The Raval area may have a reputation for being full of dark shadows and alleys, but take a turn down Calle de la Guardia and through some imposing Gothic glass doors and you find yourself in a colorful wonderland of puppets. Here you will find one of the best creative arts workshops in Barcelona, the Taller de Marionetas de Pepe Otal.
The man behind the magic of the puppet workshop was born in 1947 and spent a lifetime perfecting the art of puppetry, studying at the Institut de Teatre de Barcelona and settling in the city. His unique spirit and gifts for crafting puppets propelled him to fame within the puppet community. He founded and became director of the mythic Grupo Taller de Marionetas, a renowned company that became a puppet school, which has since trained many prestigious puppeteers.
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Otal became a prolific puppet teacher, traveling to many European puppet schools to share his expertise and inspire new puppeteers in other countries . In Barcelona, he continued in his role as director of Grupo Taller de Marionetas, as well as a scenographer, and he also directed the Puppets Department at the Centro de Estudios Teatrales Teatre Clave de Tordera. He sadly passed away in 2007, but his inspiring spirit of creative, masterful puppet shows lives on in the workshop, continuing to thrive to this day.
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Otal was such a hugely respected figure in Catalan culture, that his name is synonymous with puppeteering in Barcelona. Every year the Workshop Association, including his close pupil Jordi Bertran, now puts on a special puppet show to commemorate his life. The show utilizes Otal’s own hand-crafted puppets from his old workshop, with the aim of giving them life again after their creator’s death. The theme of the 2016 puppet show this past July was uniting the past, present and future, springing from Otal’s own philosophy about life.
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Take a close look and you will find a thriving Barcelona puppetry scene, and the Taller provides a wealth of opportunities to learn this creative art. Previous events have included a Fashion for Puppets Workshop where participants learned puppets clothes-making, and a leather mask-making for puppets workshop. Anyone serious about learning puppetry should seek out the colorful workshop in the Raval!
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