ResiliArt UNIMA/UNESCO : The art of puppetry between tradition and future in times of the pandemic


In the past year, COVID-19 and worldwide lockdowns have had a devastating impact on the performing arts sector, refraining performers and other artists from creating and sharing their work with the public and impacting the diversity of cultural expressions. In this context, puppetry artists around the world, mobilized through UNIMA (International Puppetry Association), have shown a remarkable resilience through their active participation in ResiliArt.

On the occasion of the 18th World Puppetry Day, UNIMA and UNESCO will be hosting the special ResiliArt debate “The art of puppetry between tradition and future in times of the pandemic” on 20 March 2021 at 17h00 (CET).

The debate will be opened by Reiko Yoshida, Head of Programme and Stakeholder Outreach Unit at the Diversity of Cultural Expression Entity of UNESCO (Paris) and Idoya Otegui, General Secretary of UNIMA. After these words of welcome, the debate will be moderated by Margareta Sorensön (theater critic). The event will bring together following puppetry artists as panelists*:

  • Nancy Staub, researcher, heritage expert (USA)
  • Fabrizio Montecchi, shadow theater artist and expert Teatro Gioco Vita (Italy)
  • Gilbert Agbevide, theater artist and producer, director of KAdam-KAdam (Togo)
  • Dadi Pudumjee, puppet theater director, founder of Indian Puppeteer Trust (India)
  • Oksana Byrliba, artist, Compagny Eskizy v Prostranstve (Russia).


ResiliArt was launched by UNESCO on 15 April 2020, and aims to provide artists and cultural professionals a platform to share their challenges and messages of resilience. To this day, more than 240 debates have taken place in more than 210 countries. UNIMA has been one of the most active international organizations in the movement, hosting 20 national and international debates on all continents and in various languages, providing fruitful opportunities to share experiences, to strengthen networks, and to give visibility to the diversity of puppetry arts and tradition around the world. All past ResiliArt debates organized by UNIMA can be found on the following page:

The UNIMA/UNESCO debate will be the opportunity to assess the current state of puppetry arts with renowned guests in the field. The debate will be divided in two parts. The panelists will first address challenges made visible by the pandemic regarding the vulnerable economic and social status of puppetry artists. In a second part, they will discuss the trends in contemporary aesthetics and performance practices of various puppetry art forms.


Participants are invited to register here.

The debate will be streamed live on the UNIMA-ResiliArt Facebook page.


* Biographies of the participants:


Margareta Sorensön – Sweden

Margareta Sörenson is a writer, journalist and critic of theater, dance and performing arts with a specialist knowledge and focus on the art of puppetry.

She is the writer of several bilingual (Swedish-English) books on puppet theaters, like Marionetteatern (1998) and A Great Little Theatre30 years with Tittut Puppet Theatre (2008) and wrote books with Michael Meschke, notably En Estetik för Dockteatern (An Aesthetics for the Puppet Theatre) in 1989. In 2012, she wrote a play for the puppet theatre for the memorial of August Strindberg. The piece The Shadow of August Strindberg was performed during the Strindberg year in 2012.

Margareta Sörenson has been the president of the International Association of Theatre Critics since 2014.


Nancy Lohman Staub – United States of America

Nancy Lohman Staub is an American puppeteer, author, and collector.  She founded the Pixie Players with Sidney Kittinger in New Orleans in 1954, which continued as the Punchinello Players until 1960. In 1968, she opened another theatre in New Orleans, the Puppet Playhouse, where she directed two shows for puppets and symphony orchestra, Babar and Peter Rabbit.

As the Director of the UNIMA 13th World Puppetry Festival, held in Washington, DC in 1980, Nancy Lohman Staub created a landmark in American puppetry. The festival exhibit, Puppets: Art and Entertainment, toured to eleven cities in the United States. She served on boards and panels for UNIMA-USA, UNIMA International, Puppeteers of America, the Jim Henson Foundation, and the Theatre Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Nancy Lohman Staub donated her major collection of international puppets to the museum at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Georgia. The works of Nancy Lohman Staub raised the standard and consciousness of puppetry in the United States and abroad.


Fabrizio Montecchi  Italy 

Fabrizio Montecchi, is a director and set-designer. In 1977, he started his professional career with the Teatro Gioco Vita in which he worked on the development of a very important experience for contemporary shadow theatre. Since 1985, he has directed more than 50 shows. His productions have won several awards and were featured in the main festivals for puppet theatre and theatre for children and youngsters all over the world. Since 1993, Fabrizio Montecchi has also been involved in teaching, aiming to share and exchange knowledge on contemporary shadow theatre. He has also written books and articles on the topic.

Fabrizio Montecchi was awarded the Prix IIM 2013 de la Transmission (Training and Education) by the Institut International de la Marionnette de Charleville Mézières.


Gilbert Agbevide – Togo

Actor, puppeteer and cultural administrator, Gilbert Agbevide is the director of the cultural association KAdam-KAdam in Lomé, Togo, which has accompanied many emerging artists now recognized in the African and European scenes.

He also takes part and coordinates projects supported by the European Union, ACP CULTURES PLUS, OIF, DOEN Foundation, the Swiss Cooperation, the African Fund for Culture, and contributes to professional training in Africa. He coordinates and animates the African network of festivals in public space Ma Rue (17 festivals in 10 African countries).

Nowadays, Gilbert concentrates on the elaboration of cultural projects that combine art and technology going off the beaten track to accomplish his mission of accompanying new generations to contemporary creation (dance, puppetry, performance and theater). His versatility, his enthusiasm for new business models and his expertise in cultural administration, in Togo as well as in the West African sub-region and in Haiti, make him an advisor for artists wishing to be accompanied in their internationalization. 


Dadi Pudumjee – India

Dadi Pudumjee is the founder of the cross-cultural company, the Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust (New Delhi), where he works as director, designer and puppeteer, collaborating with puppeteers, actors and dancers, both traditional and modern. His work covers multiple cultural traditions – from India and beyond, especially countries of the East. Dadi Pudumjee has trained and continues to train and offer workshops in puppet theatre to youth and adults, focusing on social themes and entertainment. The Trust organizes one of the most important annual theatre festivals in the country – the Ishara International Puppet Theatre Festival, held in Delhi. Among its many projects, the Ishara Puppet Theatre Trust ran a programme on HIV/AIDS awareness and substance abuse, supported by UNESCO.

Dadi Pudumjee has received several prestigious awards in India for his work and contribution to puppet theatre, notably the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1992 and the Padmashree in 2011, the latter presented by the President of India for his contribution to puppetry.

He is a former President of UNIMA India and UNIMA International’s Asia-Pacific Commission, a vice-president of UNIMA International (1992-2004) and is the president of UNIMA International since 2008. Since 2016, he is the president of UNIMA International’s Social Justice Commission.


Oxana Byrliba - Russia

Oxana Byrliba is the art manager of the author's theatre company Eskizy v prostranstve (Sketches in Space), working for international projects as an actress and performer. She graduated from the National University of Science and Technology «MISIS» in 2015, specializing in Information Technologies. Moreover, she studied at the theater school «Gogol School» between 2015 and 2016.

Oxana Byrliba has experience in the operational side of theatre activities and is engaged in the development, support and content of the theatre company. She participates in the performance Fathers, Non-fictional stories (from Meyerhold center's repertoire and currently performed during several festivals) among other projects.



Event date: 
20/03/2021 - 17:00 to 18:30