The magic of puppets

The puppet theater ‘Nykštukas’ (Dwarf) in Kaunas, Lithuania is a family, mobile, repertoire type theater which shows a number of plays dedicated to children audience. Darius Armanavicius was here for PUN International Puppet Festival .

What’s your earliest memory of being interested in puppetry?

When I was in kindergarten - we got a trip to a state puppet theatre where for the first time I saw a puppet play. Another memory is this - on television there was a program where it showed how to create your own puppet theatre from scratch. It showed how to tailor puppets from socks, so I took my younger brothers knitted sock and made my first puppet. Back then I thought if it is shown on T.V. - then it's possible for me to make puppets as well.

How did “Nykštukas ” come about?

At the beginning this theatre was a after school, extra curriculum children puppet theatre club. My teacher brought me there. It had no name at the time, it was just a puppet theatre club. This was in the year 1982. We won many contests. Back then when a club wins many contests it gets an official national name for the club. This club was the first ever childrens puppet theatre club that received the privilege of getting an official national name. Everyone was picking a name in the club and they decided it will be "Nykštukas" (Dwarf). At the age of 19 the clubs leaders and founders left the puppet theatre club to me. Since 1990 we reformed the theatre club in to a full, professional, official, touring family theatre. Currently today we have 18 plays. This format hasn't changed since then.

It appears puppetry has a timeless, magical appeal for audiences of all ages. Why do you think that is?

First - in a puppet theatre you can show all and every possible dream any human can imagine and all of those dreams are born in childhood. Those same dreams lead you throughout your entire life. Second - a performer or puppeteer can bring life to the non living, just like a God. This is the magic appeal of puppet theatre that audiences of all ages see, feel and understand.

From conceptualization of the show to creating the puppets, scripting– what is the creative process like? 

Every play has it's own creative process and it's always different. But I don't start to do anything until I see a clear, final vision in my mind. Sometimes it starts from the music composition, sometimes from the puppet crafting, sometimes scriptwriting or maybe just scenography... every process is never the same.

Do you have a particular philosophy or goal when designing the puppets?

Yes. The philosophy is this - every puppet has to be able to express a specific dramaturgical character according to the plays script.

What do you find the most challenging aspect of your job?

The biggest challenge in this job is to make the eyes for the puppet. That is because the eyes are a mirror of the soul.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into puppetry professionally?

If you have the wish to create a miracle and with it astonish the audience, the people - you can try. But YOU MUST create EVERYTHING from BEGGINING to END by yourself and only YOURSELF.


The magic of the Northern Lights through incredible images

In 2017, Finland celebrates a century of independence and continuous democracy. To celebrate Finland’s 100 years of independence, the Embassy of Finland together with Visit Finland and Fortum India presented a photo exhibition of the most spectacular phenomena of Finland to the Indian public – the Northern Lights. This exhibition gave the opportunity to experience their magic through incredible images captured in Finland by seven Finnish photographers .The exhibition also presented stories and impressions from nine Indians and seven Finns about living in each other’s country. . Nina Vaskunlahti, Ambassador of Finland to India, shares her thoughts  on the sidelines of the Photographic exhibition happening at the ICCR, Kolkata
How important are cultural exchanges between the two countries?
I think collaboration between countries is very important. People get to know each other. The more the interaction, more the people get to understand each other’s way of thinking. Also, you find out how many things you share in common. That is something I found out while I was reading the stories published as a part of this exhibition. Initially the (both the Finns staying India and Indians staying in Finland) stories were about their first impressions of the country,finally they spoke of similar things important to all humans: friendliness, openness, welcoming approaches…Matters that matter everywhere in the world.  
Could you please throw some light on the Finnish Community here in India?
There are roughly 100 Finnish companies that have established business in IndiaThe amount of Finns living in India is low, I think we speak of only a couple of hundreds.   India is becoming an ever more  popular tourist destination particularly during the Finnish winter time. People travel  especially to Goa.   Goa is also a popular over winter long term destination for Finns who want to escape the gloomy months of the north.
What are your thoughts on Finland as a tourist destination?
Finland is a great tourist destination! It’s a country in the North. It is a big country with lots of Nature: 80 % forest, 10 % of water and we live in the rest 10 %!. We have almost 200 thousand lakes so plenty of water for swimming and sailing.   We have very beautiful archipelago along the Baltic Sea coastline. There are undulating hills in Eastern Finland and  the lake land area in the central Finland. Helsinki is the capital of Finland and has a very active cultural scene.  Also, I think Finland is very open and liberal society and it offers a good choice for every taste.
What would be the takeway message from this exhibition?
I think the message from this exhibition would be how amazing the Nature can be. How it can sort of mesmerizes your mind and thought.


Exploring Self through Volunteering

Amy Hsieh is one of the co-leader in TAIndia. She is a junior (third-year in University) from Fu Jen Catholic University. Her major is in Clinical Psychology. Also, this year Amy join her teacher's lab to research about Emotion & Attention Studies. In her free time, she does volunteer work in hospital to learn more and help others.

How did you become interested in volunteering?

