Past Projects

Nalah and the Pink Tiger at The Family Partnership

paip_4Thanks to a Partners in Arts Participation grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board and funds from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Funds, Nalah and the Pink Tiger spent the month of October teaching at The Family Partnership!

Preschoolers from the Family Partnership in North Minneapolis and Phillips saw the Nalah and the Pink Tiger Puppet Show. Then they made puppets and shakers with Anne S.A. and Matt Larson.

At the final celebration, there was a puppet dance party to live music by Matt L. and Emily Dantuma.

All children received a free Nalah and the Pink Tiger book to take home.

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Touring Libraries and Schools in Hennepin and Ramsey County

tiger dolphin by Anne Sawyer-AitchThis spring Anne will be performing and teaching color shadow puppet residencies at three Ramsey County Schools, thanks to an Arts Learning Grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. In April, she’ll work at Parkview Elementary School in Roseville. Oakhill Montessori follows in May, and she finishes up with Harambee Elementary for the entire month of June. Each residency is kicked off by a performance of Nalah and the Pink Tiger, and culminates with student shows.

The Hennepin County Libraries will also be seeing a lot of Anne this spring. She will be touring the Nalah show in English and Spanish at various libraries and teaching ELL students at various schools how to make a Topsy Turvey Puppet. See for complete schedule of performances.

Shadows of the Floating World and Other Ephemera

confessions of a lazy hmong woman

Postcard Art Created for Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman. Photo by Jemiah Aitch

In fall, 2011, Anne was commissioned by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to create a shadow puppet piece based on their Edo-Pop exhibit. According to Dr. Matthew Welch, ukiyo-e refers to a type of “pop” imagery produced in Japan …“from the late seventeenth century through the nineteenth century, which reflected the tastes and proclivities of a rising class of urban commoners.” The 20-minute piece that Sawyer-Aitch created – called “Shadows from the Floating World” – was performed with Soozin Hirschmugl and Kaori Kenmotsu on November 13th at the MIA as part of their free Target Family Day series. Anne is looking for other opportunities to develop and expand this piece. (more…)

Benefit Showing of Sita Sings the Blues for Magic Lantern Puppet Theater

Reid Knuttila and Patti Gage

Reid Knuttila with puppet George, and Patti Gage with puppet Hester

Sita Sings the Blues

Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate this beautifully animated interpretation of the Ramayana. Set to 1920’s jazz vocals, Sita Sings the Blues is “the Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.” Animation by Nina Paley. Length 82 minutes.

All proceeds benefit Magic Lantern Puppet Theater’s upcoming production, Children and Other Optical Illusions at Open Eye Figure Theater.

Anne's swallows hang in An Open Book in Wadena, MN.

Swallows Fly North In Winter

Anne Sawyer-AitchSawyer-Aitch’s giant swallow puppets are now hanging in Wadena’s An Open Book.

On the weekend of October 24, Anne and her husband Jemiah trucked seven of her large swallow puppets up to Wadena, MN to hang in An Open Book. Resident Artist Jamie Houts – who is creating a series of charming Alice in Wonderland paintings for the independent book store – directed the installation of the birds, assisted by Jemiah Aitch, Chris Houts, and many helpful kids. (more…)

Magic Lantern Puppet Theater Re-Stages Children and Other Optical Illusions

Anne Sawyer-Aitch Shadow PuppetsPerformed at Open Eye Figure Theater in June 2011.

“Wry, emotionally intense, humorous… above all delicately presented.”
-Wayne Krefting, Henson Foundation Review

“Incredibly rich visuals, acting, & music.”
-Krista Post, Licensed Psychologist, Postpartum Support International, MN Co-coordinator

In October, 2010, Magic Lantern received an Arts Activity grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) to re-envision its original production, Children and Other Optical Illusions. Children and Other Optical Illusions is a multi-media puppet show, featuring shadow animation, a unique sound score, live-feed video, and puppets.

