Tuesday, August 13, 2013


This past week, I had the privilege of attending and performing at Puppet (r)Evolution, the 2012 National Festival of the Puppeteers of America. Puppeteers from across the country came to the Swarthmore College campus in Pennsylvania for a week of shows, performances and socializing.  For all puppet geeks, it was not to be missed.  Aside from performing three of my original songs during the opening ceremonies, I was also reunited with Yancy Woodchuck, a character I puppeteered with Tyler Bunch for "Jim Henon's Emmet Otter," at the Goodspeed Opera House. We brought Yancy out to play a few numbers for the audience of puppeteers and revealed how we were able to get Yancy to actually play the banjo. Dock Bullfrog came out and helped me with "Banana Pudding," a song that was one of Jane Henson's favorites.

Our ad in the Festival program!
My bio in the Festival program!

Sound check  for the opening ceremonies!

Rehearsing with Dock Bullfrog. The guitar I'm holding is puppeteer Allelu Kurten's Martin 0-18 from 1948. 

Tyler Bunch setting up Doc Bullfrog

Brandi and I clad in black in preparation to work with Yancy Woodchuck!

A bunny on the Swarthmore campus!

Wonderful fuzzy monster frames by Marc Dunworth!

This young man had lots of fun with his Little Beastie hand puppet while waiting for the evening performance.
Brandi and I lip synced to an old Lulu Bell and Scotty song, "When I Yoo-Hoo In the Valley" for the first night of Potpourri, a late-night open mic for puppeteers of all levels.

Marionette legends, Jim Rose and Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson with his favorite Beckett quote.
 Festivals have always included an exhibit of puppets and this year was no different. An amazing collection of historical and current puppet creations were on display. Here are some of my favorites!
Puppet by Rufus and Margo Rose

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers by Rufus and Margo Rose

Puppets by Phillip Huber

Puppets by Lyon Hill Puppets

Puppets by Dick Myers

Amazing control detail of a Dick Myers' puppet.

Puppet by Rufus and Margo Rose

Puppets by Kevin Frisch

Puppet by Bil Baird

Puppet by Sue Hastings

"Togo" by Rufus and Margo Rose

Puppet by Bil Baird

Puppets by Bil Baird

Puppet by Bil Baird

Puppets by David Stephens and Scottie Rowell

Puppet by Bil Baird

Author signing! Mary Robinette Kowal, myself, Bob Nathanson, John Bell
One of the festival highlights for me was meeting Wayne White, star of the film, "Beauty Is Embarrassing." White was one of the original art directors and puppeteers for "Pee-Wee's Playhouse."

Me and Wayne White

Wayne and I bonded over banjos.

Banjo geeking out with Wayne White. I was in heaven.

Drew Allison performing for the National Puppeteers of America Slam

Jim Rose doing what we did a lot of during the week of the Festival, walking.
 More amazing puppets from the exhibit!

belly dancer by Bil Baird

Detail of Bil Baird's belly dancer

Aladdin puppets by Paul Vincent Davis

Puppet by Perry Dilly

Puppets by Flexitoon

Traffle prize of a signed Bil Baird's poster!

Phillip Huber packing up his marionette from "Being John Malkovich"

The Queen of Potpourri, Bernice Silver, enjoying her lunch in a nice quiet, sunny spot.
Thursday night was the first of two evenings of Fringe performance. At various locations around campus, a variety of shows were offered. Brandi brought a toy theater piece she developed at the O'Neill Puppetry Conference this year called "No Number Left Behind" and I performed my "Jack and the Beanstalk." Each performer was responsible for their own publicity, so I created these posters for Brandi and me.

A wonderful set of  "Big League Puppeteer" trading cards were made for festival registrants. It was fun trading cards with folks all week trying to get the full set of 12!

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The lengths I went to in order to get my final card!

"Sesame Street" performer traded me for my missing card!

Bernice signing an autograph for one of her many fans!
 Dick Myers is a legend in American Puppetry. His performances in the 1960's through the 1980's are the stuff the old guard of puppeteers speak of with great reverence and fondness. Until recently, it seemed those performances were lost in time since Dick never had any of his performances shot on video. All that existed were photographs, his original rod puppets (made of plastic wood) and stage, and  the original reel-to-reel tapes of the dialogue and music that Dick used in performance. When Myers died in 2005, his puppets were given to Allelu Kurten who approached Bart Roccoberton at the Unversity of Connecticut with the idea to remount Dick's memorable performances. Seth Shaffer took up the challenge to use oral history from those who had seen Dick's shows and tapes that Dick had made including stage directions to bring his work back to life. I was completely blown away by Seth's recreation of "Cinderella." Incredibly funny and masterfully performed. I can't wait to see the other shows Seth has been working on!
Seth Shaffer with one of  Dick Myer's puppets from "Cinderella."

Backstage at Dick Myers' "Cinderella"

Backstage at Dick Myers' "Cinderella"

Characters from Dick Myers' "Cinderella."

My favorite Dick Myers' puppet from "Cinderella:" Fred as a crazy looking horse!

I caught a fan sporting her Banjolicious T-shirt!

University of Connecticut Puppet Arts Program class photo of alumni and current students

Parade dragon!

I performed "The Reluctant Dragon" on Saturday for an audience of both puppeteers and the public. This was the poster that hung in the town cleaners. 
Our feature in the Festival program.

For the first time, Festival performances were given awards by a panel of judges and by festival registrants. "The Reluctant Dragon" was chose by the judges to receive the award for best playwriting!  

A beautiful large crane from Heather Henson's wonderful show.

My friend and fellow puppeteer, Sarah Frechette. We both puppeteered on "SeeMore's Playhouse" and were students at UConn.

James Godwin, myself, Tyler Bunch, Pam Arciero

Puppeteer Honey Goodenough.

Check-out day at the festival. I could have drunk all that coffee (but not the decaf!)

Fred Thompson and Phillip Huber

Liz Shaffer, Fred Thompson, Phillip Huber, Seth Shaffer

After many hours of driving, gummy worms can start coming out of your nose.

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