Xavier & Madcap Puppet Theatre Announce Collaboration

Two long-time Cincinnati institutions join to benefit students young and old | April 21, 2008

Xavier University’s Department of Performing Arts is partnering with Madcap Productions Puppet Theatre, which is establishing a residency at Xavier to include performance, educational workshops and master classes, community outreach, internships, and focused academics.


Capitalizing on a niche market of theatre for young audiences as well as training for young actors, Madcap will offer master classes in puppet theatre and theatre for young audiences to Xavier students. Performances with the Xavier Players in Madcap style will be part of the Players’ regular season. A content-based production will do day tours in the spring to at-risk audiences.


For a quarter century Madcap Puppets has toured the country bringing original giant puppet theatre productions to schools, libraries and theaters. Through educational performances and residency and workshop programs, Madcap engages children’s imaginations and provides in-depth creative experiences in theatre, puppetry and story telling. In addition Madcap performs for family audiences around the country in collaborations and co-productions with orchestras, ballet and opera companies, and museums. In Cincinnati, Madcap performs with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, Linton Chamber Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony and Pops, the Ballet and the Opera, and is in residence at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Each year, as many as 500,000 children and families nationwide, including over 100,000 in the Greater Cincinnati area, see a Madcap performance.


The partnership is a natural. Xavier Players Director Cathy Springfield has a background in theatre for young children and Madcap Artistic Director John Lewandowski has a long successful career with European and American puppet theatre and youth performance.


“A comprehensive academic program for the study of theatre for young audiences is an essential component to a vital theater community,” says Lewandowski. “We are a major employer of young actors in the region and need to take an active role in their training and artistic development.”


Lewandowski came to Madcap in August, 2006 from Geneva Switzerland where he was Artistic and Executive Director of Theatre des Marionnettes de Geneve, a repertory theater producing high-quality theatre for young audiences. He has developed international cultural exchange projects between major European theaters, and professional training programs for performers throughout Europe, residencies in universities and workshops for teachers and children. He sees Madcap as part of the vanguard of puppetry arts in America, and is dedicated to creating high quality theatrical experiences for young audiences. He stresses that children should be considered a contemporary audience with concerns, interests and questions that need to be part of that experience.


“The collaboration between Xavier and Madcap provides an opportunity to expand the opportunities for our students to live the motto of the College of Social Sciences, Health, and Education: Collaborate, Innovate, Educate,” says Mark Meyers, Ph.D., Dean of Xavier’s College of Social Sciences, Health, and Education.Working with a group such as Madcap connects our students with a respected theatrical group also known for its service to the community. Not only will our students develop opportunities to work in all aspects of theatrical productions, they will be given another method of learning which can be applied to their individual courses of study, whether in a classroom, counseling center, social agency, or any of the other professions entered by our graduates.”

Puppet theatre to Americans brings images of hand or finger puppets or socks with eyes sewn on. However, puppet theatre is one of the oldest forms of performing arts, found in all cultures and present in all societies. The puppet has been the voice of the oppressed in street performances and sophisticated characters in Baroque opera. In all cases the puppeteer works with the director to develop a language of gestures that can transmit emotions to the audience. And in this way a talented puppeteer can make a puppet “come alive” to the audience and invite them to take part in his adventures. The precision and dramatic analysis required in puppet theatre offer theatre students a unique approach to the performing arts.


Cathy Springfield is Director of Performing Arts at Xavier University. She has directed and taught at Xavier for over 17 years.  She has performed 30+ roles professionally and directed over 40 including 4 world premieres. She was co-founder of American Repertory Theatre of Cincinnati, an umbrella organization comprised of ARTreach Touring Theatre, The Shakespeare Festival of Cincinnati (in Burnet Woods) and Peanut Butter Theatre, a resident children's theatre.  Cathy is a panelist for the Enquirer Acclaim Awards and charter board member for the Clifton Cultural Arts Center.


Xavier’s Performance Studies Minor combines academic training with hands-on experience with the Theatre Series in a well-rounded program that encourages experience in all areas of theatre.  Playwriting, student directing, and producing are a part of the Players yearly schedule.  Each “player” is involved in acting and technical theatre. Coursework includes theatrical writing, personal histories, secular and sacred literature, history and the compilation of literature into performance art.   Acting skills and directing techniques are at the heart of the Performance Studies Minor. American Universities are under tremendous pressure to opt for success based entirely on marketable skills.  As a Jesuit institution the real measure of Xavier’s success is who our students become as individuals. Theatre is a tremendous catalyst for dialogue and a public forum for the expression of ideals and relevant topics.  Participation in theatre creates solidarity with others illuminated by spiritual, moral integrity and intellect based on literature.  The Xavier Players Series includes service-learning projects with each production to reinforce the ethical issues in each play.  Participation in productions deepens those experiences that “touch the heart with personal involvement.”


 Part of the mission of Xavier, as a Catholic Jesuit university, is to create men and women for others and this collaboration to create quality theatre for young audiences will be a way for Xavier students to see and feel directly that they have made a difference in a child’s life.  This goes hand-in-hand with Madcap’s dedication to enriching the lives of young audiences