The new production will be at Open Eye Figure Theatre in South Minneapolis June 9-11, 2011, and will incorporate new visual layers such as 3-D shadow puppetry. MRAC panelists were especially pleased by Sawyer-Aitch’s request for funding to hire Arist Zaraawar Mistry to mentor her as a director as she re-visits the piece. Zaraawar Mistry is the owner of Dreamland Arts, where the first version of the show premiered in June of 2010.

Why do the show again?

Sawyer-Aitch’s goals for this production are not simply a “re-mount”. True, the re-staged version of Children will be performed by the original cast: award-winning puppeteer Janaki Ranpura, Jennifer Weaverling,Reid Knuttila and Patricia Gage. The original score will again be created and performed by visiting New York Artist Lisa Abbatomarco and Matt Larson. But by working with Mistry, Sawyer-Aitch hopes to deepen the work, both in content and presentation. Mistry’s style of mentorship is asking a series of questions. “Why is that visual there?” or “What does your gut tell you about why you are doing this show now?” “Sure, okay, 3-D shadow puppetry, but what are you trying to communicate viscerally here?”

About the script:

The piece explores the questioning and grief that two couples experience in their quest to become parents. The show was written by Anne Sawyer-Aitch, and is based in part on her own and others’ real experiences.
Optical illusions are often about missing information – what the eye is drawn to, instead of what it should be looking at – or a simple lack of available data. For couples struggling with unknown causes of infertility, this metaphor can be a very poignant one.

Children and Other Optical Illusions also depicts rituals and customs from around the world surrounding the topic of miscarriage. The script was born from the playwright’s own quest to become a mother, and is in part autobiographical. It is our hope that it can both entertain and raise awareness of a subject which is still somewhat “taboo” and misunderstood.

Because of its subject matter, this show is not recommended for children. This activity is made possible in part by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council through a grant from The McKnight Foundation and an appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature.

Additional sponsorship by Cryogenic Laboratories,

“Cryogenic Laboratories, Inc (CLI): with over 40 years of service, is the world’s oldest and most experienced sperm bank, offers extensively screened anonymous, ID Options donors, and storage services for sperm and embryos. We provide the highest quality in the industry as one of the few sperm banks fully accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). Extensive donor Information is downloaded FREE for ALL sperm donors. Searching for a donor is fun, easy and free of charge. Most other sperm banks require you to pay for each donor information product you view. So look and listen for free 24/7. Childhood photos, donor essays, staff impressions, audio clips, medical and personal profiles are all free. Monthly specials are also there to make the process easier. We are the sperm bank where value meets quality.”

  • June 9-11, 2011
  • Open Eye Figure Theatre
    506 East 24th Street, Minneapolis
  • ASL Interpretation Friday, June 10 by Gretchen Toay
Jananki Ranpura

Jananki Ranpura plays Tink the Explorer in the show.

Lisa Abbatomarco and Matt Larson

Lisa Abbatomarco and Matt Larson created the soundscape for Children and Other Optical Illusions

