Segovia: history, art, gastronomy, and…the Spanish capital of puppet theatre. Every May since 1985, one of the oldest cities in Spain becomes the global epicenter of the art of puppetry, in all of its forms. During the Titirimundi Festival, the theaters, patios, and streets of Segovia are transformed into stages for a never-ending program of performances, with enough room for all different kinds of puppet theatre.
Titirimundi was born ten years after its founder and director, Julio Michel, returned to Spain after spending twelve years in Paris to study theatre and psychology. Upon his return, he founded a company called Libélula in Segovia. The event had humble beginnings, but it didn’t take long for it to catch on among the enthusiastic people of Segovia, who soon made it a part of the city’s rich cultural heritage until it eventually became one of its most important annual events with a great national and international impact.
Before the economic crisis squeezed the budget, the festival used to last longer and include even more shows. Up to 90,000 spectators from all over Spain and abroad used to attend, mainly from Madrid due to its proximity and the fact that Titirimundi coincides with the San Isidro Festival. For this reason, local businesses—mainly in the tourism and hospitality sectors—have called for the continuation and extension of the festival. In May of 2006, the Socioeconomic Observatory of Segovia conducted a study to gauge the economic scope of the event. They discovered, among other things, that Titirimundi has more loyal and consistent attendees than many other festivals (for example, Holy Week in Segovia). They tend to stay in Segovia longer and they have a great appreciation for the festival. The art of puppetry is at the heart of Titirimundi. The traditional street performances which bring color and laughter to the city are updated every year with even more innovative, bold, incredible additions from all over the world.
As far as recognitions go, the festival has received the 2001 ASSITEJ National Prize (Spain’s section of the International Children’s Theatre Association); the 2008 ARTEMAD Prize, awarded by the Association of Performing Arts of Madrid; the 2010 MORETTI Prize from Castile and León; and the 2011 Gold Medal for Cultural Achievement from the city of Segovia. The international puppetry community knows that it has a standing date in Segovia every May—the only annual event of its kind in the world—and they participate wholeheartedly. Their enthusiasm is matched by the audiences from Segovia and elsewhere that show up for the occasion.
The Titirimundi Festival is made possible by the help of many volunteers, most of them college students, who assist the performers, man entrances and exits, and provide information to the public. Some former volunteers have gone on to pursue careers in the artform themselves, such as Malgosia Eskandera, with the company Dos Mundos; David Faraco, who has collaborated artistically with Sofie Krug; and Ana Zamora, the director of Nao d’Amores.
Titirimundi also has an educational program called Titiricole which has allowed thousands of children to attend performances and participate in workshops related to the art of puppetry. They get the chance to craft their own puppets, write scripts, and perform their original shows.
It’s plain to see why the International Puppet Festival has become so popular. In addition to being a wonderful opportunity to visit the “city of the aqueduct,” it is an event that mobilizes and delights the people of Segovia.