My best friend in Kindergarten was Angie. It was 1970 in Long Beach, CA and our families lived in Military Housing. Both of our Dads were in Vietnam, while our Moms each with 3 kids had much in common holding the fort down here in the States. We were both children of Filipino Fathers in the Navy and country white Mamas from Tennessee and South Carolina. Through the years we tried to stay in touch and often a decade would go by without seeing each other. However, our bond and connection of where we came from has always been at the root of our friendship. A chance posting that I would be in Atlanta for the Spring got a reply from my oldest Best friend. Angie would be in town on a business trip the exact day I would end my project there. After a night of reminiscing in the Lenox Hotel Bar with lemon cocktails, we decided to spend the next morning hanging out before she flew back to Seattle. A lot of discoveries and many laugh helped us close down the bar that night. Remarkably, I was living just walking distance from her hotel. So, the next morning I picked Angie up, we grabbed a quick nosh of grits and eggs the headed downtown.
“Angie, I am going to take you to one of my favorite places in the world. It might not sound as exciting as our last brunch sitting fountain side at Olives inside the Bellagio in Las Vegas but I promise it will make you feel like a kid again.” I am sure she thought it was a Spa and quickly answered “No reason not to go!”
As we turned the corner just off 75 South a magical building of apple green appeared. Unlike the Emerald City in OZ, this was my yellow brick road destination. There I knew we could be transported to place where imaginations are celebrated. The Center for Puppetry Arts.
Early in my career I worked as a professional puppeteer. It wasn’t anything I sought out, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I was tall enough to manipulate heavy 3’ marionettes and could quickly learn the choreography. With a week’s training, I was on stage performing as a puppeteer for thousands of on lookers. I think my natural ability to become other characters shined. It often allowed me to escape the realities of my early adulthood and satisfy my need to express through performance. It was at 19 that I started playing with puppets and today at 51 there was no reason not to continue. I felt we both needed a moment of Kindergarten. It might put her empty nest syndrome and my lost career diagnosis in a better perspective. Maybe the universe brought us together this day, this time and to this magical place.
Here are my 10 reason why a 50-year-old should spend some time with puppets.
Reason 1: Ernie
Bert and Ernie. Two best friends who were both very different and very much alike. For every action, there is a reaction and I believe Bert was usually the action. He was the leader of the two. Like Bert as we got older, end results and more focus became the priority. Ernie was a little different. He always stopped and smelled the roses while Bert was rushing to their next adventure. It was curiosity and living in the moment that navigated Ernie’s path. Appreciating your journey might just be better than what happens when you get there. Plus, eyebrows are overrated.
Reason 2: Big Bird
Yellow feathers, orange feet, can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street? During my childhood, I did everything in my power to not stand out. I was big, I was bright and even had a different name. Big Bird with his sweet voice and gentle soul had no choice but to stand out. At 7’ tall, he took what he had and flew with it. These days it takes a lot of energy to be seen and heard. We are expected stand out and tell the world we are better by what we have, what we do and who we are with. Maybe Big Bird was ahead of the game on that subject, but it is just who we are that makes us shine bright yellow. Insert Selfie with Big Bird from Social Media feed.
Reason 3: Fraggle Rock
Sprocket and a Doozer. Sounds like an 80’s Band and a little reminder of you were in your 20s then.
Reason 4: War Horse
With a little imagination and a lot of innovation, a pile of sticks are transformed into a horse that will make you hope and make you cry. Created for a West End play, the War Horse Puppets came to life on stage. Human Puppeteers with great detail and strong insight were able to convince audience that this animal was alive but also had a heart. A horse of stick joined in just the right sequence, show us the strength of bonds through time, distance and war. When connecting on an emotional level it helps us to stabilizes the fiction from the reality when faced with differences. In whatever form the horse appears, there is always a whisper worth listening too. War Horse at the entrance of the exhibit is a powerful statement to me. However space was likely the reason for its present state.
Please take a look a War Horse Trailer.
Reason 5: Miss Piggy
A chance to see the Star, the Legend, the First Lady of Ham, a Diva unlike any other… Miss Piggy!
Need I say more? (Microphone drop)
Reason 6: The Corpse Bride
Stop- motion animation at its best. The Oscar nominated film from the twisted mind of Tim Burton sets the pace for all future state-of-the-Art Puppetry on film. CPA was lucky to curate these 2 puppets, Victor Van Dort and his soon to be Bride Victoria. The technology alone shows how far and expressive we have come from Punch and Judy buskering in an Italian marketplace.
Reason 7: The Lion King’s Mufasa
I am only brave when I have to be. Being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble.
“Remember who you are”
Reason 8: Labyrinth
It has been 30 years since the film from director Jim Henson and Producer George Lucas opened Labyrinth. This featured exhibit at CPA marks it first complete behind the scenes look at the Journey to Goblin City. Despite its Cult following the Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie film was Henson biggest and most disappointing box office fail. Henson took the loss as a personal rejection from his loyal audiences. His family said it the closest he had turned in on himself and was quite depressed. The same year he separated from his wife. It was work that took his attention and the best way of being around him was to work with him. He would never make another feature film before passing in 1990. My take is that we cannot judge ourselves by missteps. We get lost in a labyrinth of distraction. A wrong turn. Looking at the big picture might make Goblins disappear.
Reason 9: A Museum of History
The Global Collection takes you through a History of Puppetry that spans the entire world. From the traditions, to artifacts and contextual backdrops, the museum highlights puppetry in immersive methods. Communication doesn’t always have to be verbal, Puppets can enhance the imagination and inspire your curiosity.
Reason 10: Kermit
Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side? Rainbows are visions and only illusions and rainbows have nothing to hide. So, we have been told and some seem to believe it, I know their wrong, wait and see. Were going to find it the rainbow connections, the lover the dreamers and me.
As I dropped Angie curbside at the airport, I notice a glimmer of innocent revisited. My hope will always be that I have some effect on the people I surround myself with. In turn they leave me a little changed for the better.