Puppets used to tell the story of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of “The Little Prince,” sit on display inside the museum.

Puppets used to tell the story of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of “The Little Prince,” sit on display inside the museum.

Photo by Deb Jacques


PuppetArt finds new home on Telegraph

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published December 21, 2018

 PuppetArt founder Igor Gozman discusses the difference between a puppet and a doll in the nonprofit’s storage studio. The group recently moved to 24293 Telegraph Road after leaving downtown Detroit.

PuppetArt founder Igor Gozman discusses the difference between a puppet and a doll in the nonprofit’s storage studio. The group recently moved to 24293 Telegraph Road after leaving downtown Detroit.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD — After 19 years In the Motor City, PuppetArt Theatre has decided to call the Center of it All home.

The group recently moved into office space at 24293 Telegraph Road. According to founder Igor Gozman, the nonprofit group got “squeezed out” of downtown Detroit.

“The question was where to go. It was a very painful several months, and we simply couldn’t find a place we could afford. We had to say goodbye to this idea of the resident theater, because it wasn’t achievable,” he said. “When we were shown this place, the search was over.”

The main attraction of the new space on Telegraph, Gozman said, was that it’s literally in the Center of It All, with access to many metro Detroit communities.

“When I came here and saw the place, I just had a feeling we could put a little theater here eventually,” he said.

Gozman said the group began in 1990, when he and two other artists trained in Europe — Luda Mikheyenko and Irina Baranovskaya — met and explored their common love of puppetry.

In 1995, they founded the American Russian Theatre, which was renamed PuppetArt in 1999.

Now the group offers a repertoire of 11 productions based on fairytales and folktales from around the world. The group’s performances feature string — or marionette — puppets, along with hand, rod, shadow and floor-tabletop puppets.

“Everyone was born a puppeteer. We were puppeteers for our first several years, and as we grew up, some forgot how to bring life into the objects,” Gozman said. “Only those who didn’t forget became professional puppeteers.”

Upon walking into the new location, visitors are immediately whisked away into another world through the group’s puppet museum. The museum features original puppets made by PuppetArt artists, as well as various puppets collected over the years featured in glass cabinets.

“We work with all different types of puppets. I view the puppets in such a way that this variety of puppets reflect people’s diversity. And because puppets are found everywhere in the world … (puppets) began when humans acquired this need to communicate with a divine power. That’s how puppets were born — as a totem,” Gozman said. “As a means to speak with something unknown. The last century, puppetry became children’s education, but in the beginning, it was political satire and very complex, philosophical exploration of feelings.”

While their new space doesn’t allow for full-fledged performances due to zoning requirements, there’s a rehearsal space, along with a studio where people of all ages can attend workshops and educational programs.

Gozman said the group will be traveling to locations to perform instead of having performances  in-house, as they did previously. Eventually, however, they will seek a new space for the purpose of performing.

But the main thing that really sold Gozman on the Southfield space was the storage.

“When we get to the point where we can have actual theater, this allows us to have a storage space and we don’t have to look for a new space for the storage. The new building could just be for the work, the programs,” he said.

If the new location wasn’t enough, Gozman said that in April the group will be teaming up with the Southfield Public Library for a collaborative project that will feature exhibits, workshops and performances.

Outreach Librarian Kelly Rembert said the library is excited to partner with PuppetArt, and she hopes that more people will learn about the theater through the program.

“Kids — and grown-ups too — come alive when watching puppets. You can get swept up in the story, but it leaves room for you to imagine more as well, and that sticks with you beyond the performance,” Rembert said in an email.  “We look forward to hosting puppet shows and workshops for you to make your own puppets and put on a show of your own.”

“So far, the plan is we’ll stay here while we’re developing and building up, because it’s a long process. It will definitely take a few years to develop a base,” Gozman said.  

To learn more about PuppetArt or to stay up to date on performances, visit puppetart.org or the group’s Facebook page, @PuppetART.

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