2016 Wrap Up & News

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Greetings Friends!

I thought that it was time for a new blog post!

Time passes rather quickly these days. Between performances, other work and projects, there is never enough time! 2016 has been a great year for us! We have taken some major steps to further our work.

  • We wrote and produced our productions of “Little red Riding Hood” and “Shoemaker and the Elf”.
  • Performed at the Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival
  • Performed for Cleveland’s “WinterFest” event, at the Cleveland Public Library.
  • Performed a major puppet restoration for the Colorado Renaissance Festival and the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival.
  • Started the build on our newest production, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, which will premier in March of 2017.
  • We are in the planning stages for producing videos of all of our shows, so that they can be submitted for consideration, to theaters and other venues all across the United States.
  • Still working on the restoration of the puppets and staging from the former “Das Puppenspiel Puppet Theater”. We hope to have “The Snow Queen” ready for performance by the Fall of 2017.
  • Already booking performances for our Summer 2017 season, which will include medieval/renaissance festivals, libraries, theaters and schools.
  • Joined the “Puppeteers of America”, as a company.

As we progress, we are more and more encouraged by the response that we are getting from audiences and presenters alike. We are finally able to start cutting back on some of the other performance work that we do and fill that time with puppet performances.

We are also in the process of reviving the “Puppeteers Guild of Northeastern Ohio”, the local branch of the “Puppeteers of America” organization. We are hoping to build a strong group of performers, enthusiasts, collectors and educators, in an attempt to bring the world of puppetry, as an art form,  to the people of Ohio.

We are really looking forward to the new year and all that it brings!

Wishing you a most wonderful and Happy Holiday Season!13516616_204359699964003_3527631938247850684_n

Christmas Update

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Well, the work continues, as we build our newest production, “Once Upon a Fairy Tale”. Today, I am working on building the rear projection screen, that will be utilized for projected scenery, as well as graphics for the show. This will allow us to change locations without the need for conventional scenery. As we carry the shows in a standard size car, being able to project the scenery is an absolute blessing.

Jenny has been working on the “Wolf” puppet, for the “Little Red Riding Hood” section of the show. She is sculpting the nose and mouth of the character out of foam, that will later be covered with grey fur. I think that we purchased something like nine feet of fur for the puppet. All I know is that the back seat of our car is covered in grey fur!

We will be ordering a new light board for this production, as we intend to use more lighting instruments and effects than we used in our production of “Rumpelstiltskin”. The performance area is much larger for “Once Upon a Fairy Tale” and I need to use bigger, higher wattage lights to cover the area.

We will also be adding a shadow puppet piece in the production, again utilizing the rear projection screen. Jenny will be designing the shadow puppets, which will be for the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” section of the show.

Lots to do. More updates to follow!

Once Upon an Update!

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Today is November 30, 2015. Only one month left in this year. Which means that time is ticking away. We premier our newest original show, “Once Upon a Fairy Tale” in March 2016. Lots of work to do…

After a recent trip down to Atlanta, Georgia for the grand re-opening of the Center For Puppetry Arts and the new expansion that houses the Global Puppetry Collection, as well as the new Jim Henson Collection, we have been inspired to go in a completely different direction. We have decided to completely redesign the set of this new show, utilizing a non-traditional style puppet stage. Instead of using a “box type” puppet stage, with curtains and a playboard, we will be using a much more open type of staging. We have designed a 10′ X 4′ X 14″ valance, made of 1″ PVC tubing. The playboard will attach to the top and a fabric cover will be placed over the entire unit. The fabric will be painted to look like a stone, garden wall, with stone blocks, flowers and vines. There will be two levels of shelves within the valance, to hold all of the puppets and props for the show. Black velour curtain panels will frame the performance area and we will add a 14′ backdrop behind the valance. The middle section of the backdrop will be a projection screen and we will be projecting scenery onto the screen from a video projector, placed behind the set. This will cut down on the amount of set pieces that we need to carry and will allow for some really creative “looks” for the show.

All of the puppets for this new production will be “Muppet-Type” hand puppets. Bright and colorful, these will appeal to the younger audience members that have watched shows like Sesame Street. Most of the puppets have been built. We still need to complete the hair, costumes and faces of the many characters that will be a part of this show!

