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Alex and Olmsted (Alex Vernon and Sarah Olmsted Thomas) is an internationally acclaimed puppet theater and filmmaking company based in Maryland. They have toured at festivals in Denmark, South Korea, and Canada, and have performed at numerous venues within the United States. Alex and Olmsted was awarded the 2020 State Independent Artist Award for Performing Arts from the Maryland State Arts Council, the highest honor for performing artists in the State of Maryland; their works have been supported by the Jim Henson Foundation and Greenbelt Community Foundation, recognized by the New York Times, and named an official selection of the Maryland Film Festival, Paris Art Film, and others. Alex and Olmsted is a resident company at Baltimore Theatre Project. Vernon and Thomas are also proud company members of Happenstance Theater, with whom they have created 10 productions since 2012.
The Beatbox Dads are Jamaal “Root” Collier and Max Bent. Root is a dynamic stage performer and master teaching artist who utilizes theater, rap, and vocal percussion. Max is a gifted musician and master teaching artist with a background in beatboxing and mobile music production. As the Beatbox Dads, they love to play with children and their adults; beatboxing and hip hop culture inform their process of engaging audiences through language, rhythm, and movement, along with humor and improvisation. Jes Raschella is a Baltimore based multidisciplinary artist and entertainer. She is the co-creator of Baltimore Hoop Love, a circus entertainment operation that, since 2010, has focused on interactive hula hoops, stilt walking, juggling, caricature art, and costume making.
Crankie Fest Co-Curator & organizer Emily Schubert is an interdisciplinary artist, maker, farmer, and forager. She hails from the borderlands of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Northern Kentucky and currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She earned a degree in fiber and textile art from the Maryland Institute College of Art and has worked on costumes for traveling Broadway shows and participated in puppet theater festivals and workshops in Europe, Indonesia, and the United States. She is inspired by the fantastical and the everyday and how these shape peoples’ perception of the world. Drawing from mythology, folktales, memories, and personal experience, she creates narratives and characters that aim to make some sense of our existence by giving form to our collective anxieties and desires.
The Lantern Sisters are Katherine Fahey and Dan Van Allen. Baltimore artist Katherine Fahey is a storyteller, puppeteer, and papercut artist who has been making crankies for 10 years. She has taught crankie making and has performed throughout the United States, earning her the affectionate title of “the Jane Appleseed of Crankies.” Her crankies are based on songs and tales drawn from the Inuit territories of Northern Quebec and the swamps of Louisiana to the streets of her home in Baltimore City. Performing with Katherine is puppeteer, foley artist, craftsman, and visionary artist in his own right, Dan Van Allen.
Maria Pugnetti, who often performs under the moniker Wooly Mar, is an interdisciplinary artist with a passion for shadow theater and puppetry. She holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In addition to shadow puppetry, her creative repertoire includes painting, fiber arts, video, sound, and lighting design. Pugnetti works as a technical director and freelance lighting, sound, and projection designer for theater companies in and around Southern Vermont. She co-founded a women’s theater collective called Firekeeper Productions, which produced The Mabel Story, a multimedia dance acrobatic musical production. She is an alum of The Sandglass Theater Puppetry Intensive and has studied shadow puppetry with Stephen Kaplan of Chinese Theatre Works. Pugnetti’s crankie theater art is featured in National Poetry Prize winner GennaRose Nethercott’s production The Lumberjack’s Dove and is currently on tour with Nethercott’s production Thistlefoot.
Sandglass Theater, from Putney, VT, is primarily a puppet theater; its founders, Eric Bass and Ines Zeller Bass, came to crankies as an extension of their puppet art. Together, Eric and Ines have created an array of crankies that range from a humorous Quebecois song to an enigmatic Yiddish lullaby, from a 1930s novelty song to an imagistic journey of refugees set to a guitar instrumental. Inspired by crankie artists as diverse as Anna and Elizabeth and Bread and Puppet Theater, Eric and Ines have their own original take on this art form, blending Ines’ engaging artwork and expertise in puppetry with Eric’s guitar and banjo arrangements and perspective as a theater director. Sandglass has been presenting a mini-festival of crankies in southern Vermont for the past nine years, developing the mystique and low-tech charm of pairing song and story with rolling pictures. Their crankies, taken together, present an arc of songs that are sometimes funny, sometimes quite moving, and often evoke metaphorical worlds and journeys, complementing folk songs of several countries.
TOYBOX, America’s Favorite Cartoon Witch, is a multi-award-winning puppeteer, clown, toymaker, and event producer. For over 20 years, he has delighted and surprised audiences with his one-of-a-kind brand of humor and creation.
Geraldine’s mantra is “Good Time Old Time.” They are a country-leaning string band bringing songwriting to the forefront, while blending elements of old time, American folk, bluegrass, and alternative country in a distinctive, enthusiastic sound. As stewards of Appalachian motifs in a modern framework, they bring Appalachian flatfoot dancing, banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and washboard to the stage, accented with lush four-part harmonies in a free-wheeling repertoire of both original songs and rare and wonderful gems from the past. They released their debut album, Harvester, in November 2019. Noted for their award-winning songwriting and their unique take on original bluegrass and old time music, Geraldine has gained a grassroots following in the Baltimore/DC metro area since forming their current lineup in 2018.