Taking a Look at the First Year of the Project

This December marks almost a year of collaboration with the IMPULSE! Project, and during the first year, we have made progress forming and fostering networks, enabling touring for artists, and altogether promoting contemporary puppetry and visual theatre. This two-year collaborative initiative, spanning Finland, Lithuania, and Portugal, has the ultimate goal of establishing sustainable touring structures as well as enhancing professional development.

Addressing Common Challenges Across Northern and Southern Europe

The IMPULSE! project tackles shared challenges encountered by its partners in Finland, Lithuania, and Portugal, primarily rooted in geographical distances and limited access to Central European touring networks and educational institutions. The three partners—Aura of Puppets, A Tarumba - Teatro de Marionetas, and Kosmos Theatre—share a commitment to developing visual theatre and puppetry as ambitious, innovative, contemporary art forms. During the past year, we aimed to broaden our impact, reaching diverse audiences both locally and internationally.

Joint Touring with Residency Periods

Central to the IMPULSE! project is the objective of supporting the creation and circulation of European works and artists. The heart of the project was the pilot of a joint touring structure, facilitating new performance opportunities for a total of six works—two from each participating country. For this, the project has initiated a touring pilot program for the three festival partners (Fimfa, ConTempo, and TIP-Fest), exploring concrete touring network structures to facilitate the movement of artistic works across borders. This practical initiative seeks to address logistical challenges and open new avenues for collaboration.

The first performance visit and residency were hosted by Fimfa from May 18 to June 4, 2023, as part of the International Festival of Puppetry and Animated Forms, one of the most important festivals of puppetry and theatre in Portugal. The visiting performance was Niina Lindroos & Co.: The Unmentionable, a solo toy theatre piece inspired by the life and art of French photographer and painter Dora Maar (1907–1997). Part of the Finnish working group also attended the five-day Micro Cinema Theatre Masterclass hosted by Gavin Glover, a leading puppeteer in the UK. Glover taught a workshop to explore and incorporate live low-tech video camera work with on-stage theatre performance.

The Unmentionable artist talk at at Fimfa in Lisbon

The second tour visit was from a Portuguese ensemble, Trupe Fandanga, to the ConTempo Festival, held from July 29 to August 6 in Kaunas, Lithuania. Their open-air performance Qubim featured in four different parks around the Kaunas district and attracted large crowds. Organised since 2019, ConTempo is the largest international performing arts festival in central Lithuania, attracting spectators from all over Lithuania and beyond. Their mission is to challenge performing arts, the city, and the spectator.

A Masterclass reflecting the integration of motion capture (mocap) technologies within the realm of performing arts for motion capture in the context of visual theatre and puppetry was held in Vilnius from October 21 to 27, 2023. Teachers Eugenijus Slavinskas, a dancer and puppeteer, and Žilvinas Vingelis, a theatre director, teamed with IRON CAT, a team of experts in the fields of digital art, animation, and visual effects.

The third festival visit was at the Turku International Puppetry festival from November 8 to 11, 2023, where Lithuanian Kosmos Theatre’s performance Kafka Insomnia was performed twice. TIP-Fest is organised by Aura of Puppets, and this year marked the 14th edition of the festival, aiming to bring the most interesting and unique puppetry performances to the puppetry capital of Finland. Before the festival, there was a five-day master class on devised dramaturgy attended by Finnish artists as well as an artist from Lithuania, held by Doc. MgA. et MgA. Sodja Zupanc-Lotker, Ph.D., who is the Course Leader at the Prague Performing Arts Academy (KALD DAMU), Prague.

Each performance had a full house with enthusiastic audiences. We also asked the working groups about their experience briefly after their visits. The interviews are visible on our website.

Hybrid Seminars

The IMPULSE! project places a strong emphasis on sustainability—ecologically, economically, and socially. Through a series of online seminars and in-person meetings, professionals in the field of puppetry and visual theatre have been engaging in discussions to develop and refine new practices for sustainable touring. The first online and in-person seminar on sustainable touring was organised by the project coordinator organisation Aura of Puppets in April during Oh My Puppets! Mini festival in Helsinki. We had the pleasure of having Carolina Ortega from a Berlin-based company Aurora Nova to talk about their Sustainability lab project as well as the company’s experiences on sustainable touring practices.The Sustainability Lab aims is to increase literacy around sustainability in the performing arts, specifically with regards to touring, and to provide practical tips that help you to reduce the environmental impact of touring.

The second seminar, "Slow Transitions: Exploring Ways to Connect While on Tour or as an Artist in Residence," was held on the opening day of Turku International Puppetry Festival. The event was a combination of short keynotes and a panel discussion with Bek Berger, Artistic Director of the New Theatre Institute of Latvia and curator of the International Festival of Contemporary Performance, Homo Novus, Leena Kela, director of the Saari Residence, performance artist, artistic director of the New Performance Turku Biennale, Miradonna Sirkka, circus artist, and founding member of the collective Recover Laboratory. The audience also participated actively in the discussion that was curated by Elina Lajunen, puppeteer and president of Aura of Puppets.

Both of the seminars were live-streamed and are also visible on the project’s website as well as the Youtube account.

A Year of Pragmatic Collaboration

During the first year of the project, the IMPULSE! project has worked towards its initial goals. The touring pilot program was finding its shape in terms of collaboration and addressing practical challenges in the touring landscape. Meanwhile, the ongoing discussions on sustainable touring practices promise to introduce pragmatic considerations into the way artists and producers approach their work, emphasising responsible and mindful practices. During 2024, the focus of the project will shift more towards forming solid networks for the future. Another emphasis will be further developing the touring pilot program with three festival visits yet to come.

Qumib at ConTempo Festival in Kaunas. Photo: Martins Plepys

Motion capture masterclass in Vilnius.

Slow Transitions seminar in Turku.

Dramaturgy masterclass in Turku.