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About Anna

Baltimore City

Anna Fitzgerald's picture
I am a puppeteer and a performer. I tell stories with objects, bridging the tangible and intangible, the animate and inanimate, the dead and the living. Here's more about me, but spoken in the third person. Anna Fitzgerald is an award winning puppeteer based in Baltimore, MD with a Masters in Fine Arts degree in Puppet Arts from the University of Connecticut. She is the artistic director of Red Ball Theatre Company. She has performed at festivals around the world including International... more

Anna Fitzgerald's portfolio

Storytelling Through Images and Performance: "When You Make a Broken Heart" and "Everything is Included"

I believe in the power of our stories, that telling and hearing stories is healing, that building and creating is empowering and that our stories are connected through the objects around us. As a performer and artist, my work explores objects as vocabulary used to tell stories. As a trained actor, clown and puppeteer, I use all of these skills to engage audiences through humor and sadness. I work to communicate beyond words: through music, through the life of objects, and through our shared humanity.

When You Make A Broken Heart is a new project about motherhood. The first phase of the work, funded in part by The Robert W Deutsch Foundation and The Rubys Grant and performed at the 2020 Crankie Festival at The Creative Alliance, is a crankie about facing the mortality of my children through my baby's open heart surgery and the reality of unfixable problems. 

The project started with digital drawings shared through my instagram page @figillustrated about the first days of my baby's life after being diagnosed in utero with d-Transposition of the Great Arteries. I then used some of those images, and some new ones, in a painted and drawn crankie. This was my first time exploring the Crankie as a way to tell a story, which was challenging and exciting. 

As a mother with high costs of childcare, this project would be nearly impossible without the help of The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation's support.

I am now working on the next chapter in this project, Everything Is Included.  Everything is Included will use shadow puppetry and poetry to connect my small specific trauma to the larger human one, exploring the beauty of living in light of the terrible things that can happen. As Rilke wrote,  “Are there relations of the heart that embrace what is most cruel for the sake of wholeness? For the world is only world when everything is included.” 

Storytelling through Objects and Music: Reverse Cascade

Through object puppetry and music, Reverse Cascade tells the story of world renowned juggler Judy Finelli. Circus and juggling objects - balls, scarves, rings, clown noses - compose the characters and the world of a physically disciplined circus performer at the height of her career and as her body begins to betray her. Multiple sclerosis weighs her down and tears her apart, and she must figure out a new identity now that her tool for performance has vanished.

Reverse Cascade began in a workshop at The National Puppetry Conference at The O'Neill Theater Center, and premiered in full at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry. It has since been performed at Puppet Showplace Theater, Single Carrot Theater, The Baltimore Theater Project at Artscape 2014, The 2015 Puppeteers of America National Festival and The 2015 National Puppetry Conference at The Eugene O'Neill Center. Performances in 2016 will include The Creative Alliance on February 18, The Tank in New York City from February 26-March 13 and International Puppet Days in Izmir, Turkey (Izmir Kukla Günleri) from March 14-20.

Directed by Anna Fitzgerald. Created by Anna Fitzgerald a devising cast of 8 puppeteers and 2 musicians. Performed by 6 puppeteers and 1 live musician.

Performers include and have included Moira Horowitz, Jeanine Padgett, Sophie Hinderberger, Jen Liu, Emily Hall, Paul Diem, Dustin Morris, and others and accompanied by ellen cherry.

Storytelling with Puppetry and Clown : Adventures!, "The Most Beautiful Tree" and The Story of Purim (As Told through Dinnerware).

While I primarily consider myself a puppeteer, I still gain a lot of inspiration from clowns and my training as a clown. The clown encounters and engages with the world in a state of constant wonder, as if every moment is happening for the first time. The clown uses crazy, yet perfectly straight forward, logic to make sense of the world. This way of dealing with the world is especially poignant as I build more shows for children. It is the same brilliant innocence often seen in children that I find in clowning, and helps me engage with their world as I create work for their eyes.

Adventures! is a new family show by Anna Fitzgerald and Red Ball Theatre directed by Lola Pierson and Z Smith. Adventures! is a full length family show using clowning and puppetry to tell a story about telling stories. A clown enters a theater, only to find that she is the performer, not the audience. Using objects around her, her own imagination, and a little help from the audience, she makes a show. She learns about mistakes, perseverance, and that the world needs to hear all our stories, even the sad ones.  I was a recent recipient of a Jim Henson Foundation Grant for Adventures! which premiered in its final version at The Black Cherry Puppet Theater in SoWeBo in May 2016. The first workshop performance of Adventures! took place in October 2015 as part of The Mead Theater Lab in Washington, DC. 

