American puppeteer, designer, director. Puppet spectacles as probing and insightful meditations on unusual historical and sociological subjects are the realm of designer and director Theodora Skipitares. After studies at Berkeley and two years in Greece, Theodora Skipitares settled in New York to study sculpture, costume and theatre. Richard Schechner, Jerzy Grotowski, Meredith Monk, Spalding Gray were influences in the 1970s. Her first works of performance art used sculpture and costume to express autobiographical narratives. Beginning with Micropolis (1982), her company, Skysaver Productions, used puppet techniques often inspired by travels in India, Cambodia and Vietnam. Realistic life-size puppets and objects, as well as miniature ones, are moved by actors in large-scale works that included live music, film and video.
Theodora Skipitares has received numerous grants, fellowships, and awards for visually spellbinding works. Age of Invention (1985) used 300 figures. Defenders of the Code was named one of the ten best plays of 1987. Empires and Appetites (1989) and Radiant City (1991) followed. Ellen Stewart’s La MaMa Theatre has presented Theodora’s works including: Underground (1992), Under the Knife (a history of medicine, 1994), Body of Crime (1996), A Harlot’s Progress (1998), Optic Fever (2001), The Rise & Fall of Timur the Lame (2002).
In response to the Iraq war, Theodora Skipitares created the trilogy of productions based on Greek mythology and classical literature – Helen Queen of Sparta (2003), Odyssey: The Homecoming (2004), and Iphigenia (2005). These were followed by The Exiles (2007, an adaptation of Euripides’ Orestes), Medea (2008), The Women of Troy (2009), Lysistrata (2011), Prometheus Within (2012).
In 1999 and 2000, Theodora Skipitares travelled to India as a Fulbright Fellow, where she worked with Indian puppeteers and choreographers to create two works. In 2002, she travelled to Cambodia and India, developing new projects and, in 2003, directing Indian puppeteers for the Ishara Puppet Festival in New Delhi (see Dadi Pudumjee).
Theodora Skipitares is a frequent guest artist and teacher. With Dan Hurlin she co-directed the puppetry programme of Arts at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York, a place where emerging artists can refine their vision.
(See United States of America.)
- “History As Theme Park: Reconfiguring the Human Journey in the Art of Theodora Skipitares”. TDR/The Drama Review. Vol. 47, No. 2, June 2003, pp. 34-70.