Objects are all around us, characterizing many of our daily activities; they can be useful, or just beautiful to see. We often use them without attention in a careless and automatic way. With the rise of contemporary Design about 1 century ago objects have become an expression of social imaginary, a material shapes of thought and of the Zeitgeist as well as of the views of their designer, a vehicle of culture.

Thanks to the intuition of a specific branch of puppetry, which we may name “Object and Figure Theatre”, objects have also become storytellers… They have “their say” with words and moves the puppeteer lemds them, or even just with their appearance, thus definitely transcending their material and utilitarian dimension, to earn for themselves a soul, a life, a destiny of their own.

This project proposal, called Puppet & Design (P&D), aims to emancipate everyday objects or tools to make them expressive signs, communication and intercultural dialogue tools. That will be done by bringing together puppet theatre artists and industrial designers on a shared path, giving them new creative inputs, allowing them to know and discuss each other’s approach to “objects”, integrating new artistic and technical elements in their practice and widening their audience as a direct consequence of this process.

Designers’ skills and competences can help puppet artists to innovate their perspective and practice; puppeteers, specifically object animation artists, can help designers to give objects a soul.

Thanks to such new inputs, Puppet Theatre will increase its popularity with adults, children, families and schools, by cross-fertilization with design practitioners (professional designers, scholars, students), and the same will take place with industrial designers, through a set of cultural, educational and promotional activities at a transnational level.

P&D will foster the exchange of experiences and the development of innovative productions between partners and beneficiaries from both puppetry and design backgrounds and from different countries through the ideation and implementation of an international festival dedicated to the “Object and Figure Theatre” inside the broader  Puppetry field with original theatrical productions.

As for puppetry, two are the main goals:

– develop and extend the artistic skills of the involved partners with puppetry background – specifically of the puppeteers and other creative staff – by promoting the integration of everyday objects into the production of  puppet theatre;

– encourage exchanges and intercultural dialogue among puppet theatre professionals, with the specific aim to bring to the fore the peculiar characters of the “Object and Figure Theatre” of the partner countries and pass them through in the shapes of design objects or everyday tools.

As for design, the interplay and common research and experimentation work with puppeteers will lead them to further achievements in the recognition of the object as carrier of meaning, and in their efforts to bring to the fore such essence by their design work.

As consequence P&D will provide new artistic and professional inputs to theatre practitioners and design practitioners, and at the same time to the audience, which the project aims to expand and diversify thanks to the merge of both puppetry and design audience, and to the use of objects which belong or could belong to everyone’s daily experience, and the possibility to experiment, independently and creatively, self-produced artistic experiences with such objects.

In this way the project aims to develop and strengthen the relationship between theatre and design, culture and life. The project’s dissemination events strategy will promote the knowledge of the historical and cultural heritage of contemporary puppet theatre. Though artistically sophisticated it may be, it is too often and wrongly considered as belonging to children’s culture only. Our project aims to gain to puppet theatre an increasingly widespread and articulated audience, beyond and together with the youngest one.

Key activities are:

– workshops and creative residencies addressed to puppet artists and design practioners to deepen and disseminate the participants’ artistic and technical skills, to share innovative ideas, to develop original productions which include the animation of everyday objects, or proptotypes of objects and tools suitable for animation. In such contexts a fruitful relationship can be developed between Puppetry and the creation, production, marketing of objects, which will be designed to have a twofold trait: instrumental and artistic utility;

– 3 sections of an international festival, in Italy, Slovenia and Czech Republic – (where the partnership has theatre companies as members) – which will be dedicated to the “Object and Figure Theatre” as a peculiar type of the Puppet theatre;

– in Slovenia, Czech Republic and Italy: the partners will co-develop original theatrical productions which will transfer the innovative path which connects Puppet Theatre with objects of everyday use and with industrial design to create replicable theatrical works;

– creation of opportunities for new models of cultural business, suggesting to new generations of designers the creation of objects of daily use that can increase their communicative value by recalling puppets or being suitable to be used as animated figures;

– making the P&D approach systemic by: creating a constant relationship between puppet theatre, education and training, productive and research sectors related to the world of design; focusing on the cultural and professional growth of the involved actors – i.e. scholars, experts, practitioners, teachers, students, designers – which can open new job and business opportunities under an artistic and a productive regard;

– working on audience development by organizing meetings and workshops connected to the P&D Festival or other public dissemination  events for a general public and for the youngest one (age 3-14), also in cooperation with schools or families; communicating the P&D vision of the connection between puppetry and design at the crossroad of object animation theatre by the project outputs (theatrical productions; workshops; series of prototypes; a handbook; an itinerating exhibition) and media relations.

The partnership who is going to implement the P&D project provides the best expertise to be succesful: long time experience (minimum 19 yrs.) of the theatre partners in puppetry producing, staging and promoting, in vocational and professional training, in audience educational activities with adults and children; besides, all of them have developed an experimental and interdisciplinary attitude to puppetry, and an interest in object animation.

The partner from the design field is an institution  on the international scene since 1966 with research, higher education and professional training activities, production and dissemination concerning interior, fashion, industrial design. All partners have a long-time experience and a proven attitude in transnational and intercultural activities.n Thanks to their relationships they provide to the project participation and interest of stakeholders with both national and international background.