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Meet Our Faculty, Dan Hurlin

Dan Hurlin

Puppet artist and theatre faculty member Dan Hurlin took on hunger and homelessness with his most recent production: three toy theatre performances called Who’s Hungry. Adapted from oral histories of three “food insecure” people, which were gathered by Hurlin’s longtime collaborator Dan Froot, they were staged in June at a Los Angeles park.

SLC: Why not call the individuals “hungry?”
DH: The new term is “food insecure.” At first I didn’t like it because it sounds PC, and it seems to distance the problem. The word “hungry” is viscerally felt. But “food insecure” includes all the people who have to choose between food and their rent. Because it’s a larger group, it has a better chance of resulting in policy.

SLC: What’s toy theatre?
DH: It’s very intimate. It’s a subdiscipline of puppetry—a tabletop theatre. During the Industrial Revolution, artists would go to theatres and sketch productions, and then the drawings would be printed in books. Kids would buy them for a penny or two and cut them out and perform the plays for their families.

SLC: You say the toy theatres are the size of bread baskets. How will the audience see them?
DH: We made larger ones so 60 people could watch at a time. The theatres are sitting on plinths that are 55” tall. One theatre is 8-feet long. Another doesn’t have much construction because it’s about Darlene, who lives in her van. The set for that one is mostly objects from the 99-cent store because that’s where she shops.

SLC: Will you bring the performances to other locations?
DH: We might do residencies in other communities. We are thinking of working with local artists, training them to collect people’s stories. All stories from food insecure people are unique. And, if you meet these people and talk about their problems, as an audience member you might become more involved.

by Lisa W. Romano

Dan Hurlin

Photo by Don Hamerman

“We aren’t making victim art. We’re just trying to put a human face on the problem.”

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