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SEGAL TALKS: Basil Jones & Adrian Kohler (South Africa)

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Nov 17, 2021
Nov 17, 2021
Live Stream
BASIL JONES (South Africa)

Wednesday, November 17th, 2021, 12 noon EDT


A giant puppet of a nine-year-old refugee girl Amal traveled 4,971 miles (8,000km) from the Turkey-Syria border through Europe to the UK. The Good Chance team behind The Jungle, the celebrated dramatisation of refugee life in Calais, teamed up with the creators of the War Horse puppets to create one of the most ambitious public artworks ever attempted.

    The Walk dramatised the stories of refugee children by means of a 3.5-metre-high puppet, Little Amal, who traveled from the Syrian border through Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and France in search of her mother. More than 70 towns, villages and cities welcomed Little Amal with art, from major street parties and city performances to more intimate community events. Even the Pope welcomed her.

    ​In July, Little Amal arrived at the Manchester International Festival where she became the centerpiece of a large-scale participatory event. The production team includes the director Stephen Daldry, who said it would be a “travelling festival of art and hope” and the “most ambitious public art event” ever attempted.
We ask with the New York Times: “Four Months, 5,000 Miles … In a politically divided continent, were any minds changed?”​ Read the article here.

Basil Jones
 is the co-founder and Executive Producer of Handspring Puppet Company. Jones completed his BFA at UCT where he met future husband, Adrian Kohler. In 1990, Jones set up a not for profit NGO Handspring Trust, which produced the award winning Spider’s Place, an innovative, multi-media science education series for TV, radio and comic aimed at young learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. He set up the Handspring Awards for Puppetry, which recognise and encourage puppet design, direction and performance in South Africa. The Handspring Trust is involved in a number of projects in urban township and rural areas, using puppetry as a means to educate and empower youth and bring communities together through street parades and performance. He speaks and writes on the subject of puppetry and is deeply interested in growing an international dialogue on the theatre of objects. He received the Naledi Executive Directors Award [2012], a lifetime achievement award from Tshwane University [2006] and an honorary doctorate in literature from UCT [2012].
Adrian Kohler, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Handspring Puppet Company, is one of the world’s leading masters of his medium. His mother was an amateur puppeteer who, with his father, a yacht builder and cabinetmaker, gave him a firm grounding in woodwork, woodcarving, wooden constructions and the creation of moving figures. A BA (Fine Art) Hons, at the University of Cape Town followed. He then spent a year at The Space Theatre, South Africa’s pioneering non-racial theatre. In Botswana he ran the National Popular Theatre Programme (1978-80) and was an active member of the Medu Art Ensemble – a collection of ANC-aligned cultural activists.
In 1981 he and Basil Jones returned to Cape Town to found Handspring Puppet Company, with two other art school graduates. He was the lead puppet designer and maker as well as set designer and script writer.
For five years the company produced a new play every year. In their fifth year they also produced their first play for adults: Episodes of an Easter Rising, directed by Esther van Ryswijk. This play premiered at The Baxter Theatre and later toured to France. The company then moved to Johannesburg, where they enjoyed a long association with William Kentridge, staging three plays and two operas.
Their return to Cape Town in 1999 saw them branch out into a new form of theatre which focussed on the animal ‘as animal’ and as the central subject in a theatrical production. The Chimp Project (2000), Tall Horse (2004) and War Horse (2007) were all part of a ‘nouvelle vague’ which for the first time in theatre history, made an animal the central figure in a piece of theatre.
Kohler’s puppets have garnered Handspring many awards in South Africa and abroad.  War Horse received  the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Lawrence Olivier Awards (2007/8) in London and on Broadway, a Special Tony Award, the Outer Critics Award and a Drama Desk Award (2011).
His work has been exhibited at the SA National Gallery, The Barbican Art Gallery and the National Theatre, London, The Museum for African Art, New York City and the Cape Town and Johannesburg Art Fairs. His puppets are held in public collections including the SA Constitutional Court, the Munich Stadtmuseum, the Centre for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Kohler is the recipient of a number of Vita Awards, an Artes award, the Michaelis Prize (1974), an honorary doctorate in literature UCT (2012) and the John F. Kennedy Gold Medal in the Arts (2018).