The first iteration of Adventures! was a 10 minute short called "The Most Beautiful Tree," which I still perform on its own. It is an original story about a very tiny girl on a very big adventure.

The set and trees were made of glue, cardboard, muslin and book pages. The little girl, a simple puppet of wood, muslin and paint, travels to find a very mysterious forest - which is a broom head. It is about looking for adventure, finding the place for sadness in the world, and coming home more confused than ever.
I have performed "The Most Beautiful Tree" in Chicago, New Haven, Baltimore, Washington, DC, at the 2014 Fields Festival, and the Black Cherry Puppet Slam among other places. For all ages.

The Story of Purim (As Told through Dinnerware)
Commissioned by The Creative Alliance for Charm City Tribe's Wild Purim Rumpus event. As part of the celebration of Purim, we are supposed to retell the story. I decided to do so using objects for a party. Dishes and utensils were the characters in my retelling of the Purim story. Using humor, I also addressed the problematic gender lessons of this story.

Storytelling through Film: Stop Motion Shorts: "Day 238", "Danger" and "Love, Corks and Inch of Dust"

Stop motion animation is very similar to (and may be described as in the field of) puppetry. Objects are manipulated to give the illusion of life and tell stories. I have three stop motion shorts using found objects and simple images without very much verbal language to tell stories.

Day 238: A short stop motion video I made using a fancy armature. I made it for my husband for his birthday after we'd spent almost a year and a half living separately for our work and school. He cried. Made using found objects, a fancy armature, a camera and a nice microphone.

Danger: A short stop motion project. I designed, wrote, filmed, edited, recorded the audio, and all the other little bits and pieces of it. It's just paper and light.

Corks and Love and "Inch of Dust" : This was my first stop motion project I made while learning how to use Adobe After Effects. It was all filmed outside which left much of the decision making and story writing up to the forces of nature, but I was there moving things around too. I used Future Island's "Inch of Dust" as inspiration.

Storytelling Through Objects and Acting: "Muffin Ears"

In newer works for adult audiences, I explore telling the story as the main character, with objects created and destroyed in front of the audience. This new and original short work of acting and puppetry, titled "Muffin Ears" was created under the guidance of world renowned puppet artist Ronnie Burkett at The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. The human character tells a story of leaving, quitting, escaping, and the freedom and joy that came from it.

She takes objects out of her purse to help tell the story, including a squirrel that seems almost like a pet. The squirrel later represent her, and when she gets more and more excited about the prospect of leaving, she tears the squirrel up and it rains squirrel pieces down over her head. When she snaps out of the excitement, she cleans up the mess she has made, out of the squirrel and, it seems, the mess of her life. She composes herself, and waits for her chance to leave.

The objects in the story are all made of paper and cardboard. They are, like our memories and our stories, ephemeral. They are quickly created and quickly destroyed.

  • Muffin Ears: the squirrel leaves

    Performing an original short monologue created under the guidance of world renowned puppet artist, Ronnie Burkett. Object puppetry and acting. Photo by Richard Termine.
  • Muffin Ears: telling the story.

    In Muffin Ears, waiting for an airplane, quitting again and excited to leave. Photo by Richard Termine.
  • Muffin Ears: sitting with squirrel and purse.

    In Muffin Ears, all the props are made of paper. They are ephemeral bits of life, easily destroyed, easily clung to. Photo by Richard Termine.
  • Muffin Ears: destroying the squirrel, my friend, me.

    In Muffin Ears, I use the squirrel who lives in my purse to help tell my story. By the end of the story, in a bit of a mania, I destroy the squirrel and the pieces fall like confetti over my head. "It will be glorious." I say. Photo by Richard Termine

Storytelling as Investigation: The Architecture of Great Cathedrals and Asthmatics Among Us

The playwright Erik Ehn writes "The unspeakable is speakable if we admit to the viability of the word smashed open." I use puppetry and my art to investigate important issues in the world. These two projects, one of which is ongoing, investigate the effects of genocide and asthma and losing the ability to breathe.

