Little Boy posing with the big puppets.
Sometimes I work. Not a lot, and not regularly, but sometimes, someone, somewhere is in need of my particular set of skills. And they are willing to pay me to unleash them. This goes against my grain as a naturally lazy person, but if the project is fun enough, you usually don’t have to twist my arm very hard.
One of the companies I associate with when the mood strikes is the Puppet People of Savannah. There’s an actual puppetry company in the small town of Savannah, owned and operated by Savannah native Angela Beasley. Angela loves nothing more in the world than making puppets, and after more than 30 years, she’s accumulated quite a lot of unique creations. She started when she was a young mother, making puppets in her attic and doing shows at her children’s friends’ birthday parties. Since then she’s traveled to Canada and Mexico and all points in between, even working a job once in Buenos Aires! Puppet People does children’s birthday parties, family cabaret, senior shows, adult roasts, festivals, parades, and custom shows of all kinds. Depending on the project, all sorts of artists could be needed: painters, sculptors, actors, dancers, costumers, singers, writers, comedians, musicians and whoever else comes to share their talent.
My husband and I met on a Puppet People job in Iowa. Our first week ever knowing each other was spent performing improv comedy in life size puppets in a city neither of us had ever been to before. So Little Boy is kind of a Puppet People legacy. Angela’s granddaughter was born a week before our Boy, so they’re totally best friends (with all the drama that comes with it–ha ha).
Angela in her element.
Anyway, I do a few things here and there when Angela needs help. Workshops, puppet shows, puppet bulding, costuming, writing, editing, networking — even cleanup and yardwork when extra hands are needed.
So what’s all the fuss lately? Why have I been too busy to call my sister (sorry B)? It’s all this Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Scouts USA stuff. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts USA. For those of you who don’t live in Savannah, Juliette Gordon Low was born here and started the Girl Scouts here. She’s pretty huge here. So Puppet People is creating a show about her.
I (along with three other people) wrote a script for a show about what an amazing badass Juliette Gordon Low was. To be honest, when Angela first talked to me about the project, all I could think was, “BORING! Good luck getting anything out of ME, Lady!” I thought Daisy (as she was called — I KNOW, right?) was just the old lady who started the Girl Scouts. And I only ever made it to “Brownie” status anyway, so why should I care?
It turns out the life story of this grouchy looking old lady is a feminist’s wet dream. An unconventional and outspoken girl during the Victorian era, who dared to educate and inspire all kinds of girls (not just rich white ones). She traveled the world, acting, painting and scuplting. She married for love and had her heart broken. She loved fishing and swimming and camping and horseback riding! Hello! Sign me up, please!
The script has been written (by no less than 4 people, including me). The puppets are being assembled and costumed, and the props are being gathered. We’re organizing the voice talent and making appointments to record all the audio (songs, dialogue, sound effects, etc). Next we’ll call in the puppeteers and start rehearsing, while adding details and fixing problems that inevitably arise. The first shows are the first of April.
Toni makes a puppet costume, while Little Boy smacks her around with a set of foam puppet arms.
It’s been fun to do puppetry in my professional life. I earned a BFA in Theatre, and attended three different colleges before I graduated, and none of them ever even mentioned puppetry. Yet here I am, earning money doing it, and applying all the skills I learned in college: writing, improv, costuming, set construction, character development, and perhaps more stuff if I sat here and thought about it.
I’ve been putting in a few hours a day, and Little Boy has been coming with me. He loves being at the studio. He puts on puppet shows while we’re working, draws designs for new puppets, and plays with his friend O (when she comes after school).
Not a bad way to spend a day, but I’ll be glad when I get back to my difficult schedule of knitting and napping and reading…..