Kayla Teodoro is helping bring Filipino puppet theater back to life

Kayla Teodoro is helping bring Filipino puppet theater back to life

“We want to deviate from everyone’s idea of puppets being only operated by hand.”

Photos by Tin Sartorio


We’ve all had our fair share of summers spent dabbling in the arts. Whether it be that one ballet class or that drawing workshop you never completed, the two-month break from school is the perfect time to flex our creative muscles. For the kids who found their home in the arts, they tend to stick to it real good.

Case in point: one miss Kayla Teodoro. Once an aspiring performer, Kayla has been in the theater industry since she was five years old. These days though, you’ll find her working backstage as a scenic designer. She’s one of the creative minds behind some of our fave shows like The Sandbox Collective’s No Filter and Red Turnip’s This Is Our Youth. Kayla also had the privilege to work on the international production of The Lion King during its 2018 Manila leg and the most recent run of Potted Potter.

For a 24-year-old, Kayla has enough work experience to get her places. But instead, she’s focusing on where she started. Having recently joined Puppet Theater Manila as an artistic director, Kayla wants to “define Filipino puppetry by championing Filipino materials and telling Filipino stories.” Young STAR sat down with Kayla to talk about the art of storytelling and the future of Filipino puppetry.

Command and control: “We want to deviate from everyone’s idea of puppets being only operated by hand,” says Kayla.

YOUNG STAR: Hi Kayla! You’ve been a part of the local theater industry for a while now. What inspired you to focus on puppetry?

KAYLA TEODORO: Last year, I worked on The Lion King when it was in Manila and when I first saw the puppets up close, it made me realize that this form of artistry is really special and not something that has been actively done in the country. I’ve always wanted to open my own theater company, but I knew that I wanted something different as we already have amazing companies that tell their stories well. When I pitched the idea to Marvin Choa, he instead suggested that we revive Puppet Theater Manila, which he founded a few years back.


The Company’s first show, Where Now, Carabao?, showcases a major puppet that’s made of all indigenous materials. As the artistic director, can you tell us a little bit more about your choice of figure and materials? What kind of puppets should we look forward to?

For our first puppet, I wanted something Filipino and I wanted it to be massive. Initially, we were toying around with the idea of creating a butanding (whale shark), but as ideas and conversations progressed, we decided on a carabao. Our puppet is made out of piña, abaca, rattan, hemp, and burlap — all of which are indigenous and produced in the Philippines. I also decided to go with all-natural and raw because of the material’s transparency. We want the audience to see the movement of the puppeteers and to be exposed to how a puppet works inside out. We want to spark their curiosity. We want to deviate from everyone’s idea of puppets being only operated by hand. Our first “show” was more like an appearance instead of full-length so that the audience has a chance to interact with the puppet and the puppeteers can practice thinking on their feet. We want to stay on this direction for our future puppets and shows.

The genuine article: The company’s carabao puppet is made out of piña, abaca, rattan, hemp, and burlap, which are all materials indigenous to the Philippines

So far, you’ve shown in Fringe Manila and Art Mart in BGC. What can the audience expect from your shows and where should they see you next?

Our upcoming shows are going to be more structured to see how the community reacts to a different breed of puppet show. We are currently working on 15-minute shows that we hope to have around different parts of the metro. We want to take the theater to the people. These shows are written and scored by Filipino writers and composers and are very interactive with the audience. We also want to turn puppetry into a legitimate form of storytelling in the theater scene by training theater practitioners how to properly manipulate puppets and by collaborating with existing companies to include puppetry in their shows. Everything is up in the air at the moment, but it’s a very promising future for Filipino puppetry!


What is Puppet Theater Manila’s dream puppet and show?

I can’t speak for the entire company, but my dream show to work on would definitely be The National Theatre’s War Horse. The artistry of the puppets, manipulation by the puppeteers and storytelling by everyone involved is everything that a puppet company aspires to produce.



Follow @puppettheatermnl on Instagram for more updates.

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