A puppet production of Erik Ehn's "The Architecture of Great Cathedrals". Ehn's play is the surreal story of an American prison guard on vacation in genocide scarred Guatamala.

Devised, built and performed by Anna Fitzgerald, Sarah Nolen, and Dana Samborski.

Directed by John Bell. Commissioned by and Performed at The 2013 Human Rights Conference.

Ongoing project: Asthmatics Among Us, Who can afford to breathe?
This investigation began while  I was Artist in residence at A Studio in The Woods in New Orleans. The project was to understand asthma, explore the nature of breath and who can afford to breathe, and talk with children about breath and asthma. I was very interested in the shape of the lungs and bronchial tubes, and how they mirror the shape and structure in nature of trees, leaves and waterways.

For the residency, I spent time with the after school program at the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center in New Orleans. In three classes, we used art to explore lungs and how we breathe, asthma and inhalers, and healthy and unhealthy air in our neighborhoods. I then went back to the studio for two weeks and created a show for them about a little girl who learns she has asthma and her inhalers who become characters in her life and help her play like she used to.

  • Performing The Architecture of Great Cathedrals.

    Erik Ehn's "The Architecture of Great Cathedrals." As a small ensemble we interpreted the text, design and built the puppets, and performed the play for The Human Rights Conference at The Universsity of Connecticut.
  • Father hand puppet

    A hand puppet I built for Architecture of Great Cathedrals. The character borrowed elements of Punch, including his paddle.
  • Architecture of Great Cathedrals, Son Hand Puppet

    The son hand puppet I built and performed.
  • Inhalers become Superheroes

    In one of the afterschool classes, I gave the students outlines of inhalers, and they turned them into super heroes.
  • A shot from the final performance

    A shot from one of the busier times on stage. The children's drawings make up the neighborhood in the show, designed to resemble their own. In this scene, the little girl has gone to the doctor and learns that she has asthma. He tells her "asthma is a chronic condition" and something she will have to learn to live with for her whole life. She doesn't like it, and becomes very sad. In the center of the stage are the bronchial tubes which are closing up and making it hard for her to breathe.
  • The neighborhood and the rescue inhaler

    I turned the children's drawings into set pieces for the show, and used a simple painted muslin backdrop for the show.
  • Inhaler still life

    I drew inhalers with charcoal and pastels to better understand their structure and see what emotional weight these objects hold.
  • Bronchial Tubes

    Bronchial tubes (where inflammation occurs in people with asthma)and trees have the same structure. This residency took part partially in the woods on the outskirts of New Orleans. Surrounded by water, marshes, birds, old trees, and mud bugs, the living world around me very much influenced how I dove into the project about asthma.
  • Characters from inhalers

    I used old inhalers to explore the complicated relationship the asthmatic child has with them. Often children dislike them, or on the other hand become anxious without them. They are characters in their life, enemies, best friends, super heroes.

What is Puppetry? Learning and Teaching about Storytelling, Creativity, and the Life of Objects

As I spread the gospel of puppetry and objects, I often teach children and adults the power using objects to tell stories, and how to create with your own two hands. As art is less and less a part of children's lives, I feel they lose the confidence that comes from having an idea, and then making it into a real thing they can touch. I work on letting them play and discover their own imagination, work through possible failure with imaginative problem solving, and following their own weird instincts to create whatever their heart desires. 

In the past deccade, I taught regularly at Baltimore School For the Arts, most often in their TWiGS program, camps, schools and universities.

  • Building a stage

    Teaching children how to use power tools helps them understand they can build and create and have power to make their ideas become reality.
  • Children with Hand Puppets

    I often feel like my goal as a teacher is to let children play with art. I give them materials and some guidance, and then let them be as weird as they want to be until some creation is born.
  • Workshop

    using the bronchial tubes decorated by the children, we talked about how air enters the lungs, oxygen comes in and carbon dioxide goes out.
  • One of the workshops, decorating oxygen

    A workshop at the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center. The children ranged from ages 4-11 in this after school program at the local recreation center.
  • String Puppets

    In my weekly afterschool class, I teach my students how to build different types of puppets out of many different materials. These are string puppets of scarves, wood, and assorted materials.
  • High school students building simple mechanisms in cardboard

    Teaching simple concepts of mechanisms with simple materials takes these skills out of the shadows of impossibility. I'm not often able to go in depth with these lessons, but I hope with some of my students, it will trigger a curiosity and a way to use their creativity. It's also fun to build giant hands.

