Anne Cubberly talks Hartford puppetry at the Ballard

 Anne Cubberly is a Hartford visual artist noted for her imaginative kinetic sculpture. (Rick Hartford, rhartford@courant.com)

Anne Cubberly is a Hartford visual artist noted for her imaginative kinetic sculpture. (Rick Hartford, rhartford@courant.com)

Hartford puppeteer Anne Cubberly came to the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry Thursday night as part of the puppetry school’s fall forum series. Cubberly has been the artistic director of “Night Fall” for the past seven years. “Night Fall,” an annual show, seeks to tell the “mysteries of seasonal transition and change” through the art of puppetry, celebrating the segue from fall to winter. This year’s “Night Fall” took place on Oct. 6 at Pope Park in downtown Hartford.

Cubberly touched on the unpredictability that handcrafting puppets brings.

“I made an air puppet this year and it completely did not end up the way I wanted to,” Cubberly said. “I spent a lot of time — months — trying to get this thing looking like the picture in my head, and the materials didn’t work that way.”

Considering all she’s contributed to Hartford, the forum was interested in what Cubberly sees as her vision for the city.

“No cars in downtown,” Cubberly joked. “One giant puppet walking past me every day. More equity with people working. More affordable. I’d like to see a more diverse downtown – most of the more vibrant neighborhoods are outside of the city. I’d like to see the vibrancy in the city.”

Cubberly also had much to say on the potential growth of outdoor performance in Hartford.

“Outdoor performance would be great,” she said. “In the ‘70s, there was. I grew up in that lovely time. One of the important aspects is to make it free, so it’s available to everybody.”

Near the end of the program, Cubberly let the audience in on one of her policies as the defacto showrunner of one of Hartford’s biggest annual puppetry shows.

“We have a ‘no divas, no douchebags’ policy,” she remarked, drawing laughter from the crowd. “You know, you may be so unbelievably talented, but if you’re not willing to work with other people and acknowledge and support others, then you’re just not a good fit for the show.”

Like all Ballard forum events, the evening concluded with a brief question and answer segment. There seemed to be just as many strong compliments towards Cubberly’s work in the community as there were inquiries.

“If I had a choice to spend a week in the desert at Burning Man or to spend two and a half hours with you [at Night Fall], I would take you any time,” an audience member said. “This was the first year I saw your production, and I found it to be one of the most innovative, strikingly beautiful and entertaining productions I’ve seen in my career, working in theater for 30 plus years.”

Crowd members applauded Cubberly’s work furthering puppetry in the state, as well as the ongoing forum series by the Ballard.

“I love coming to the forums. I love getting to meet people who are practicing puppetry in the real world,” Abby Bosley, a graduate student in the puppetry program said. “I’ve never been to ‘Night Fall,’ but this really makes me want to attend next year and see it in person. I’m incredibly excited for the upcoming forum we have next week. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in not knowing what you’re going to do after school, and it’s cool to see people that are doing it, and doing it really successfully.”

Thursday, Dec. 6 marks the next installment of the Ballard forum series, titled “African American Puppetry in New York City.”

The next “Night Fall” will take place in late 2019, when autumn blends into winter.


Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.cohn@uconn.edu.

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