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TWITCHING: Judy's Revenge

Welcome to our puppet workshop!

Tentatively called "Judy's Revenge," this project is a contemporary feminist deconstruction of the Punch and Judy puppet show. The world of Punch and Judy is composed of traditional visual elements, performance techniques, characters, catch-phrases, themes, and a history of controversy. Reflection on the show raises intriguing questions about the difference between censorship and cultural sensitivity, the complexities of cultural preservation, and the problems of the creation of an "everyman" character. We want to consider these questions-- and many more.

We are Flora Shepherd and Anne Dalke. Flora 
"performed my first puppet show at age four, alongside my puppeteer mother, Karen Konnerth, in New Orleans, Louisiana. I spent my childhood performing with the family troupe, in places as diverse as Nachitoches, Louisiana and Ainsa, Spain.  In 2008, I graduated from Bryn Mawr College with an independent major in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Since graduation, I have lived and worked as a puppeteer in Pittsburgh, PA. My company is called Highway Puppet Theater. I have performed a variety of techniques for both all ages and adults-only audiences. 

As a woman who grew up in the puppet world, Punch and Judy is something that I've spent a lot of time thinking about. I value the tradition, and I've seen many, many versions performed. I know that the show is important in the art of puppetry. BUT I have never felt comfortable with performing the show myself. Traditionally, the everyman character, Punch, beats or kills, depending on the show, his wife, his baby, a policeman, a black man, a policeman, a priest, the devil, death, and others. This character is often championed as the hero of the down-trodden. But he's never felt like my hero. Probably because his wife Judy and his child are generally the first two characters to go. There is a large puppetry backlash against politically correct censorship of Punch and Judy. I'm not interested in censoring or whitewashing other performers' versions of the show. I want to really explore it and make a show that I feel comfortable performing. I am so grateful to Anne for collaborating with me in this process."

Anne Dalke "first met Flora in a course on "Beauty" I co-taught at Bryn Mawr College in spring 2005. We went on to work together in a number of other gender-related projects, including a course on Critical Feminist Studies, and another one called Playing with Categories: Re-doing the Politics of Sex and Gender, as well as Flora's senior thesis. It's such a pleasure for me to continue those rich conversations here, with a former student who is now a colleague and collaborator.

As a college professor with decades of experience exploring feminist literary traditions, I spend most of my time thinking about the evolution of stories of all sorts. But I know very little about the tradition of puppetry, either where it's been or where it might be going. I'm excited to learn in both directions, and hopefully, under Flora's guidance, to help shape the latter in some new, more expansive, directions.

I've prepared a page of resources, to archive both what we bring to the conversation, and what we want to add. Let's get going!



Nenagh Watson 's picture

Punch & Judy

Any updates on how 'Judy's Revenge' progressed???

Very interest & have worked with a set of Punch figures as part of my Creative Research Fellowship at Royal Central School of Speech & Drama London.

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