By the way, the new expansion at the Center For Puppetry Arts is amazing. This eight year, $14,000,000 project was made possible through grants and private donations, as well as a sizable donation to the museum by the family of the late Jim Henson. What an honor it was for us to be among the very first people to view the new museum. The Global collection is brilliant, featuring puppets from around the world. Some of the highlights for us were traditional bunraku puppets from Japan, Indonesian shadow puppets, Mufasa and Scar, from the Broadway production of “Lion King”, “Madame” the ventriloquist figure from puppeteer Wayland Flowers and the original puppets used for all of the “Gumby & Pokey” features.

The other half of the new museum houses the “Jim Henson Collection”. It is an awesome tribute to Muppets creator Jim Henson, as well as to his wife Jane and his children who have kept the work and the dream alive. So many familiar faces to see; Bert and Ernie, Elmo, Oscar the grouch, Big Bird, and of course, Kermit the frog. Puppets from Labyrinth and the Dark Crystal, Muppet Treasure Island, Fraggle Rock, The Story Teller, Sam & Friends, and so many more, all together in one place, was a very emotional visit with old friends and family! The collection contains some 500 puppets, that will be a part of a continually rotating exhibit. So that, every time you visit, you will see different characters!

Enough for now…time to get back to work!

Peace and Love!

A New Production!!!

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Fairytale photo

Well, after the response to our first original production, “Rumpelstiltskin”, we have decided to start production on a new show. “Once Upon a Fairy Tale” will be available for 2016 and we are really looking forward to getting this one out there!

Coming in 2016, Great Lakes National Puppet Theater is proud to present “Once Upon a Fairy Tale”. Inspired by the works of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brother’s Grimm, “Once Upon a Fairy Tale” is a collection of classic stories, using colorful “Muppet-type” hand puppets, that children are sure to love. Each performance is presented in “blocks” of two, three, or four short stories, combined in a most delightful presentation. Geared for younger children with its rich visuals and fast pace, “Once Upon a Fairy Tale” is also ideal for family series programming.

We will be using the stage from our “Rumpelstiltskin” show, with added side panels, to create more performance areas. We are currently building the puppets and working on the script. We will be starting with “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Goldie Locks & the Three Bears”. Later on, we will add “Jack & the Beanstalk”. The fourth piece that we will add to the show will be “The Three Billie Goats Gruff”, performed using shadow puppets. This will be a three year project, with the first two pieces being ready for the 2016 school year.

Rumpelstiltskin will be our first show out!

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Rumpelstiltskin will be our first show out!

We are busy putting our first production, “Rumpelstiltskin” ready for two June 14th. performances. This show features hand and rod puppets, with lighting, special effects and an original score. We are very excited to finally get out there and start performing! This show is for all ages and promises to be great fun!

Great Lakes National Puppet Theater Blog

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Chapter 7: Funding

Well it is February 7, 2014 and we have a tremendous amount of work to do on the puppets and staging for our first show, “The Snow Queen”. Along with the repairs and restoration, we have decided to completely re-design the set for the show. Although it will look similar to the original set, we will be adding a rear projection screen, so that we can project scenery and lighting effects on to the screen. This will completely expand the possibilities for the show and we will only be limited by our own creativity and finances. Speaking of finances…

We have begun looking for grants and private funding for the theater and for “The Snow Queen”. I just spent several days researching some available grants and I believe that the first one that we apply for is the Henson grants. I will be working on the proposal letter and materials in the next couple of days, as everything needs to be sent out by March.

We have set up a fund raising campaign on Kickstarter.com and will have it active during the months of March and April. We are hoping to raise $5,000 to help remount “The Snow Queen”. More on that in the coming weeks…

Great Lakes National Puppet theater

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Chapter 5: An Update

Originally posted on January 10, 2011 

Well, the work continues, as we attempt to repair all of the puppets for “The Snow Queen” AND “Pictures at an Exhibition”.

The work is slow going, as we are trying to work the repair stuff in with our already busy schedule. A lot of work has been done on Rodney the reindeer puppet…repaired internal framing, ribs and mounting points. We are currently working on replacing  the ear springs and repairing the fur.

Gerda’s hair has been re-worked. All of the blond crepe hair has been removed and her original hair has been cleaned, untangled and redone. This was a six hour process, working with tiny scissors, a seam ripper and lots of patience and coffee!

