Do you make all your puppets?
Yes, most of them. A few I have made quickly from thrift store stuffed animals – a great resource. (Make sure you get animals that are big enough to put your hand in, and (this is important) do not have the arms sewn closed in the body side seam. You won’t be able to manipulate the arms, unless you open up the arm seam). I did not make the head of the devil in Juancito y Maria from Stories from South of the Border – I bought it from the artist who made it in Costa Rica. For a traditional character like that, I was very happy to find a Latin American depiction for the story. I was glad he looks more silly than scary. I just made his hands and body.
Are the stories you tell true?
Usually not, however folktales always have elements of universal truth in them.
Do you get paid to do puppet shows?
Yes, this is one of the ways I make a living, along with school arts in education residencies. It takes a long time to write a show and build the puppets.
How long does it take to build a show?
It depends. Sometimes I have had show ideas percolating for months before I even start writing them down. I don’t start building anything for a new show until I have seen the whole show in my head, like a movie. When I’m in the development stage, I go to sleep at night, drive long distances, spend my shower time all thinking about solving the problems of how to tell this story. I usually work solo, so I am thinking about what each hand will be doing. I don’t even write much down until these problems are solved in my head.
What is your favorite part of making a new show?
The writing. I’ve learned to make puppets out of many different materials over the years, and now the shows do come out pretty close to what I imagined, but still, imagining it and writing it is the most fun part.
How do you remember all the words during a show?
I never write a word for word script. I write down the action sequence and the most important elements of the dialogue, then I improvise over the story structure. Generally, after performing a story about 10 times, the dialogue gels and thre are not too many changes after that.
How many puppets do you have?
I honestly do not know. I built two or three shows a year for many years, and most of those puppets are still around, in trunks up in my puppet attic – a loft in my studio. I always have new ideas for shows, so rarely go back and use an old puppet, except for the hand puppets I use all the time now. If you have any ideas of what I should do with all these unemployed puppets, let me know!
How do you hold up three puppets at a time?
I don’t. I have only two hands. But, what happens is, each audience member’s imagination is helping to tell the story, and to them, even unseen characters are alive in the story. I have had audience members insist they saw something like three pigs and a wolf on stage at once, when that did not happen, believe me! The imagination is a wonderfully powerful resource!
Do you have a favorite puppet?
No, not really. I do have some favorite stories, for various reasons. A few are: Juancito y Maria because I learned it from a wonderful puppeteer, Rafaél Teixido, from Argentina, The Night Troll, because I get to sing, The Three Pigs because my version makes kids and grown ups laugh.