Pandora Gastelum is co-founder of The Black Forest Fancies, L.L.C. The Black Forest Fancies is a puppet troupe, musical laboratory and cabaret collective. As a non-profit, the organization serves to enhance the local arts community of New Orleans. The Black Forest Fancies Incorporated acts as an umbrella to individual artists and groups seeking grants for artistic endeavors, tours, equipment, venues and residences. From 2007-08, the Fancies enjoyed an annual residency at The Dream Community in Taipei, Taiwan where we taught parade arts, float building, puppetry, drumming and dance through schools in aboriginal communities. These parades relied heavily on recycled materials and aspire to tell the stories of the tribes in order to preserve their heritage and to give their youth a sense of pride. We see a poignant commonality between our students in Taiwan and our young neighbors in New Orleans. There is a population of bright and talented youth who are all too rarely provided the opportunity to express their creativity in constructive ways. For the last year, we have made it our focus to assist in that particular area of need. The Black Forest Fancies regularly host a series of performance-oriented classes in New Orleans public schools to foster collaboration between ourselves as puppeteers and storytellers and the youth of our community. The skills featured in these workshops include parade arts, playwriting, paper sculpture, costume design, character development, vocal performance, puppet construction and operation and physical theatre.
Founded in 2009, The Mudlark Public Theatre is a black box performance space, located in New Orleans' 9th Ward. The Mudlark is an active, low-cost venue and community space, that centralizes the preservation of public discourse. Serving as laboratory for local and touring artists and lecturers, The Mudlark is a space where emerging narratives hold congress with history.
The Mudlark Puppeteers are the resident company of New Orleans Mudlark Public Theatre. As a company, the Mudlark Puppeteers specialize in puppet theatre that is innovative and unconventional, presenting original and little-told stories of heroic misfits and wayward love. The Mudlarks have a developing repertory of object-based works in a variety of scales. Our work explores history and human experience through a lens of fable, waging a playful but determined battle for alternative modes of being. The Mudlarks perform regularly in New Orleans and have toured in Texas and throughout New England. They host regular workshops on the fundamentals of puppetry in New Orleans schools and in collaboration with The Marigny Opera House.
A Workshop Series on “ The Fundamentals of Puppetry”Presented by The Mudlark Puppeteers at The Marigny Opera House The Mudlark Puppeteers offer a workshop series on the fundamentals of puppetry to occur in conjunction with the production process for ‘The Snow Queen.’ Occurring annually, this production is a large-scale puppet show, created and performed at The Marigny Opera House. Participants are guided through a design and production process that focuses on relating a narrative through objects and images. They learn the basics of producing both three-dimensional and shadow puppets and ultimately how to manipulate these puppets in the context of a performance. The workshops culminate in the presentation of a finished production of ‘The Snow Queen,’ featuring the participants and their puppet creations. This project is made possibel by a grant from The Foundation for Education, Development and Entertainment.
In 2011, The Mudlark Public Theatre began a collaboration with the Marigny Opera House to establish The New Orleans Giant Puppet Festival. Entering its fifth year, this festival showcases the highest caliber of local, national and international artists working in the field of puppetry and object theatre.
Miss Gastelum has studied dollcraft, costume making and large scale puppetry around the world. She is a founding member of New Orelans' Krewes of Eris and Krewe What Thou Wilt, for whom she designs floats and backpack-style puppets biannually. She is availble for commisioned pieces and portraiture.