Kai has had his hoops raised, his torso rebuilt and his “glowing eye” wiring repaired.

We will post photos soon. The work goes on…all the time remembering that our own original production “The Adventures of Super Nutrition Man” goes out in two short months!

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Chapter 4: Now the Real Work Begins…

Originally posted on December 2, 2010

Sunday was a great day for us, as we were able to take posession of the puppets from “The Snow Queen” and “Pictures at an Exhibition”. We met with the president of the board of directors of the former “Das Puppenspiel Puppet Theater, Inc.” and loaded everything (well…almost everything) into a van and brought it back to Cleveland. I say almost everything because, after getting everything back home, we did an inventory and found that several “key” pieces were missing. After a phone call to John, we found that just about everything has been found and we will get the missing pieces within the next few weeks.

Now for the bad news…

All of the puppets from “Pictures at an Exhibition” are in pretty good condition. Some worn costumes, cracks and chipped paint…nothing that we can’t take care of. “The Snow Queen”…now that’s another story! These puppets look like they haven’t been cared for in years. Everything is filthy! Some of the puppets had been stuffed into bags, while others were openly exposed. Torn costumes everywhere…and so much damage! My favorite puppet, “Rodney the Reindeer” looks like he was in a concentration camp for years…his internal framework had been broken. Someone decided that instead of repairing him, they would cover the “sink hole” in his back by putting a saddle on him! All of his internal working has been “rigged” with wire and duct tape. This puppet usually mounts to a large spring, which allows for movement when he is run across the stage. Another spring, mounted inside the neck, allows for realistic head movement. Some genius decided to replace the springs with EMT “T” joints, which only restrict movement and make the entire puppet very unstable. Who are these so-called ”puppeteers” that were allowed to destroy these works of art? I would love to sit down with them and explain to them just how much damage that they actually did! Some of the puppets costumes had been changed…horrible, ugly, ill-fitting costumes that do not look at all like the originals. Someone actually added legs and feet to a puppet that does not need them…making the whole puppet out of proportion and unbalanced. These puppets were created by masters, who put so much time, love and care into each and every piece. They have been turned into what I consider a pile of junk! I mean, Gerda, the hero and star of the show, has had her brown, braided hair replaced by both brown AND blonde hair that has been glued to her head…yes, I said blonde! Everything looks like it has been done by a bunch of 6-year-old kids and NOT by a group of professional artists. From what I have been told, this is the condition of the puppets as they were touring this past season. WTF? I wouldn’t pay fifty cents to see these puppets perform. Nor would I want to see them manipulated to the pre-recorded tracks that I was given along with the puppets. I don’t know the people who voiced this thing. I don’t know who did the re-write or reproduced John Kirk’s original music. I don’t know who directed this recording session. All I know is that, if the recording and the condition of the puppets is any indication of the product that Das Puppenspiel was putting out…it is no wonder that they are out of business. Don’t get me wrong…I love Das Puppenspiel and the body of work. I have nothing but the greatest respect for the creators. People like Jenny Kuhlman, Pam Moran, Steve Swank, Kevin Kuhlman and Myriam Mayshark created some amazing art, both in the puppets, the staging, the stories…everything! I just have a problem with where the company ended up and the reasons behind it. Oh…and to whoever killed these beautiful puppets I say “Shame on you! How dare you pretend to be an artist, a performer, a puppeteer…all of which you are NOT!!” Not to worry…all will turn out fine as Jenny and I WILL return each and every one of these little works of art to their original splendor!

Great Lakes National Puppet Theater Blog

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Chapter 3: A Slight Setback

Originally posted  on November 4, 2010 

Rodney the Reindeer from “The Snow Queen”

Well, we have had a slight setback in the “Great Lakes National Puppet Theater” project. Some of the expected funding did not come through, throwing our schedule off by a few weeks. We are now hoping to have the Das Puppenspiel puppets in our possession by the end of November. Then, after several months of cleaning, repair, rewrites and rebuilds, we hope to have both shows, “The Snow Queen” and “Pictures at an Exhibition” ready to tour and perform by this time next year. Our first production, “The Adventures of Super Nutrition Man” will be going out in March of 2011.