Exploring Creativity through Other Artistic Media: Ceramics, puppets, carvings, creations

I am not only a performer, I am a creator. As a puppeteer, I often write, design, and build all the aspects of my performances. As much as I can, I try to strengthen the artist in me who draws, sculpts, designs, carves, and dreams with her hands. Exploring my creativity this way informs the kind of work I perform and how creative i can be in that realm. Most artists do not fit simply in a box, they have a need to create, to explore, and to share stories. Puppeteers particularly tend to use many different skills to create their work, and it is one reason I am especially drawn to this incredible field.

This year, my abilities to perform have been nearly wiped away as we wait for the chance to sit in theaters together again. Luckily I can still make work, and much of that right now is in the form of pottery. But I'm a puppeteer so...the mugs have faces.

Included in this section are some of my creations, some of which are made for shows or proposals, some of which  are what I like to call "stuff I make for no reason" because sometimes it is just important and generative to create.

Building puppetry community through supporting other's work: Puppet Slamwich and UNIMA-USA

My personal work is important, but thrives in a healthy puppetry community. Part of this work is done through teaching, but I also have two other avenues when I work to support the puppetry of other people: The Puppet Slamwich at Black Cherry Puppetry Theater, and on the board of UNIMA-USA.

From 2016-2018, I was curator for the Puppet Slamwich at Black Cherry Theater in Baltimore. Funded through the Puppet Slam Network, we host 3 to 4 puppet slams a year. We pay all of our artists and provide an environment for new and experienced, local and travelling puppeteers and performers to perform new short from works of puppetry on stage. 

From 2014-2017, I was also on the board of UNIMA-USA, part of an international organization spreading friendship through the art of puppetry. We provide a scholarship every year to help one puppeteer study puppetry with a master abroad, and help to link American puppeteers with puppeteers and festivals all over the world. We host symposiums about puppetry, publish a bi-annual puppetry magazine, and award works of excellence in puppet theater.

Creativity through Collaboration: Puppet Design, building and directing: The World is Round by Acme Corporation/Annex Theater

I designed, built and directed puppets for Lola Pierson's adaptation of Gertrude Stein's The World is Round. The puppets of Love the dog and The Lion, were made to be performed by one or two people. I used negative space and simple materials to create the imagined friends of a little girl in a surreal play. As with most of my work, the materials used are very visible in the final work. I do not hide the paper and cardboard, but highlight it. The material is just as much of the communication of the character as the design is. Because these were characters from the mind of a little girl, they were inspired by cartoons and the simple materials children create and play with.

The World is Round won Best Adaptation from the Baltimore City Paper 2015 Best of Baltimore. It was also on the City Paper's end of year list of best productions of 2015 and was one of The Baltimore Sun's best 5 theater productions of 2015.

  • Jenna Rossman performs Love the Dog

    Jenna Rossman performs Love in The World is Round. For both Love and the Lion, I used the effect of negative space and the audience's brain to fill in the body of the dog that wasn't built. This allows for more possibilities of transformation and highlights the surreal nature of the whole play.
  • Jenna Rossman and Cricket Arrison

    Jenna Rossman performs Love in The World is Round. Cricket Arrison is Rose. For both Love and the Lion, I used the effect of negative space and the audience's brain to fill in the body of the dog that wasn't built. This allows for more possibilities of transformation and highlights the surreal nature of the whole play.
  • Love from The World is Round

    Love is Rose's dog in The World is Round. Made primarily of cardboard and paper, with wallpaper paste, wood glue, paint and a wooden dowel. The materials are visible in the finished character.
  • Love the dog from The World is Round

    Love is Rose's dog in The World is Round. Made primarily of cardboard and paper, with wallpaper paste, wood glue, paint and a wooden dowel. The materials are visible in the finished character.
  • Lion from The World is Round

    Jenna Rossman and Daniel Friedman perform the Lion. The Lion is made from cardboard, brown paper, wall paper paste, glue, paint and wooden dowels.
  • Lion from The World is Round

    Daniel Friedman and Jenna Rossman perform the Lion in The World is Round.
  • World is Round, Best Production of 2015 City Paper

    The Baltimore City Paper named The World is Round as the Best Theater Production of 2015.

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