Since I was in Junior high school, we had the courses like service learning. Through those courses from high school to University, I learned a lot of experiences and how to do volunteer. However, my mom is the one who inspired me to be interested in volunteering. She goes to do volunteering since I was little, and even now she volunteers for at least one day every week. She is a so kind person that I hope myself can keep doing these good things like her. 

What was the best experience you had whilst volunteering?

I think it was the smile and the hug from one of the patient gave me in Missionaries of Charity. During the days there, I went to Shanti Dan to do the volunteering. I remember that there was an old woman I still clearly can't forget. At first, I saw her sitting on the ground and she was like a little bit uncomfortable. Then I walked to her and tried to understand what she needed. However, we both couldn't understand each other. Then I found her pants was wet and I thought she might wanted to change it. So I took a clean one for her. Because she was quite short so I squatted down, and she put her hands on my shoulders then I helped her to change it. She was so lovely and cute that she even wanted another pattern and color of pant! When I finished, the old woman helped me fix my hair softly and gave me a deep hug and smile like a kind grandma. At that moment, I was so touched although we don't understand each other's language but I felt she was thanking to me. I can feel the warm from her and I really cherish it. 

One of the common challenges faced by volunteers abroad is coping with culture shock. How do you help combat this and deal with it when it comes up?

The most impressed me so much is the horn sounds on the road. I remembered the first day we arrived Kolkata was about 2 a.m. Therefore, I was so tired that I fell asleep soon when I went to bed. However, I think it's about 6 a.m. then I woke up. I didn't wake up by the alarm or others' calling but by the horn sounds outside the window. I found that people in India often honk their horns. After days, I got used to the horns blaring. So, I even don't set any alarm to wake me up in Kolkata cause I know the horn will help me! 

Do you think volunteering in TAINDIA will make a difference in your life?

To me, TAIndia is an amazing team. As I joined TAIndia, I learned a lot from our teachers and members since we had prepared for about half a year. Doing volunteering in TAIndia changed me a lot. We had meeting every week, came up with different ideas and practiced until it was perfect. It's not only about team work or service learning but also what we can do more and how much we can accomplish. It's a very special and unforgettable experience in my life. Therefore, I really thank for joining TAIndia and being one of them.

What would you recommend to other people who are looking for volunteering opportunities?

I will tell just go ahead! Don't hesitate! Sometimes people say doing volunteering is helping others. However, I think sometimes doing volunteering you can gain more from them cause you will introspect yourself and try to make something better. The most important is to have an enthusiastic heart. With your passionate and open mind, you will get lots of different experience in your life!!


Ritual Meets Piano

Keyboardist Nik Bärtsch is a player, composer, and improviser very much in the European classical-oriented style of jazz, but has created a language that transcends these basic categories. A native and resident of Zurich, began his nine-year-long piano studies at age nine, and also briefly took up clarinet. Listening to blues, jazz, and string quartets, Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, and ethnic musics from Japan, Greece, Romania, and Sweden, have all shaped his personalized music. Nik Bärtsch currently works in three parallel musical settings: as a solo artist, with the acoustic group Mobile and with the 'zen-funk' group Ronin. Recently, he performed at the Calcutta School of Music.

                                                                 - Ronin
When did you begin to know that music would be your path?

I never thought about it. It was always my path.

It’s interesting to notice how diverse the scale of your works is. You have worked in different projects. What urges you to express yourself in different contexts?

I focus on my personal musical expression as composer and player. I mainly play with my two bands Ronin (a zenfunk quartet) and Mobile (an acoustic music ritual group) and solo. I also compose for other ensembles and work a lot with young musicians because this should be our duty when we are more experienced. I also co-founded a music club and a label for younger artists (I work with the great label ECM for my projects). All of these activities are initiatives to be independent and to create opportunities also for other musicians.

Could you enlighten our readers about your ongoing project-Ritual Groove Music?

This term describes my musical philosophy which is based on repetition, rhythmic variety, community and ceremonial organization of the concerts and work processes. We want to create a coherent dramaturgy in our shows but also in everyday work processes to serve the music.

Do you believe new approaches to classical music are the route to its revival?

New approaches in classical music are always happening. But we never had such a huge overview over do many decades and styles. This is interesting but forces us also to decide clearly where we can really contribute something essential to a certain development - an inspiring challenge.

How important are music clubs for creative expression, musical collaboration, exploration and learning?

Spaces, venues, clubs, festivals and even private initiatives are very essential to support the meeting of musicians and audience live. The live playing in front of and audience is still the main musical experience.

                                                     - Mobile
So how has the local indie music scene evolved or changed over the years?

It is very alive in Zurich and since we meet and work every week we also have a regular home base to meet and talk etc. It's important to have a community based structure for ongoing development.

How did you develop an interest in the influence and combination of music and movement?

This seems first of all very natural since a musician should move efficiently and naturally to create a clear sound. But I also always loved dance music, especially in the arts and in tribal and spiritual context. Sometimes even just the mind can dance when you are listening to a concert on a chair. With several movement techniques like Aikido, Feldenkrais or Girokinesis I tried to make my playing more natural and simple to have more capacity to listen and to enjoy live playing.

Any top tips for aspiring young composers?

Morton Feldman said it already: Believe in your composition by being clear at any price! I would add: enjoy your work as a spiritual duty to the heaven of music.


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