Japanese puppet theater performs in Columbia

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COLUMBIA — Mid-Missouri residents got a chance to watch the only Bunraku performance group in the U.S. on Saturday.

Bunraku Bay Puppet Theater, the only traditional Japanese puppet theater outside Japan, performed in a fundraiser at Christian Chapel Academy. Proceeds from the event went to the school's K-8 scholarship fund.

MU professor and Chair of the Japanese Studies Department Marty Holman, founded Bunraku Bay Puppet Theater in 2005. In the past 12 years, it has performed throughout the U.S., Canada and Japan, including at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

"It's a great honor to be able to showcase the traditional puppet theater in Japan and in the United States. I think it's important part ot perpetuate this art to make sure it sticks around for future generations," Bunraku Bay Puppet Theater member Ryan Tiefenthaler said.

Holman said he's always been fascinated by puppets, but got his start after learning about them while living in Japan.

"It's thoroughly Japanese and Japanese people enjoy it. It's both exciting, it's funny," Holman said. 

Bunraku differs from other types of puppet performances as the audience can see the performers, though they do wear a black robe and mask. It generally takes three performers to control one puppet and shows generally have at least eight or nine performers who perform a variety of acts.

All Bunraku Bay Puppet Theater members are former MU students.