TDM Instructor Spotlight: Kate Brehm

September 12, 2022
TDM Instructor Spotlight: Kate Brehm

This week's TDM Instructor Spotlight features puppeteer and movement director Kate Brehm! This semester, Kate is directing the TDM Fall 2022 Production and teaching TDM 90AR: TDM Puppet Production Studio.

What excites you about leading the production studio this fall?

I love teaching my other classes too, but what’s unique about the production studio is that we spend the entire semester shaping the dynamics of one piece of theater. We familiarize ourselves with specific puppets and have the time to gel as a cohesive team of performers. Together we climb into the weeds of a fully realized puppet show. How great is that!?

The production studio is also an opportunity for me to introduce students to a form of theater that I find deeply exciting and inspiring. Puppetry is a kind of visual movement theater where anything and everything onstage can come to life, and it does!

Also, I should note that, with this class, the entire TDM production team supports our work and process. A team of professional designers join us to imagine and bring the show to fruition. What could be more exciting than presenting such a complete work on the gorgeous Farkas stage? Kate Brehm, a white woman, looks at the camera

Could you tell us about your work as an artist?

I’ve been directing, designing, and performing my own works of puppetry and experimental theater in New York City since 2002. I enjoy being a member of a robust community of puppeteers who are supported by many venues. I produce full length works, but some of my favorite puppetry moments have been slapdash puppet cabaret evenings where anything goes. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with many excellent artists, notably, puppeteer Basil Twist. It was with Twist that I toured Japan as a performing puppeteer, spent a month in Switzerland, a month in Paris, and many days and weeks across cities in Europe and the United States. I’ve also been deeply influenced by my extensive physical theater training with Kari Margolis. Her work has taught me more about directing, devising, and acting than anything else.

What are some underlying themes in your artistic work?

My work tends to include themes of entrapment and escape. I’m interested in the interior and exterior life of women, and sometimes the content of my shows reflects that. However, my work is primarily driven by images and ideas, performing scenery, and abstract objects. It is only later in a process that I might discover I’ve made another show about entrapment and escape!

For example, my show Dark Space is about a woman who attempts to blend in with her kitchen wallpaper only to transform into a giant caterpillar. After a journey as caterpillar, she transforms again, this time into a moth that successfully escapes the theater and flies away into the city. An image from Kate Brehm's show Dark Space. A human-sized, green and black chrysalis onstage, lit dramatically from above.

I’m currently quite interested in frames and framing. I have several pieces where frames themselves act as both a puppet and scenic device that hides and reveals. My show, The Eye Which We Do Not Have, explores the interior life of a woman trapped by fear of her own desire and fear of personal autonomy. A puppet stage of performing frames both highlights elements of her fantasies and obscures them from the audience’s view. (Also, she ultimately escapes her fear!)

Learn more about Kate’s work here: