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Gisèle Vienne, Dennis Cooper & Puppentheater Halle
The Ventriloquists Convention

Sat, Nov 14, 7:30 pm

This performance of The Ventriloquists Convention is American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreted Performances. MCA Stage is pleased to offer ASL interpreted performances for the deaf, hard of hearing, and ASL community.


Group photograph of seated and standing people and kids holding various ventriloquist dummies

Group picture from Vent Haven Convention 2014

Photo: Estelle Hanania

“She takes us on a journey into an emotional maze blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction.”

Contemporary Performance


At an annual gathering of ventriloquists, nine delegates and their dummies share their passions and expose their private challenges. A casual conversation quickly becomes an alarming psychological maze where madness and familiarity coexist. The nine actors, the ventriloquists they play, and their dummies each maintain distinct voices and identities, making for a dizzying and uncanny world that exerts a strange pull on us.

Director/choreographer Gisèle Vienne and author Dennis Cooper, collaborators for more than 10 years, track the complex relationship between body and voice. Both familiar and alien, their dark experiments in embodied and disembodied states open us up to examining our multilayered psyche. They are joined for this project by one of the premiere German puppet-theater companies, Puppentheater Halle. The piece draws from the annual convention at Kentucky’s Vent Haven Museum, the world’s only museum of ventriloquists’ dummies, where puppets that are no longer employed—often due to the death of their owner—are kept and displayed.

Man dressed in a suit sits on a dark stage draping his arm around a large puppet on his lap that resembles him

Gisèle Vienne, The Ventriloquists Convention with Niels Dreschke

Photo: Estelle Hanania
In a row of chairs, a pillow modified with a mouth and bulging eyes sits next to a stack of papers.

Gisèle Vienne, The Ventriloquists Convention

Photo: Estelle Hanania

About the Artists

Gisèle Vienne is an artist, director, and choreographer based in Paris. Her background is varied and diverse: she was trained as a musician, earned a degree in philosophy, and went on to the foremost school for puppetry, Ecole Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette. She then worked with dancers, developing her choreographic practice at the studios of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker/Rosas. She works regularly with the writers Dennis Cooper and Catherine Robbe-Grillet, the musicians Peter Rehberg and Stephen O'Malley of drone metal band Sunn O))), and actor Jonathan Capdevielle. For more information, visit.

“Every book by Cooper is seemingly a matter of life and death, a tightrope act performed without a safety net.” —The Guardian

Dennis Cooper is an American novelist, poet, and critic based in Paris and Los Angeles. Regarded as a master of transgressive literature, he is known for his minute observations of human relations and obsessions. He has published nine novels, most recently The Marbled Swarm. He is also a contributing editor of Artforum and the editor of the American publishing imprint Little House on the Bowery. He wrote the texts for Gisèle Vienne's The Pyre(2013), LAST SPRING: A Prequel(2011), This is how you will disappear(2010), Jerk(2008), Kindertotenlieder(2007), Une belle enfant blonde(2005), and I Apologize(2004). For more information, visit.

The Puppentheater Halle is a group of eight puppeteers based in Halle, a city in the former East Germany known for its puppet theater. Trained at the theater school “Ernst Busch” in Berlin, they are also directors, teachers, or puppet makers. The company was created in 1954, and in 1995 Christoph Werner brought a new dynamic by developing a new style that foregrounds a permanent relation between theater and puppet. Starting from a piece of literature or an idea, the shows develop through improvisation. The Puppentheater Halle works on four to six shows per season. Each of them is focused on a specific theme and is often a coproduction with other theaters or festivals, such as the Wiener Festwochen, Schauspielhaus-Köln, Staatstheater-Stuttgart or Volksbühne-Berlin. The Puppentheater Halle is interdisciplinary and has been inspired in part by collaborations with other artists, including Joël Pommerat and Nico & the Navigator.

KTL is the musical duo of Stephen O'Malley (Sunn O)))) and Peter Rehberg (Pita), originally formed to create the music for the theater production titled Kindertotenlieder by Gisèle Vienne and Dennis Cooper. KTL is an experimental dark ambient music project that bridges the sonic gap between the black metal music and extreme computer music the two are respectively known for. Outside of KTL, Stephen and Peter each have active careers; Stephen is best known for his work in the Seattle band Sunn O))))—which merges diverse genres of drone, ambient, noise, and extreme metal—as well as for numerous collaborations with other musicians. Peter is known for his electronic audio works, as Pita, and for heading up the Vienna-based label experimental music label Editions Mego. Stephen O'Malley was born in the United States and lives in Paris; Peter Rehberg was born in the United Kingdom and lives in Vienna.

Gisèle Vienne, The Ventriloquists Convention

Photo: Estelle Hanania
Ventriloquist puppet of a man dressed in suit sitting with its back against a black wall

Gisèle Vienne, The Ventriloquists Convention

Photo: Estelle Hanania



The Ventriloquists Convention is supported by the French-American Fund for Contemporary Theater {bio: (FACE), an initiative of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the US and the Institut Français, funded by the Florence Gould Foundation and the Catherine Popesco Foundation for the Arts, with the special support of Institut Français, Région Alsace, Ville de Strasbourg, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States.

Additional generous support is provided by the Goethe-Institut and the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The company Gisèle Vienne is supported by Ministère de la culture et de la communication—DRAC Alsace, Région Alsace, and Ville de Strasbourg.