When and how did you get started with puppetry?
Puppetry started for me as a hobby in late 2007. I was a teacher in a very rural area of New Mexico. To give you an idea, I was an hour away from the nearest Walmart. I saw some shadow puppet videos on youtube, and I thought I’d give it a try myself. My first shows were done on an overhead projector to entertain my students and to help teach some of the lessons they were working on. It was my good fortune after that to receive a scholarship to attend Puppetfest Midwest in the summer of 2008, where I took a week-long class taught by a wonderful shadow puppeteer named Jim Napolitano. Having learned the basics of how to construct a shadow puppet show, I put together my first full-length performance, entitled A Wild Goose Chase, and started touring public libraries in the summer of 2009. Since then, I’ve traveled to schools and libraries across the nation, and I have created three additional shows and two workshop programs.
How does your experience as a teacher inform your puppetry?
Usually when I begin making a new show, I have a clear idea of which curricular goals and learning objectives I’m trying to target. I studied poetry writing at The University of North Carolina at Asheville, so my shows tend to have a focus on language arts and literacy. Also, I’ve learned that kids are most open to learning when they’re having fun, so I try to have a good mix of ridiculousness and education in each show.
What is your favorite part of being a puppeteer?
I love performing for people, but also, I love being able to be a jack-of-all-trades. Puppeteering doesn’t ever get boring because there is a little bit of writing to do, a little bit of art, a little bit of performing, and a little bit of engineering, so you’re never stuck doing the same task for long.
How long does it take for you to make a new show?
The entire process of brainstorming an idea, writing a script, drafting and building puppets, rehearsing the show, and then editing usually takes about a year and a half. That said, I now have two young children, so finding the time is more difficult and show-making has become an excruciating four-year process!
DO YOUR KIDS LOVE THAT YOU'RE A PUPPETEER?
My kids have the mistaken notion that most puppets are shadow puppets – they don’t understand that shadow puppets occupy a pretty small niche in the larger puppetry world. My daughter really loves making puppets with me in the studio. She’s currently working on a show called SPARKLE UNICORN CUPCAKE. Obviously, I’m as excited as anyone to see what this show entails.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO PERFORM?
It’s hard to beat a library or school filled with excited kids, but I’ve also had the pleasure of performing at some really neat places like outdoor festivals and performing arts centers! The great thing about my setup is that I use a small tabletop stage, but I am also equipped to project my shadows while performing, so my show is equally well-suited for the corner of a library, or a proscenium stage in a large theater.
HOW MANY PUPPETS DO YOU HAVE?
About 350. For a shadow show, you often need several slightly-varied copies of the same puppet. Every time one of my characters changes costumes, emotions, or type of movement, it usually means I have to make a new puppet to properly depict that difference. So, the number of puppets adds up quickly.
BESIDES PUPPETRY, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR INTERESTS?
I still enjoy reading and writing poetry in my spare time. I also like to collect absurd garden statues, and it just so happens that I make the best biscuits in the world.