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Friday December 9th 2022

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Interview With Local Artist Orren Fen

by Mary Ellen Kaluza

Last month the alley debuted a new feature highlighting young artists in Phillips. Within moments of having the idea of a regular featured artist, I knew I had to talk with Orren Fen. I first met Orren a few years ago, in pre-COVID times. I was visiting their home and they showed me a project they were working on: a puppet stage made out of cardboard, maybe 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. I was blown away by the clever design, the creativity, the engineering — both structural and mechanical. Orren explained all the parts, moving and stationary, in great detail. Like I said, I was blown away! Lucky for us, Orren graciously agreed to be interviewed for the alley.

How old are you? What grade are you in?

Fourteen, and I’m a freshman in high school.

Describe your main art form.

I focus mostly on puppetry and performance art.

What inspired you to take up your art?

I grew up two blocks from In the Heart of the Beast Theatre, and participated in the May Day parades since I was two years old. It’s always been part of my life. I’ve also participated in BareBones Halloween Extravaganza since a young age.

Where do you get your ideas?

I have a lot of random creative ideas that pop up. Sometimes I delve into them, and sometimes I keep them tucked in the corners of my mind.

Do you have a mentor or teacher?

I grew up with Mark Safford, a puppeteer who has been a mentor to me through BareBones. And Harry Waters, Jr., a person I met through the May Day ceremony, and more recently I have worked with Harry on multiple theater projects.

Are there other art forms you want to try?

I really enjoy puppetry because it is a very fluid and adaptive art form that involves so many other art forms – painting, sculpting, acting, sewing.

What other interests do you have?

I’m very interested in costume and set design. I’m also very interested in the behind-the-scenes aspects of theater, but puppetry is a very good way to be involved in the creating and acting aspects of theater.

Is there anything else you would like the alley readers to know about you?

I’m helping with behind-the-scenes design and puppeteering for the upcoming show at In the Heart of the Beast. It’s a show about two black girls in South Minneapolis in the 80’s, and some disco dinosaurs get mixed in there. The show is called The Impact Theory of Mass Extinction by Jundauda Petrus Nasah and Steve Ackerman. It’s premiering mid-June at the Avalon Theatre.

Orren showed me examples of puppets and sculptures they have made, both lifelike and whimsical. I was once again impressed by their creativity and craftsmanship. Orren supplied the accompanying photos of their work. Their dedication to the arts and to the community is inspiring. Learn more about the upcoming In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre production of The Impact Theory of Mass Extinction at https://hobt.org/impact-theory/. And find information about the work of BareBones Puppet Theatre at https://barebonespuppets.org/.

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