Ben Fisler



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The representation of Black identity through puppetry ranges from “grotesque exaggeration to near pictorial realism,” and engagement not only with racial stereotyping, but also the possibility of positive racial representation. Fisler details the extensive degree to which puppeteers in the early 20th century depended upon Black and blackface characters for their livelihood, and points out the complexities of such representations involving Black puppeteers of Federal Theater Project puppet companies, and the work of Creole puppet artist Ralph Chessé. Fisler argues that some white puppeteers, including Frank Paris, sought to portray such Black characters as Josephine Baker in a “potentially more positive” way, and suggests that any puppet performance of racial identity involves complex relationships between puppet and puppeteer that deserve deeper examination.

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puppetry, performing objects, African American culture


African American Studies | Africana Studies | Arts and Humanities | Other Theatre and Performance Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Theatre and Performance Studies

Black and Blackface in the Performing Object: Bullock, Chessé, Paris, the Jubilee Singers, and the Burdens of … Everything