The Lost Marionettes of Ralph Kipniss: What the Story Is and Is Not

pinocchioThe Underground Multiplex recently broke the story of how we uncovered a vast art treasure from a master marionette puppeteer named Ralph Kipniss. This amazing story has so far received mention in Gapers Block and DNAInfo Chicago and will soon gain more attention via The Chicago Reader and The Chicago Sun Times. I’m grateful to them and to all the support so far from Kickstarter contributors, friends and family who have all told us how engrossing this story is. Many people have come forward to express interest in helping out.

One type of response we’ve already been getting, especially after the story on DNAInfo, is the question of why the authorities are not involved in simply going in and taking the possessions. The article does a good job in explaining the conflict involved. However, I want to mention two very vital points that are key to understanding the complexity of this undertaking.

Even IF authorities were to come in and force the items out, the questionRalphKipnissLater then remains: what do you do with 2000 marionettes, scenery, lighting, backdrops, costumes, etc? The immediate expulsion of all those irreplaceable masterpieces and other items without the proper time and effort to find the right place for storage would actually make this matter worse. That’s why a vital part of the Kickstarter goal is to find the proper temporary storage for the marionettes and work on finding an eventual home for all of them.

The landlord/tenant dispute of the Kipniss story is a just a symptom of the much larger problem. Budgets for the arts and arts education in this country are abysmal.  Ralph Kipniss spent a great deal of his life struggling financially to keep his company afloat, while other RalphandLouCATW2comparable ones in Europe received enough government funding to finance a theater and allow its artists to subsist. The Sulzberg Theater in Vienna (to take one example) even makes enough to be able to travel overseas (they’ll be performing in NYC in December). Proper funding here could have helped alleviate many of the financial issues along with some of the health care costs of attending to his partner Lou Ennis.

So the best way to help get the puppets home to Master Geppetto is to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign.  With your help we can reach not only the set goal, but the stretch goal as well, which would allow us to assist even further.  Then, contact your elected officials and urge them to increase funding for the arts. We don’t need anymore tragedies like Ralph’s story.

Lew Ojeda
Co-Founder, The Underground Multiplex

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