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Def Puppetry Jam: A Black Puppeteer’s Thoughts on the Art

It was a full on rock ’n’ roll concert, the guitarist tearing up a riff enthusiastically, tossing off his bandana to reveal spiky tufts of hair as he wailed into the microphone.

The audience cheered, “Yeah,” and whistled and hooted—except the concert grounds were a small section of Busboys and Poets, in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown, on a dim, small stage scarcely big enough for someone to pace about. And the guitarist? A puppet, his soulful music provided by a DJ rather than of his own making.

When one thinks about D.C., even after getting through the politics, it’s probably a safe wager that the first thing that comes to mind isn’t puppetry.

However, the D.C. region boosts a thriving puppetry community, which was celebrated last weekend through the Washington Performing Arts’ Mars Urban Arts Initiative, which seeks to foster relationships between the WPA and community arts-makers, local businesses, arts institutions and local residents.

And Schroeder Cherry knows that he is filling a need as much as he is fulfilling a passion.

“I’m addressing a void. There are not a lot of [black puppeteers using black puppets]. There are some but there are not a whole bunch of them running around the country so I think I’m addressing a need,” he says.

 

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