Ballard to host Banners and Cranks Mini Festival

The University of Connecticut’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry will be hosting a Banners and Cranks Mini Festival on Friday April 14 and Saturday April 15, featuring performances from puppetry students and puppet companies for a wide range of audiences. (Olivia Stenger/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry will be hosting a Banners and Cranks Mini Festival on Friday April 14 and Saturday April 15, featuring performances from puppetry students and puppet companies for a wide range of audiences.

The focus of the Ballard’s Banners and Cranks exhibit has been on the two-dimensional medium of material performances. Performers will use a painted banner with images depicted on it to act as a visual aid for a narrative or a side-scrolling banner known as a ‘crankie’ with accompanying narration.   

“An exciting thing about puppets and performing objects is that the range of the work is so wide,” said Ballard director John Bell. “People have been using paintings and pictures [to perform] for thousands of years.”

The mini festival, organized by the Ballard and Vermont-based puppeteer Clare Dolan, will feature performances of this particular art form. Friday’s event will showcase more revolutionary and ‘adult’ performances, including “Three Mythological Metaphors for Donald Trump” and “A Page of Woody Guthrie’s Notebook.”

Saturday’s performance, on the other hand, will showcase family-friendly pieces such as “Pickled Paula” and “Banana Split for my Baby.” The decision to make separate events allowed for some of the more controversial and contemporary banners to be performed, Bell said.

Friday’s event will showcase more revolutionary and ‘adult’ performances, including “Three Mythological Metaphors for Donald Trump” and “A Page of Woody Guthrie’s Notebook.” (Yuwei Zhao/The Daily Campus)

“A lot of different forms of puppetry [are] not children’s entertainment. People assume that if it’s puppets, then it’s for children,” Bell said. “[We want to] talk about contemporary issues and political issues. When artists are making these stories, they’re focusing them for adults.”

Some of the crankies featured have already been performed for other events. Ballard director John Bell narrated “An Ode to Common Things” for the Banners and Cranks exhibit opening in February. The gruesome “Daniel’s Story,” which will be shown on Friday night’s event, was previously performed as part of Shane McNeal’s “Doc Foster’s Twisted Tales.”

Two crankies on display at the Ballard, “Tosca” and “Feed” will be performed at Friday evening’s event. Bell said he hopes the mini festival will help spread awareness about the contemporary banners and cranks movement.

“[It’s] something that’s been going on for a number of decades under the radar, and it’s reemerged because of these festivals,” Bell said. “The Ballard Institute is simply excited to present this work to the University of Connecticut and the Storrs-Mansfield area. It’s gonna be an eye-opener.”

The Banners and Cranks Festival will be on Friday, April 14 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 15 at 2 p.m. at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. Adult Admission is $12. The Banners and Cranks Exhibit will be on display at the Ballard through June 11. For more information, visit bimp.uconn.edu.  


Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.