Johanna Winters


The Dunderheads (as I lovingly refer to this set of oversized geriatric heads) have taken a detour into the realm of puppetry!

Over the summer I traveled to my hometown of Minneapolis to study with puppeteer and playwright Michael Sommers, who is the magic force behind the Open Eye Figure Theatre. While allowing me full access to his studio and stage, Michael taught me marionette-building skills and also helped me develop a loose narrative for my troupe of puppets, titled “Dowagers.”  I finished developing the performance this fall, and performed “Dowagers” with my cohort MaryAnne Carey at Gallery 1010 in Knoxville, TN.

It was a strange and delightful evening.

Dowagers (detail)

Meet the Dowagers

“Dowagers” is a long-form cyclical narrative that involved two human-bodied dowagers playing with a pair of their puppet-bodied counterparts. Every fifteen minutes, the large-headed “puppeteers” approach the table-top puppet stage to perform a puppet show: the puppets wake up, acknowledge each other and the puppeteers, they primp, and wait for their daily ration of liver pâté. Upon receiving the pâté, they eat ravenously until they discover a tooth hidden at the bottom of the can. The puppeteers pull back the curtain under the table to reveal that the puppets have been collecting and hoarding teeth over a long period of time. The puppets are tucked back into bed, and the puppeteers retrieve to their living room to listen to the radio, play cards, do crossword puzzles, mix cocktails, or go out for a smoke. They also offer liver pâté and cookies to the audience. After fifteen minutes, a timer dings and the puppet show cycles again. There is no dialect, just murmurs between the puppets and heads.