets. After learning the basic principles of animation, participants will work in small groups to devise increasingly ambitious and complex gestural “scripts” as they explore thematic arcs such as Life/Death/Resurrection. Throughout the workshop, John will interweave poetry with the puppetry, encouraging participants to play with the relationship between the literary and visual metaphors inherent in these two forms. The workshop will culminate in a sharing of devised work and participants will leave with their bunraku puppet and a sense of how this method of creating theater can be incorporated into their own practice.

To learn more click HERE see the Figures of Speech TED talk and HERE to visit the Figures of Speech website.

the Puppeteers of America National Puppetry Festival that runs August 10-16, in
  Storrs, CT

About John Farrell


A native of Boston who grew up in Massachusetts, Holland and France, John Farrell’s artistic explorations are rooted in his love of poetry and sculpture. As an undergraduate at Yale he pursued studies in fields as diverse as African history, Vedanta Mysticism, the anthropology of law, and Sioux religion. During a Civil Procedure exam at the University of Maine School of Law, a voice informed him that a career in the arts was what he really wanted in life, and he quit, co-founding Figures of Speech Theatre a month later with dancer/designer Carol Llewellyn. Together they forged a unique vision of performance incorporating puppets and actors, masks, music and dance. They have created 18 original works of theater, and toured the world for over 30 years. John has been an artist-in-residence at numerous colleges and arts centers, and has studied with the Japanese master puppet builder Toru Saito. In 1999 he was one of five American artists awarded a Creative Artists’ Program Fellowship from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, allowing him to spend 6 months in Japan studying Japanese theater and gardens. Hanamichi Design, the company he founded in 2003, creates gardens in the Japanese spirit for clients throughout New England. John currently serves on the board of directors of the Jim Henson Foundation. The Maine Arts Commission awarded him an Individual Artist Fellowship in 2002. John lives with his wife, costume designer Carol (Llewellyn) Farrell, and daughters Delia and Alida in a perpetually 250-year-old farmhouse in Maine.

About Figures of Speech Theatre


Figures of Speech Theatre creates and tours visionary works of performance forged at the intersection of poetry, music, sculpture and dance. Whether the work is an adaptation of a simple Comanche Indian legend, the recitation of T.S. Eliot poetry, or a silent, visual tapestry surrounding a piece of contemporary classical music, our dream is to create theater in which the form of the work so intricately meshes with the content of the work that the two are as one, and each invisibly reinforces the other. As Doris Lessing has said, “The story dictates the means of telling it.”

Drawing on the artistic genius of many collaborators, the company guides adventurous audiences on journeys where, in the words of one reviewer, “layers of reality vs. abstraction, of reality vs. performance, of perception itself, are gently explored.”

The company has toured all over the world – from Sofia, Bulgaria to Tokyo, Japan, to Lima, Peru. Besides performing at venues such as the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Institution, and the New Victory Theatre on Broadway, the company retains a strong commitment to teaching and performing throughout its home state of Maine.


Figures of Speech Theatre is a four-time recipient of the coveted UNIMA Citation of Excellence, the highest distinction in American puppet theatre, as well as numerous grant awards from organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Jim Henson Foundation, and the New England Foundation for the Arts. Figures of Speech received the 2004 New England Theater Conference’s award for Outstanding Achievement in the American Theater.



Workshops are geared for participants of all levels of experience, whose ages have run from 18-85. Workshops will meet from 10 am – 4 pm, Monday through Saturday, in Studio II of Webster Hall on the Amherst College campus in Amherst, MA.

Driving Instructions to Amherst College

Amherst College campus map.

Workshops cost $399. There is a $50 discount for registration by May 15. NOTE: Contact us to apply for limited pool of financial aid, or for discounts for ATHE, NET (Network of Ensemble Theaters) members or staff/artists from TCG member theatres.

Optional room and board are available on the Amherst College campus for an additional fee.  Workshop housing is $231, for a single with a shared bath in an Amherst College dorm. Studios, theatre, dining commons and dorms are all within walking distance. A meal ticket for the Dining Commons (healthy food, much of it local) is $244.

Email us, if you are interested in alternative housing. There are a number of hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts in the area.


STEP 1: Click here to download the registration form in MS-WORD.  Click here to download it as a PDF. ALL WORKSHOP STUDENTS MUST SUBMIT THIS FORM either via email or by post.
STEP 2. If paying by check, print out your registration form and make your deposit check out to Ko Theater Works. Mail them to The Ko Festival of Performance 498 South Gulf Road Belchertown, MA 01007
if paying by credit card or PayPal, after you’ve emailed us your registration form, click here to make your payment by credit card or PayPal.
Questions? For further information email us or call (413) 427-6147.