Bruce Chessé
PO Box 15203
Portland OR 97293-5203
503-
936-0380
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RALPH CHESSÉ
PUPPET THEATER
Marionettes 1928-1939


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Ralph Chessé
Bruce Chessé

PAINTINGS
New Orleans1919-1928
Asia 1931-1942
Biblical Series 1940-1950
WPA Style
Theater Series
Portraits
1951-1959
Europe
1960 -1969
Paris Exhibition 1963
Moore Gallery 1967
Poster Period
1970-1981
1982-1991

left hand paintings
WORKS ON PAPER
Watermedia & Drawing
Linocuts
Silk Screen
African American Images
SCULPTURE
PUPPETS
Marionettes 1928-1939
Marionettes 1940-1984
Brother Buzz 1952-1969
FAMILY HISTORY
CHRONOLOGY


marionette heads, left to right
Jascha Heifitz, Richard III, Mad Hatter, King Lear, Mikado


When Ralph Chessé arrived in San Francisco he shared a studio with Blanding Sloan, an artist and puppeteer, who encouraged him realize his acting ambition though puppetry. In 1928 he created his first puppet production of Shakespeare's Hamlet followed by Eugene O'Neil's Emperor Jones. Here he was able to combine all his skills as an artist and and actor.

Puppetry allowed him an even greater freedom because he could control all aspects of the art form. He found he could craft and design the puppets, the sets, the costumes as he envisioned them in his mind and he could play not one but many parts taking on any image he conceived for himself. He went on to create his own marionette theater in several different venues during the 30’s until getting appointed head of the Federal Theater's Marionette Project for the WPA.
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1956 & 1928 versions of
Hamlet,

HAMLET

...

1938 Hamlet and Queen



Cast of Hamlet 1928

from left to right: Mervyn Leeds, Ding Arain, Josie Chessé (Ralph's wife), Leslie Rush, St Ben Greet, Ralph Chessé, and Vonnie Albin. Leslie, Ding and Vonnie were Ralph's sisters.

Sir Ben Greet (1857-36) was a Shakespearean actor, director, and impresario. He saw the 1928 production of Hamlet and compared it favorably to productions using live actors.

One of the Ralph Chessé's first shows, in 1928, was Emperor Jones. He redisigned productions of many plays throughout his career, including Emperor Jones. The image above is from the 1928 production and to the right is one from a 1956 version of Emperor Jones.




EMPEROR JONES

1936 The Federal Theater was organized in San Francisco and Ralph was appointed Director of the puppetry unit. 17 people were hired, few with puppet or theatre experience. Their first project was James Stephen's The Crock of Gold, an Irish fantasy. This story was adapted by people on the project. He designed, directed and trained the company, which was ready to perform in less than 3 months.

Leprechans
Crock of Gold
1936




TH CROCK OF GOLD

Hansel & Gretel
from left to right
1932 production
1937 WPA production


HANSEL & GRETEL

...
Mikado 1932


THE MIKADO

WPA Vaudeville
Leopold Stqkowkski 1937



MARIONETTE VAUDEVILLE

WPA Vaudeville
Diver & Mermaid 1937



WPA Vaudeville
Circus 1937



Snow White 1938

SNOW WHITE

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