(HERE Artist Residency Program)

Ship of Fools Jessica Scott

Show Description

Ship of Fools is a multi-disciplinary theater piece involving live music, puppetry, movement and strong visual design that seeks to illuminate the age-old practice of pathologizing women. The audience will travel with us, weaving through re-imagined moments in history, interrupted by moments of jarring fantasy that turn the narrative on it’s head, planting a question in their minds: are the inmates running the asylum? Like the fabled Ship of Fools, passengers will be forced to wonder who is actually steering our ship: storyteller, politician or madman? What happens to all of us when this ship, sailing blind, finally runs aground?

I am interested in the intersection of women and madness. From France’s famous all-female asylum Saltpetriere, to the Mary Laundry’s of old England, the overwhelming incidence of modern female depression, to the recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights, diagnosing femininity has forged our modern psychology and politics sewing a seed of an insidious fear: a conviction that the fault line between woman and world lies not in the constructions of popular culture but instead somewhere rooted our inherent femaleness.
The ship of fools, as a metaphor, originated from a practice depicted in medieval engravings. The insane and unwanted were boarded on a Ship of Fools, forced to sail without a captain, as a traveling circus of undesireables. In this way, a community exorcised itself of it’s misfits, dismissing them to the ocean where the tides determined their fate, allowing those safe at home to consider loose ends tied, hands washed clean.

Ship of Fools, the piece, seeks to create a theatrical event where historical fact and fiction merge in a concantention of the past, a time out of time, which tells the story of this thought, perverted, through individuals over centuries into our own.

Trotula di Salerno performs a 12th century medical dissection during the Puppet Parlour showing in October, 2013. 

Ship of Fools will show excerpts from the show at CultureMart in March 2015! Stay tuned for dates!

Artist Bio

Originally from San Francisco, Jessica Scott is a self-taught visual artist, director, performer and teacher living in NYC. Her design work includes puppets, special effects, dolls, masks, installation and sculpture. Jessica received her B.A. in Political Science from NYU, but has never used her degree. Her transition from community organizing into puppetry happened in 2002 during protests of the second Iraq war, where she witnessed the visually arresting performance of Bread and Puppet Theater and decided to incorporate puppetry in future political actions. Initially only interested in puppetry as protest spectacle, an internship with puppetry artist Basil Twist enamored her of the entire craft. 

In the 10 years since, as a senior builder and designer for Basil Twist, Jessica has designed and performed in most of his work, including A Long Christmas Ride Home, Red Beads, La Bella Dormente nel Bosco, Symphonie Fantastique, Dogugaeshi, Hansel and Gretel, Behind the Lid, Arias with a Twist, The Addams Family on Broadway, Rite of Spring and his current site specific work in development, Seafoam Sleepwalk. Through the production of Red Beads in 2005, Jessica developed a strong artistic relationship with downtown theater legends Mabou Mines. In 2008, she was the designer and puppetry director of Mabou Mine's Porco Morto and is currently collaborating with Lee Breuer as the puppetry director, puppet designer and lead puppeteer on his opus La Divina Caricatura. Ms. Scott was the assistant puppet designer and lead puppeteer for Julian Crouch’s The Devil and Mister Punch, which premiered at The Barbican Theater in 2011. Other theater credits include Mabou Mines Peter and Wendy, Lee Breuer's Prelude to a Death in Venice, and Moises Kaufman’s El Gato Con Botas. In 2010, she made her Broadway debut puppeteering in Pee Wee’s Playhouse at the Stephen Sondheim Theater. As the puppetry associate alongside puppet designer Will Pike, Jessica helped to produce the puppets for Big Fish on Broadway, opening this fall. Her puppetry credits on film include Bjork's music video for "Wanderlust," Flight of the Conchord's "Demon Woman," “Fiscal Cliff” for Totally Biased with Kamau Bell, and “The Never Bell”, a short puppetry film that she designed, performed and co-produced with director Emily Lobsenz. In 2012, Jessica collaborated with painter Bjarne Melgaard to create 25 custom pose-able dolls for the exhibit “A New Novel” at Luxembourg and Dayan Gallery in New York City. She continued her custom doll work with Melgaard, creating several life-sized, soft sculpture doll portraits for the 2013 Park Avenue Armory Art Fair and the Lyon Biennale. 

Jessica teaches puppetry technique to MFA students, professional actors, dancers, and toddlers alike. She has been a guest puppetry artist in Towson University’s MFA program, the William Inge Theater Festival and regional theaters nationwide. Ms. Scott also teaches her own puppetry workshops at Standard Toy Kraft, a 3000 square foot art space that she recently founded in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Ms. Scott has performed her own work at HERE, One Arm Red, and Dixon Place. Her continued fascination with puppetry is rooted in the simple animism of the everyday object and an affinity for ensemble performance, both which she believes are playful strategies for life in a complicated century. 


Artist Statement

Ship of Fools is a project of historical, political and personal relevance. A theater makers most important job is to provoke engagement where popular culture fails. The pathologizing of women is one of America's most tragic and tired blind spots with a fascinating and surreal history dating back to Plato. This piece is a response to the insidious claim that women's bodies make women unreliable narrators of their own experience, a thought perverted through the ages which rears it's ugly head most prominently in today's conservative war on women. 

Project Feed

Ship of Fools work-in-progress footage!

Take a look at some footage from the two most recent showings of new material for Ship of Fools! 

Ship of Fools Work-In-Progress showing!

On 5/11/14 Ship of Fools had its first work-in-progress showing where we invited the audience to see about 8 minutes of new material, featuring performers Marta Mozelle Macrostie, Teddy Yudain, Jessica Weinstein, Sarah Lafferty. Music by Liz Davito, Alex Klimovitsky with Lyrics by Eamonn Farrell. Co-directed by Jessica Scott and Eamonn Farrell. 

Interview with Pete McCabe and Jessica Scott about her upcoming HARP Project “Ship of Fools”

If you'd like to here me talk about some of the ideas and inspiration behind Ship of Fools, here's an interview with Art On Air's Pete McCabe! http://artonair.org/show/jessica-scott-ship-of-fools

Ship of Fools at the Puppetry Parlor Oct 28th & 29th!

Hello!  I'm excited to announce that I'll be showing a short work-in-progress snippet of Ship of Fools at HERE's Puppet Parlor on October 28th & 29th, curated by Basil Twist.  While I've been researching, reading and brainstorming for the better...