The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center is proud to announce the new line-up of its new global series, SEGAL TALKS. Since March 2020 the series featured over 150 talks with 150 artists from 50 countries. New York, US, and international theatre artists, curators, researchers, and academics will talk daily during the week for one hour with Segal Center’s director, Frank Hentschker, about life and art in the Time of Corona and speak about challenges, sorrows, and hopes for the new Weltzustand— the State of the World. After a break in August the series will now also focus on Theatre, Performance and The Political, highlighting the Segal Center’s 2023 New York International Festival of the Arts Project and the Center’s Public Park Project. The Segal Center is the only theatre institution in NYC and the US creating new, original, daily content for the global field of theater and performance. The series was conceived, created and curated by Frank Hentschker in March 2020. Selected excerpts of Segal Talks are available to read in PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art as part of “In the Time of Coronavirus”

SEGAL TALKS are free, open access, without ads will be live-streamed in English from Wednesday to Friday on HowlRound Theatre Commons and on the Segal Center Facebook. This program is presented in collaboration with HowlRound Theatre Commons, based at Emerson College. All SEGAL TALKS are archived on HowlRound, and on the Segal Center YouTube Channel.

The work of the Segal Center has been supported in the past by Susan and Jack Rudin(†), the Hearst Foundation and currently by, Marvin Carlson, Sidney E. Cohn Chair, The Graduate Center CUNY.


Send us your questions during the live streaming at SegalTalks@gmail.com.
Contact mest@gc.cuny.edu for more information on SEGAL TALKS.
Contact Frank Hentschker at fhentschker@gc.cuny.edu for press information.
Follow us @segalcenter on FacebookInstagram or Twitter 


Originally founded in 1979 as the Center for Advanced Studies in Theatre Arts (CASTA), The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center was renamed in March of 1999 to recognize Martin E. Segal, one of New York City’s outstanding leaders of the arts. The Segal Center curates over thirty events throughout the Spring and Fall academic seasons, all free and open to the public. Dedicated to bridging the gap between the professional and academic theatre communities, the Segal Center presents readings, performance, lectures, and artists and academics in conversation. In addition, the Segal Center presents three annual festivals (PRELUDE, PEN World Voices: International Pay Festival, and The Segal Center Film Festival on Theatre and Performance) and publishes and maintains three open access online journals (Arab Stages, European Stages, and The Journal of American Drama and Theatre). The Segal Center also publishes many volumes of plays in translation and is the leading publisher of plays from the Arab world. The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center (MESTC) is a vital component of the Theatre Program’s academic culture and creating in close collaboration a research nexus, focusing on dramaturgy, new media, and global theatre. The Segal Center provides an intimate platform where both artists and theatre professionals can actively participate with audiences to advance awareness and appreciation. www.TheSegalCenter.org


Executive Director: Frank Hentschker
Associate Producer: Andie Lerner
Associate Producer: Tanvi Shah

THE GRADUATE CENTER, CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, of which the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center is an integral part, is the doctorate-granting institution of The City University of New York (CUNY). An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs, as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia. The Graduate Center is also home to twenty-eight interdisciplinary research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns. Located in a landmark Fifth Avenue building, The Graduate Center has become a vital part of New York City’s intellectual and cultural life with its extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events. www.gc.cuny.edu.

HowlRound Theatre Commons at www.HowlRound.com is a free and open platform for theatre makers worldwide that amplifies progressive, disruptive ideas about the art form and facilitates connection between diverse practitioners. HowlRound envisions a theatre field where resources and power are shared equitably in all directions, contributing to a more just and sustainable world. HowlRound was founded on an organizing principle in the “commons”—a social structure that invites open participation around shared values. HowlRound is a knowledge commons that encourages freely sharing intellectual and artistic resources and expertise. It is our strong belief that the power of live theatre connects us across difference, puts us in proximity of one another, and strengthens our tether to our commonalities. HowlRound is based at Emerson College, Boston. http://www.howlround.com