Reid Knuttila and Patti Gage

Reid Knuttila with puppet George, and Patti Gage with puppet Hester

Jennifer Weaverling

Jennifer Weaverling stars as the protagonist Amy

2010: the Year in Review

Excessively Happy Shadow Puppet Scene by Anne Sawyer-Aitch2010 was a busy year. These are just a few of the projects Anne was involved in:
January, 2010:
  • Organized fundraiser “Pasta for Puppets” for Magic Lantern Puppet Theater and raised the matching funds for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Award to stage new play “Children and Other Optical Illusions.”
February, 2010:
  • MN State Arts Board shadow puppet residency in Mora, Minnesota.
March/April, 2010:
  • Taught bilingual Latin American folk-arts workshops for the Hennepin County Library System at schools and libraries around metro area in honor of Día de los Niños. (Crafts included Cuna Molas, metal tooling, and papel picado.)
May, 2010:
  • Stilting narrator for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre’s Annual May Day Pageant.
June 2010:
  • Debut of original multi-media play “Children and Other Optical Illusions” at Dreamland Arts. Sawyer-Aitch wrote, directed, and created the puppets for the piece. She also produced it.
July/August, 2010:
  • Co-curated a visual arts show called “Puppetry of the Twin Cities” at the 801 Gallery in downtown Minneapolis.
  • Mask-making classes at Steppingstone Theater and Latin American crafts for six weeks at Augsberg library.
  • Hired by Artstart to teach painting at the MN Science Museum’s Camp Wabasha.
September, 2010:
  • Awarded a New York Mills Artist Retreat to work on illustrations for Nalah and the Pink Tiger.
Yellow Dragon made by Anne Sawyer-Aitch

Dragon Puppet by Anne Sawyer-Aitch for Eco-Arts Festival

October/November 2010:
  • Awarded Arts Activity Grant by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council to re-stage “Children and other Optical Illusions” at Open Eye Figure Theater with the mentorship of Performer/Director Zaraawar Mistry.
  • Arts residency at Mississippi Creative Arts Magnet. Made large dragon for Eco-Arts Festival and helped 90 second-graders make their own dragon masks.
  • Performed with Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater as stilter and puppeteer in the Minnesota Orchestra’s Spooktacular.
  • Created shadow puppets for Theatre Unbound’s 10 Virgins.
  • On-going installation of giant swallow puppets in Open Book store in Wadena, MN.
December, 2010:
  • Teaching Saturday Matinee puppet workshops at In the Heart of the Beast.
What’s up in 2011?
  • Children and Other Optical Illusions will be re-staged at Open Eye Figure Theater
  • Continue to work on Nalah and the Pink Tiger
  • Puppetry residency in Mora Minnesota, including building troll puppets for the Vasseloppet Race.
  • Directing a pageant in New York Mills of the Kalevala, in collaboration with Artist Annie Rollins and the New York Mills Cultural Center.

Thanks for a Wonderful Evening

To everyone who attended Pasta for Puppets, or wished us well from afar:

I am sending a very belated THANK YOU for a wonderful evening. Pasta for Puppets was a roaring success. Great food, great music, great people! You support meant so much to me.

For those of you who are curious, we met our budget goal to match the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Community Arts Grant we received to produce the original work Children and Other Optical Illusions. The funds will help support seven artists, a theater technician, and the very worthy Dreamland Arts, where our show is being performed. (more…)

February 27: Pasta for Puppets Fundraiser

Saturday, February 27, 2010
Pasta for Puppets Fundraiser

To support Magic Lantern Puppet Theater’s new multi-media puppet show Children and Other Optical Illusions.

Performances will take place at Dreamland Arts June 17-19, 2010.

Enjoy a delicious pasta dinner prepared by professional caterer Tracy Yue of One Dish at a Time! Silent Auction and live music by jazz fusion trio Fermentation. Drink wine and be merry!

We thank you for your support. This project supported in part by the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.

  • Saturday, February 27, 7-10 pm
  • Anne & Jemiah’s House,
  • 3131 17th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 555407
  • $12 per adult, $5 per child, no one turned away.

Thanks to the following people and organizations who have already pledged their support by donating to our “Pasta for Puppets” Fundraiser:
Minnesota Children’s Museum
North Star Roller Girls
May Day Cafe
Maude Salon
Freewheel Bike Shop
Open Eye Figure Theater
Peace Coffee
Karmas Wheels
Bicycle Artist Mark Amboe
Krista Post, Licensed Psychologist
Steppingstone Theater
Dawn Wittenberg, Massage Therapist and Kettlebells Instructor
One Dish At A Time, Catering by Tracy Yue
Artist Chrys Laramy
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater
Hi-Lake Liquor
Janet Johnson
Midwest Mountaineering
Joel Walther